Something For The Weekend (217)
I own up, I was still dreaming of Ashley's last-minute winner at Everton on Wednesday night, and although the goal was a virtual clone of his first, Gabby's creative flick was rather more adept than Everton's earlier assist: the timing of the latter was beyond perfection. And by the way MON repeatedly called Ashley a genius, it seemed he thought so too.
Even for the neutral the game had everything and showed exactly why the world loves its English Premiership football. The game certainly raised Villa's brand profile.
The stats tell us that its usually Villa who tend to concede in the last minutes of games, which tempted me into the delusion that it was a watershed moment for the Mon/Lerner progress-curve: as Chelsea proved in the CL, on Tuesday night, when games are so nip and tuck, it is usually a special talent that decides things. On Sunday it was Ashley and on Tuesday it was Drogba.
Alas, experience has taught me, it is the good teams who break your heart, because they always to have the players to produce those decisive moments.
Looks like Ashley Young might be a special player and we might have to learn to live with it.
Remember the old Alex Cropley chant? Here's the new version: Ashley Young, Not much weight. Ashley Young is effing great.
The amazing thing about Ashley, is that while other players need to be rested, he has played every minute, which can only be matched by the Brad himself. Its making me feel tired and very old, just watching Ashley these days.
Talking about scoring those last-minute killing goals; Hamburg fans are likely to be reminded that it was John Robertson, who broke their hearts in a certain European Cup final in 1980 and I am sure MON played that day too. So I expect, that on Thursday, Villa's maestro will get a very warm German welcome and I hear the Elbe is quite chilly, at this time of year. But no doubt there will be thawing facilities on offer in the Rieperbahn.
But before the English Tommies get led astray, there is the little matter of coping with the visit of a resurgent Notlob who bring a troop of Villa OB's with them, who no doubt will get a cheer or a jeer from the Holte End, particularly Cahill who only scored one goal in his thirty-odd games for Villa but what a goal. Gavin McCann and Lloyd Samuel, who both enjoyed (sic) decent careers in Villa colours. The amazing thing is that McCann is only 30 and seems to have been around for decades, while Samuel is 27 but I still think of as a kid.
Although hair-loss and the habit of wearing garish footwear, certainly changes perceptions.
Gary Megson is as old as the hills and my only memory of him as a player was him getting sent-off against Villa when he was at Sheffield Wednesday. He is the very definition of a journeyman and he's managed (8) almost as many clubs as he played for (10). He's doing pretty well at Bolton, but could fall to as low as 15th if Villa were to beat them. My only doubt about the guy is that, when he was at the Albion, I heard him on the radio and understood, everything he said, which is the opposite to what you expect from top managers, who always seem to say everything and nothing.
Your top manager always sounds like that crazy guru on Goodness Gracious Me.
What Villa fans can legitimately hope from the weekend's tie, is hard to assess, as after Villa's amazingly lame performance against Middlesbrough, left most of the faithful wondering. Admittedly, Villa's counter-attacking style seems more suitable for away ties and the absence of big John Carew robs Villa of the cutting-edge which made their early-season form so thrilling.
Big John's absence, which looks to continue, has made the fans' demand for a replacement, into an obsession and even Steve Bruce has been prompted into putting some ridiculous price-tag on Emile Heskey, even though the England hero, can move for nowt in the summer. This makes £15m for five months', far from certain contribution, seem a little expensive, which is, I suppose, the whole idea.
Its seems strange to say, that these days, that such are the high standards, at Villa, that there seems an decreasing number of players who seem good enough, and Villa find themselves competing with the top clubs for the sort of players who would take them forward. Amongst the obvious candidates, is Blackburn's Roque Santa Cruz, whose 21 goals in 46 for Rovers, puts him amongst the very best. Certainly, with Ashley and Gareth providing so many quality crosses, his aerial prowess seems made to measure for Villa's style of play. But it seems clear, that if mark Hughes wants him at Citeh, then he'll pay whatever Blackburn ask, which I think puts Villa out of the game.
Santa is supposed to come at Christmas, isn't he?
Peter Crouch, who has continued to look good in a Portsmouth shirt, would also fit the bill, but may not quite be the sort of player that fulfils the Villa fans' recent ever-increasing aspirations but I am sure he could do a job.
But which ever player they finally get, it seems unlikely that Villa will get much change out of £15m, which makes it absolutely crucial, that Martin gets the decision right.
Martin O'Neill was seen at Chelsea last week, so lets hope its Drogba: who I am convinced, is not at all bad, as strikers go.
But first, Villa need to beat Bolton.