Something For The Weekend (223)
Wigan redefined the phrase 'backs to the wall' last weekend when they not only parked their bus across their goal but it looked like they might have sneaked out and double-glazed the space as well, as all Villa's efforts to get the three points they deserved, came to naught. Wigan couldn't get the ball in Villa's net either but that had more to do with the class of goalkeeper Brad Friedel, than obstructive parking.
Villa not winning was a huge disappointment, as a win would have put some substantial daylight between them and that ambitious foreign team called Arsenal. Gladly, the gods and goddesses of ill-luck handed out their largesse with an even hand and Arsenal's similar draw kept the gap the same. But nevertheless, I still spent the night lamenting what could have been and flucking my uck.
As ever, I was disappointed by the sound of booing coming from the usual suspects. It seems a pity that there is no middle-ground in these things, which allows for a signal between unequivocal approval - cheering - and outright disapproval - booing. Someone needs to invent a 'could do better' message, between a cheer and the depressing disconsolate sound of a boo.
As Martin made his way to the dressing rooms, as Villa's positive thinkers heaped their scorn on his team's efforts, he looked quite miserable. Luckily, he kept his feelings to himself about Villa's Greek chorus and we were spared a Strachanesque explosion. Gordon might have suggested that if Villa fans had been aboard flight 1549, they would have complained to the pilot about getting their feet wet.
Wee Gordon once said that the Villa fans do more greeting (a Scottish word), than a bag full of Christmas cards. It was a painful jibe and a rather unwelcome home truth, which really stung at the time but on days like Saturday, it was hard to disagree too strongly.
A few days later Martin O'Neill took it upon himself to tell the world that he is happy at Villa, so he must have assumed his feelings were more transparent than they actually were, or his mutterings had been decoded by a lip-reader in the Trinity Road stand.
By Wednesday, all was forgotten, if not forgiven, by me at least, and as Villa went two-up in fifteen minutes, Doncaster Rovers were put to the sward, by Villa's second-stringers with Ashley Young wearing the captain's arm-band. Villa then allowed Rovers free rein with the ball, which left the Championship side plenty of space to entertain their travelling fans with some neat passing-football and a beauty of a goal, which set the Villa fans' ring-pieces a twittering, as the tie suddenly became less of a foregone conclusion. There was a huge collective sigh of relief when Nathan Delfouneso scored the prettiest of diving-headers, to celebrate his 19th birthday on Monday and seal the tie.
Reading the reports, it seemed it was myself alone who had thought it was absolute class and there was hardly a mention. It was one of those goals, I never managed to score, along with a lot of the other sorts. The sort of goal which is routine in the six-yard box but from a distance, really takes some doing, and I said to myself, that Andy Gray and Sir Lochead would have been proud of that one.
With all the paper-talk about Villa making a bid for Daniel Sturridge, it was great to see Nathan restate his case, as an excellent prospect. With Emile Heskey now in a Villa shirt, that pecking-order has just got a bit longer, for Villa's bright young thing but no one can deny that he's scored some tasty goals in the chances he's been given. Of course, I am a little prejudiced because according to his photo on Wiki, Nathan can do all that fancy juggling stuff, while sat on his butt, like the extraordinary Mr Woo, which not surprisingly I couldn't do either.
Here's Mr Wu to remind you:
And here's Nathan on Wiki: Click Here
Looking at the Villa side, Martin O'Neill was juggling his resources on Wednesday night and the midfield was unrecognisable from that which last played in the Premiership. It was a great indication that Villa's strength is running a bit deeper these days, that they coped with a decent side from the Championship, without looking too desperate. No doubt, when Villa turn out against Everton, a lot of these players will be on the bench but they should take heart that their contribution has been essential, in Villa's progress, on all fronts.
It certainly was a satisfying result and a million miles from the banana skin, the Doncaster fans hoped for and the Villa fans, secretly dreaded.
It was sort of apt that Villa and Doncaster should meet, in the week Villa's own Paul Birch, lost his struggle against cancer. Paul played for both clubs and I only hope the Donny fans had as good a set of memories of Paul to draw upon, as the Villa fans. He was Mr 100% and a total grafter in Villa's midfield during some mixed times in the post-Saunders era. He was a standard fixture for Graham Taylor, who appreciated his heart and soul contribution, in those years when the club was trying to reverse a terrible decline in status. He eventually followed Graham Turner to Wolves, when Dr Joe sold him on.
There was only one way to describe Paul - a midfield terrier, very much in the tradition of Des Bremner. His round-shouldered gate and his usually sweat-tousled blond locks trailing in his wake gave him the look of some raggle taggle gypsy boy. He was a fantastic pro who obviously loved the game and it is no surprise that he was still playing late as 38. After he finished playing he was even a postman for a while, which makes him one of the last players who knew what its like to get up in the morning and do an ordinary job.
Paul put in ten years at Villa, got his testimonial, and then did a tour of minor clubs associated with Villa old-boys, and worked under Nigel Spink at Forest Green Rovers and then followed his pal to Birmingham City, where he obviously suffered for the sake of his love of the game. He was a great servant for Villa and the whole of Midlands football.
He was a 100% Villan and one of us - a rare thing indeed these days.
He will be missed.