Something For The Weekend (218)
Hamburg(er) hill, proved a bridge too far.
I can't say I was thrilled by it and I was less than riveted by it, but I nevertheless did provide a viewing audience for the benefit of Channel Five and its advertisers. So I turned up, but from what I could see, the Villa were definitely absent, or at least the Billy Bigtimes were.
Villa were far worse than I expected them to be and far worse than Martin O'Neill expected, too, from the look on his face.
So it was a sickener and a very public sickener at that.
But the amazing thing was, that Villa were actually only a pass away from making it respectable, and possibly finishing in second place in the group.
So, there I was, thinking that if Tony Morley had been as selfish as big Marlon, Villa would have never won the European Cup. He would have not passed to Withe, and would have fired straight at the goalkeeper. History would be different. So it was then, that Nathan Delfouneso never got his tap-in, and Marlon never got to redeem, yet another very ordinary personal performance.
Such split-second decision-making, separates the heroes from the also-rans: your Morleys from your Marlons.
Nathan had a very decent game, once he was playing in a position he understood and it was good to see Barry Banana get a run out. As ever, it was the senior players, who failed to impress and a certain puppet-like TV pundit might have said, 'You'll never win anything with kids', but he also said, 'Without a defence, you've got nothing', and Villa proved that to be right on the money, with yet another night of estrangement between Knight and CJC.
But I take nothing away from Hamburg's Croatian front two: given the same service and the same defence, Marlon would have not done as well as Olic and Petric, who showed pace, poise and desire, in their rout of Villa.
So Zat and Marlon copped it yet again, but my scorn was as nothing compared with that of Stan Collymore, who seems to relish his new role as ex-paragon and present pundit. But Villa definitely bombed in Hamburg and their fire-storm, turned out to be a damp-squib. But job done and the promise of an encounter with the CSK Moscow , in the next round, follows. Villa better watch out.
In a week when Paul Ince ceased to be the Governor at Blackburn, Martin O'Neill demonstrated what the game is all about - taking big decisions and not dodging the blame when they don't quite work out.
Paul, up to the Blackburn job, has always been bigger than the clubs he's worked for and this is a huge advantage. At Rovers, he suddenly found himself in the full glare of the media, with all that means in terms of rumour-mongering and fib-telling - his very appointment became a challenge to the press corps(e). Unlike, Gareth Southgate, who got equal attention and mischief-making, he never managed to ride out the storm, until the time came, when the press nasties would move on to someone else. Once he had shown his vulnerability he was always a gonna. Once managers get that look in the eye, their departure is a certainty. I clearly remember Steve Bruce at the Blues and every manager that went before him, get that fatal glint, and Steve McClaren's was unforgettable.
Ince will prove himself elsewhere but the eyes definitely had it!
So we welcome back Big Sam into the Premiership fold and he seems perfectly suited to Blackburn - even their Premiership-winning side were a bit industrial. And let's face it, Mark Hughes had made it almost impossible for anyone to match his achievements, while Ince has given the fans a healthy reality-check, so Big Sam is made to measure, assuming he's allowed to sign his own players, and more importantly, get rid of those still missing the mardy Welsh pit-pony.
But, according to rumour, Allardyce will have a squad of seventeen and a backroom staff of twenty-five. What with the psychologists, nutritionists, Fen Shui-ists, astrologers, ballet teachers, and obviously, a golf-pro, Big Sam likes a big team of backroom boys to iron out the wrinkles, as well as someone who can translate Black Country back into English.
Sam, Sam, the Yam Yam, ex-Newcastle man, back on the lam.
Despite the mauling in Hamburg, there was still plenty to bring joy to my Villa week, as it seemed, everyone could not stop saying complimentary things about Gabby and Ashley, after their thrilling performance against Bolton. As it turned out, the neutrals were rather more complimentary about Villa than the fans, who thought that the scoreline didn't quite reflect the balance of play. The general prejudice amongst the faithful, is that when teams like Bolton come to town, they shouldn't get a kick, let alone two goals. The mystery of why the penalty against Cahill was not given, dominated the water-cooler talk all week. Special dispensation, for being a Villa saint, was the only answer, as he would have had to be sent off, and no one wanted that.
Then on Monday night, after bouts of sexual-tension between the flirtatious Gabby and Michael Johnson, we got to see Magic Mart (described as a very funny guy by Johnson) and his long-time buddy and side-kick, John Robertson. This was manna from heaven for all those rather too unhealthily obsessed with the cult of MON (Moi).
As it turned out, it was pure gold and MON and John looked the original odd couple. John Robertson, whose cult-status at Forest, is legend (voted their all-time best player, so better than Francis and Marlon), and the fact that he stays out of the limelight, deepens the mystery. He has the sort of gravelly voice, which when coupled with his Lanarkshire brogue, makes him look and sound like, a character out of Rab C. Nesbitt, which contrasts sharply with MON's (there's a thought - is Martin's wife called 'Mon's Venus?), Ulster solicitor's manner. The combination was kind of hilarious.
We then had a few film clips on the art of winning European Cup finals one-nil, with our eponymous hero, supplying either the cross or the winning-goal. Memories flooded back, and it was easy to see how Ashley might have benefited from his coaching, as the Robertson motto, seemed to be, that you don't need to go past a player to put in a cross - something which Ashley proved, only last Saturday, when he set-up Gabby's header.
So with that thought in mind, I'll forget the rest and call it an excellent Villa week.