Something For The Weekend (132)
Villa getting a point against Liverpool was vaguely satisfying and the fact that Fowler failed to score and Crouch was off having a nose-job, were all miracles of sorts; Liverpool being a decent side and Villa being...er...the way they are...which is to say, in transition. Another twenty million and we might begin to look as good as in the O'Leary heydays, of which there were one or two. But the feeling of the mobile vulgus is that being that Randy Lerner got the club for what turned out to be bargain price, investing a wedge of greenbacks in the team, should not only be affordable but actually very sensible, as a vital, thrusting, successful Villa will be worth a lot more. And should another dodgy balti pie suggest to General Krulak that a strategic withdrawal is called for (Rambo ate organic I seem to remember - free-range at least), a nice profit might be on the table. But as Anthony Robbins might say, 'Why just good, why not excellent?'. In the meantime, we have witnessed the fire and we now have a few hot coals to walk over, to prove that we really believe.
But as of yet, baltis notwithstanding, he has yet to make the call for the Hueys.
The other miracle of the week was the new Wembley opening and at a 1000 million pounds, including infra-structure (a new railway station, to you and me*), must be the bargain of the century. It is absolutely brilliant and needed to be so expensive apparently, just to make the 120 million the FA half-inched from Lottery money, meant for the succour and sustenance of sick and dying children, seem like a lot less. But as the Dome required £628 million to be snatched from the mouths of orphans, I think we English can feel proud that things are getting better; better that is, until they start spending the £9 billion on the Olympics. I only hope that when people buy their Lottery tickets they bear in mind that, although Children's hospices might be closing wards for want of funds, when it comes to putting a gloss on national pride, it is entirely worth it. I'll just nip out and get mine now.
* Hilariously, and the piss, as well as the biscuit, truly taken: the railway station has been re-built at tax-payer's expense but whether it is operational, is at the discretion of Chiltern Railway - brilliant or what?
When you think of it, being that the F.A. has a turnover in excess of £200m, having a mortgage for five times earnings is very much the normal thing these days, with the Prime Minister leading the way (snicker, snicker), but I am not sure if it was all that necessary. I know the old Wembley was nothing short of vile with its Eastern bloc grey amorphous concrete, and despite my doubts about there being a scrap-yard augmenting the much vaunted Wembley Way, I never thought it mattered. Okay, so Wembley is a particularly squalid part of London but that is nothing new in the glorious capital, if you only take a few steps from Oxford Street. The truth is that, no matter how shit the actual experience was (getting there, poor view, suspension of habeas corpus etc.) it always looked good on the telly, which was all that mattered. It was a perfect symbol of everything British and as long it looked okay on a biscuit tin, we have never really cared. As a fan, it was always about being an extra (without the catering or toilets) on the set of a Cecil B. DeMille epic and playing your part for the television audience. A billion quid seems a lot of money to spend merely to cosset the already over-cosseted. But it is admittedly, rather sexy, with the sliding roof of eleven acres, and with its rather vulval form, combines nicely with Norman Foster's shiny vibrator, to symbolize what London tends to do to the rest of the country.
And another thing, it won't make watching England any easier to bear either.
McClaren's golden generation are off to Israel this weekend, which despite my GCE in geography, I was surprised to find is in Europe. There won't be many England fans at the game, as the Israelis have gone on strike to preserve the sanctity of their religious monuments, as should England lose, they don't want thousands of fans besieging the Wailing Wall. Failure to qualify for the European Championships is unthinkable and would make the FA's brand new monument, look like a white elephant. But England fans or not, if they lose, after the tragic news coming out of Jamaica today, I suspect the England manager won't be answering any late-night knocks on his hotel-room door, afterwards.
A demonstration of the players' superior quality is rather overdue and fresh from collecting his MBE from the Queen this week, I expect Steven Gerrard to express his gratitude to the Nation by leading a barn-storming performance, as England crush the Israelis by a huge score...but there again perhaps not. Even so, with Fat-legs Rooney available and playing quite well, I expect your typical England performance, consisting of a mixture of excellent, bad and perfectly abysmal. I have no objection to footballers getting a gong, as all other fields of self-interest never get left out, but I am always annoyed by the implication, that by winning the Champions League for Liverpool and single-footedly destroying West Ham Football club, he was necessarily doing the Nation a service. It all seemed rather unfair on Penelope Keith, who collecting her own gong on the same day, had had to be a national treasure for a couple of decades before being invited onto the red carpet. But I suspect Stevie got his entirely for other reasons - perhaps he sent one of the Blair kids a shirt, or even his father-in-law, the original scouse git. But as Freddie Flintoff proves, the only thing required of someone with an MBE, is to appear totally pissed in public, as often as Her Majesty requires.
When it comes to sporting role-models - we are world champions.By Steve Wade