Something For The Weekend (215)
Martin O'Neill gambled on an amble and his second-stringers got mugged. It was Rosenborg all over again, on a night as cold as a Norwegian fiord, for 28 thousand Villans, who defied freezing temperatures and the credit-crunch, so they could cheer their future heroes on: even Randy turned up. I just hope they got their VAT refunded, for their trouble.
I really don't get this football management malarkey; Magic Mart stuffed the midfield against Fulham and then denuded it in the very next game, which flattered MSK Zilina and made his bench-warmers look rather worse than they actually were. And, a game-plan entirely based on the rather predictable instruction, to 'Give it Ashley', seemed a bit one-dimensional, especially as the art of heading is not apparently shared by those who were on display.
However, despite a team selection which seemed designed to get this season's squad rotation over and done with in a single game, it was a schoolgirl error, which left Villa's UEFA Cup potential pregnant with doubt. While, Marlon, who had produced the form of his life when his first kid was born, proved that fatherhood, the second time around, is not quite as inspirational as the first, although the smell of baby-sick has never done it for me, either. But still dilated to meet you - I am sure.
A Knight to forget.
Villa's Solihull-born England International (2 caps) need not consult Sexton Blake on the arcane mysteries of defending, all he has to do is phone Noel Blake, now a National Coach with the FA, and he'll put him exactly right. And, if I remember correctly, the Noel Blake book on defensive-heading is a pretty slim volume, with the easy to understand statement written in bold lettering, which says: 'Head the ball as hard as you can, in the direction it came from.', which even I can understand.
There are a few accompanying footnotes, which when translated from his native brummy, seem to emphasise the importance of not indulging in over-elaboration when dealing with the flighted cross. Although the prose style is not elegant, he succinctly suggests that it is a defender's paramount duty to remove the ball from his/her area of responsibility, and make it the responsibility of someone who is paid for all the fancy stuff. I've looked, and absolutely nowhere does it say, that against lesser teams is a bit of showing-off acceptable, or, does it say that the F & A in UEFA, stand for faffing about.
So basically, just because our Zat, thought that being on the telly was a good chance to demonstrate that he twice played for England, Villa have got to go to Hamburg to win the group and make progress a little easier.
I expect it will not be a jolly time (geddit? Jol? Jolly? - please yourself).
A lot was made of Villa's draw against Fulham, by a certain gentleman of the name of Garth Crooks, who made all sorts of wild accusations about 'bottle' but a minute's analysis, proved the posh-talking puke to be talking total bow-locks, as Villa merely achieved exactly what Chelsea did against Arsenal (give or take the odd blind linesman), in that they had the tactics to create enough chances to win it but not the men to take the chances. In fact, I was left wondering if Steve Sidwell, might have the wrong shaped head altogether, for that sort of thing, as the ball seems to come off at random angles when it meets his thinning carroty swede.
I even wondered, whether, while Big John is attending his lumbago clinic, the Villa might be wise to pass the ball along the ground, by way of wild experiment. But as Ian Dowie proved, football management IS more difficult than rocket science.
Talking of experiments, I was rather surprised that Roy Keane threw in the towel at Sunderland. I'd actually thought that his worshippers in the press (those prawn-sandwich-eating Old Trafford kiss-asses) were right and that his bearded Roy(al)ness was the real deal, and that Sunderland's elevation had nothing to do with him just spending more money than his rivals. That's how daft I am - nice beard though.
Too much too soon, I guess, and he expended too much energy repressing his desire to rip throats out, to have any left to deal with the demented egos of his huge squad: sometimes there are just too many flies to swat and you just need an Australian corked-hat and a fringe-jacket.
Roy's inability to take criticism, gives an insight into what motivated him as a player: an over-developed critical super-ego. This was fine when he was in a position to do something about that criticism (play a blinder) but turned into a giant problem, when he was dependent on others.
As his old gaffer proves time and time again, a manager needs an ego the size of the sun, or none at all, when dealing with players. It seems a mystery, how Sir Chewalot, manages to go to so much trouble to soothe the hurt feelings if French Eric, assault Beckham with a flying boot and then create the right atmosphere where Keane's sensibilities can remain unmolested, while Sherry and Andrew Cole could play together but not be on speaking terms.
As a Mother Superior once famously said about her nunnery: the best proof of a loving God, is that there is not a murder in here. Every football club must be like that nunnery and every manager must be its Mother Superior. Boys and girls will squabble.
This week further demonstrations were on hand, of Fergy's ability to listen to Ronaldo's rather unconvincing excuses, as to why he got himself sent-off, judiciously take them at face value and then present them to the gathered press, with convincing credulity. That takes real genius.
Ronnie got his European Player of the Year award this week and it would take a churl to deny that he deserved it. But that is not to say that, he his a nice fellah, always plays fairly or is likely to win it next year.
Now there's an ego, which looks likely to devour its owner sooner or later.
By Steve Wade