Something For The Weekend (129)
He hadn't cried for years and years
With Villa being on holiday this past fortnight and no doubt soaking up a few rays, while being paid for the privilege (its a hard life), I was forced to seek my football solace elsewhere but didn't find it. Turning on the telly to see Reading try and dump United out of the cup, I had hardly blown the froth off some nasty acidic brew, or made a dent in my super-sized bag of Doritos, than I looked up to find they were three-down. It was one of those games when I was reminded of what can be so awful about the so-called beautiful game - that defeat that arises not from the genus of the opposition but from you own teams proneness to the cock-up. Defeat is bad enough but when you throw the game moments after the kick-off, it is a sickener which can leave you dead of spirit. Defeat is not always unexpected but embarrassing hopelessness is just about the worst a fan can be made to endure. Just think - San Marino and Pearce's early back-pass, that's how sick it makes you. Just think of any number of recent defeats by the blue-noses and your empathy will come easy. Beautiful game? Only for the chosen bloody few.
He grew to be a man
The faeces hit the fan
Things got bad but be he couldn't cry
I can't remember which were the most shocking and tear-jerking defeats for Villa, or even the most pathetic. That home defeat against Ipswich in '81 (14 April) when Ken McNaught looked like he had blown the championship, was up there. But for sheer volume of tears shed, losing to Tottenham at Wembley must surpass just about everything, although tears of pride taste differently to tears of abject misery. In the misery stakes, losing to Blues three-nil at home (when Des Bremner scored Mar 22 '86) was pretty well unbearable and the fact it was the single highlight in a disastrous season for City, made little difference to that running sore. Subsequent defeats have inflamed those old callused carbuncles, but I tell you what, it wears you out eventually and the recent years of perpetual drought and constant doubt, have left me a bit numb. Past caring, seems the destiny of all proper fans eventually. The hope that kills: it just wears you out.
He was sent off to jail
You guessed it no bail
But still not a dribble or drop
Losing in the cup against Chelsea left me feeling pretty numb because it was such a drab performance, as Beni Carbone and the Merse failed to spark that day. It seems no coincidence that West Ham have suffered a similar post-losing-final malaise and it takes a lot of guts throughout a club to build on a defeat. Villa didn't, West Ham did (a hammer needs only one head) but with very similar results (Moses and the Villarites marching across that endless desert). As Curbishly is finding out, these things reveal what is at the heart of a club, behind all the rhetoric and the bravado. Getting the heart right can take years - what ever it happens to be, positive or negative, it's prone to run through a club like the lettering in a stick of rock, as Shankly ran through Red Scouse long after he'd gone. For Villa to win the league cup after all those replays against Everton was a measure of the Saunders' determination and will, often overlooked. It was one of the worst Wembley finals ever but the eventual victory stands as a tribute the great man's qualities.
Lost an arm in the war was laughed at by a whore
But still not a sniffle or sob
Looking at Villa's fixture list things promise to get rather hairy, as they take on Liverpool and Arsenal in quick succession. After what seems like an age without a game and some warm weather training out in Spain, the question remains as to exactly how good Villa are, as they resume the task of surviving and perhaps adding a little credit to what has been a less than spectacular season. Recent displays (although it seems like an age ago) seem to suggest that O'Neill's team are a bit more exciting and certainly more pleasing to the eye these days but have they become a soft-touch in the process? Suddenly every game looks a bit daunting and Fulham's heroic but losing performance against Man United, seemed to suggest that they may provide a stern challenge for Villa, in a game both clubs must be desperate to win. In fact, a loss is likely to see Villa in very deep water by the end of March. Strong men with cool heads, need only apply.
Water and bread was all he was fed
And not once did a tear stain his face
But catatonically numb or crying like a baby, I don't expect it to be easy. I suspect Villa will survive and it will all look like a fuss about nothing come the end of the season but it will be a lot closer than is comfortable. Six points from the month of March will do very nicely, thank you very much, and taking points off Arsenal and Liverpool will legitimise the fans' belief that their club is making serious progress; beat any one of them and my face will lose its botoxed mask. But looking at the fixtures, April seems more promising as Villa take on opposition rather nearer their own present weight-division. Should they return from their hols with all pistons pumping and showing the sort of form which made O'Neill look like a magician, in the Autumn, I might just celebrate in tears.
He went up to Heaven located his dog
Not only that but he rejoined his arm
Like many others, I am waiting for the magic to return and what with Moore, Bouma and Berger (do you want fries with that?) now available, Villa should be fully restored and presuming they have avoided any golfing injuries (quite common at eisteddfods apparently) or San Miguel poisoning, they should be in the best possible shape for revitalising their season and state their case for being a team worthy of the top half.
Down below all the critics they took it all back
Cancer robbed the whore of her charm
Against Fulham, at least on paper, Villa should more than match them for quality and so should they get nothing at all from the game, they will have no excuses whatsoever. I have no idea what to expect but should they lose, I am sure I will make do with having a big sigh and a sulk for half an hour but not much more. You can get fed-up with the histrionics of being fed-up.
The earth suffered perpetual drought.*
*Lyrics by Loudon Wainwright III
By Steve Wade