Something For The Weekend (128)
Not as though a noble creature such as myself would indulge in such a childish practice but it was something pretty close last weekend. Or maybe like flu, you can get a twenty-four-hour attack of clinical depression, or something, but whatever you want to call it, I was well and truly gutted. Okay, so I drank my full ration of Saturday-night beer and even a tadge more but that was just blind habit and manful duty. And yes, I did have the curry afterwards, with enough naan-breads to carpet my lounge, but did I enjoy it? Well, not much, and I even think that my over-indulgence in the chilli department was merely an attempt to make sure I would spend plenty of time alone, so I could shed my tears over the Sunday papers in privacy. And certainly, the burning ring-piece and the eye-watering peristaltic spasms, seamlessly continued the theme of suffering and self-immolation, which Villa's defeat at Reading induced. I was still travelling in a haze of curry fumes and self-pity for most of Monday and it wasn't until later that night, when I felt I could at least fart without fear of follow-through, that I began to emerge from the misery. Not as though anyone noticed because the difference between miserable bastard and totally miserable bastard, ain't a lot.
There were two conclusions I could hardly avoid reaching: I would give up on the vindaloo and I would choose a milder form of optimism from the menu.
I should have known better and perhaps Randy Lerner might have too, as his suggestion that the FA might want Magic Mart for the England job, was predictably going to put the kibosh on his manager's fortunes. Happily Mr O'Neill (revised nomenclature - the first step towards demystification) was wise enough to offer the thought that perhaps he might start winning a few matches at Villa before anyone gets any grand ideas that he is fit for the England job. I couldn't have agreed more. In the meantime it is just a case of forgetting the fantasies and getting on with the job of trying to accrue another ten points from the remaining eleven games - the inescapable mundanity, which is enough to knock the smile off the face of the laughing policeman.
It even looks like Martin is not magic after all and he can't make these players better than they actually are. I even thought, that perhaps the new attacking formation, which seemed so exciting last week, might put extra demands on the defence, as the defenders get used to dispensing with the luxury of having a bank of four midfielders, acting as a firewall. But in the end, Villa's forwards failed to score and one-nil finally became two-nil. So Coppell and Magic Mart share the points this season and all the flights to the promised land are delayed.
Two very good managers, each with different problems.
If Steve Coppell, the Reading manager, has that sort of stillness on camera (if not the looks) which I associate with Al Pacino in Godfather 2, and which gives the impression that there is some cold intelligence at work, then Magic, sorry, Mr O'Neill is Captain Corelli of mandolin fame (not Nick Cage, the guy in the book), who if I remember right, was the sort of guy, who, no matter what circumstances he found himself in, would have the humanity to transcend the norm and bring cheer where you might not expect to find it. Coppell is under no delusion that next season will bring the real problems, as some of the honest bunch of lads who have served him so well this term, will almost certainly make the transition to Billy BigTime, just as happened at Wigan, in the summer. O'Neill's problems are slightly different, as he tries to build a squad while avoiding the sort of thing which destroyed West Ham - noses going out of joint and heads dropping, of those displaced by new recruits and it becoming contagious.
It seems that both clubs have the right manager for the circumstances they
find themselves in.
Come Wednesday, I woke to find my ring-piece was in fine fettle once again and I returned to farting with both exuberance and delightful impunity, in the happy knowledge that there was not the least danger to my pants - oh what joy. Arsenal were on the telly and if I wanted a reminder of the sort of quality which Villa must aspire to, it was there in superabundant supply, as they gave Bolton, a side not devoid of class themselves, a lesson in the praxis of beautiful passing and movement. Okay, so the Notlobs had big Kevin missing, a very underrated player in my book, but they were simply out-classed and if it wasn't for the Arse's absolute reluctance to score from numerous penalties, or shoot into an empty net, it would not have been much of a contest, let alone a drama, but big Sam's dogged team scored late and took it into extra-time. Predictably there wasn't an Englishman amongst Wenger's team (I can't think of one) and it was hard not to make distressing comparisons with England's recent performance, where the English tactic of kicking it forward and chasing it like Alf Tupper, seemed like the highest aspiration of your flat-footed Roast Beef.
Confronted with such a demonstration of quality and technical excellence, from Arsenal not England, it was hard to sustain too much of a sulk, as regards Villa's failure to demonstrate the least pretensions of a top-six finish, with the promise of treading the glory trail to Europe. Villa have added to the numbers but any elevation of their status will depend on an improvement in quality.
A week dominated by Arse, one way or the other.
By Steve Wade