Something For The Weekend (222)
When students of Zen enquire of their master, what it all means, they have been known to be told to go forth and meditate on the sound of one hand clapping. This might seem like dodging the question but its better than a poke in the ribs, with a pointed stick, which is the alternative method of choice, for those in the zazen business. I've no idea what its all about but my guess, and my guess is no worse than anyone else's, is that the meaning of everything can't always be put into words. Or, something like that.
Ann Widdecombe is certainly uneffable but the ways of the cosmos are mostly ineffable.
Well, I shall probably have to do a bit more work on my understanding of everything else but I am certain of one thing: I am lost for words to describe, account for, or otherwise explain, Villa's unfamiliar presence in the top four of the Premiership.
Students of Zen and the art of Mart, would possibly have to meditate on the ineffable mysteries, of why Steve Sidwell is considered such a good player, or something equally unfathomable but time is short.
The whole Villa thing is a mystery. Their best defender is injured. Their most creative player is suspended. Their centre-forward is injured. Their right-back is playing at left-back. Their defensive-midfielder is playing right-back, or even right-wing. Their England young-gun is playing, I am not sure where. Their England left-back can't get in the team. They don't look good and they still manage to win.
In their midweek victory over Portsmouth, the mysteries multiplied. Belhadj having committed GBH on Craig Gardner, and unjustly escaped with a yellow card, should by rights, have gone on to score, but no, he had another go at getting himself sent-off and succeeded. Peter Crouch, who as an ex-Villan should have been expected to score but it was alright on the Knight. Jermaine Pennant, as an ex-Blue-nose, should have been, by right, expected scored. All of which suggested that the great cosmic banana-skin was not in operation. When ex-Blue-nose Emile Heskey scored, a stunning debut winner, the mysteries began to multiply, confound and confuse. Strange things need strange explanations.
So, as Basho was possibly not a Villa fan, I've had to write my own haiku:
Men claret and blue
Belief commitment hard work
See job through - result
The performance at Portsmouth was nothing special but it was good enough.
Of course, when I say 'nothing special', I mean something a bit more cosmic than it might seem: genius is nothing special to itself. So, nothing special accounts for a not unremarkable goal for Emile Heskey, as he's scored plenty like that - remember his goal against Germany in the famous 5-1 Arschtreten? There was nothing special about Gabby's assist: I've seen him do that deft header before too. Nothing special about Zat Knight nullifying Crouch's threat: he's done that before for Fulham. Nothing special about Villa being pressed back in the final minutes and them seeing the game out. Nothing special: they do what needs to be done.
If its nothing special, then they can be confident they can do it again.
What was special, was my thrill at seeing Emile Heskey in a Villa shirt (claret and blue for an away game too). Except for a few fat heads, second-guessers and bar-room bullshitters, most people know that a fit and confident Heskey, is virtually unplayable and anyone who can think back long enough, to their playing days, can imagine what it would be like, playing against anyone, with his pace, power and size. He's a big fellah, of that there is no doubt and his habit of breaking ribs when he challenges and falling over when he's challenged, must be really annoying for defenders.
The questions we are all gagging to find out the answer to, are: can Heskey's mentor Martin, bring out a series of performances to match his excellent debut. And, who can benchpress the most? Emile, Marlon or big John Carew?
With Wigan visiting Villa Park on Saturday, it looks to be yet another stern challenge to Villa's credentials, with Steve Bruce's side sitting in the rather strange position of being ten points behind Arsenal and ten points above the drop-zone. With every result they must either dread the drop or dream of Europe.
Steve Bruce, after some rather ill-treatment from his previous employers, has proven what a good manager he is and if it wasn't for the fact that every time he discovers a decent player, they instantly want to move on, he looks capable of succeeding in the Premiership.
After frustrating Liverpool in midweek, Wigan must be presumed to be no pushovers, and with Mido on a temporary diet and with an appetite to revive his career, Villa will have to be on their guard and leave a message for Mr Cockup, to tell him they are not at home. After both Heskey and Mido scored on their debuts for their new clubs, bragging-rights are up for grabs for both players. Villa are going to miss Ashley Young but all eyes are bound to be on Emile, as he sets out to remind the England manager, what he offers and that the Villa churls no nothing.
With expectations raised and with a home fixture they might be expected to win, Villa fans are bound to be a bit tense, and some might even be expecting a romp, but I suspect it will not be an easy game for Villa and will certainly test the consistency of Martin's reserves.
If Villa lose, I suspect we will all be meditating on the meaning of the sound of no hands clapping, for the next few days.