Something For The Weekend (221)
A sad week for old men.
As every football fan knows, and every corporate Chardonnay sluicer does not, it takes an Epiphany to become a real football fanatic. Most fans can remember their own and each can usually trace the origin of their emotional bond to their club, to a moment or series of moments, in their immortal youth. Sometimes it arises from a shared moment of victory. Sometimes it arises from the shared tears of heroic defeat. But it is rarely forgotten and always treasured as a special time, with mixed feelings of magic and melancholy.
Each generation has its own and such times are always indelibly associated with certain players or managers.
So it was a particularly sad time for contemplation, this week, for at least two generations, as two such figures gave up the ghost, and left old men and history books to tell the tales of their gifts and glories. The young'n's will never understand and old men were left to stare wistfully into their hearths and remember Johnny Dixon and Victor Herbert Crowe. Callow youth, will only wonder whether they dream in colour or black and white, like in the photos, but dream they do.
I do not remember Johnny's unlikely victory, as I was too busy dedicating my life to puking and pooping at the time, and although my father was certain to have mentioned it to me, my response was along the lines of, 'bloo, bloo, poo, poo, da-da', according to reports - even then I knew what I liked. Its even possible that my father uttered something similar, as he slid beneath the table, after celebrating Villa's first cup victory since 1920. Removed from the context of visceral personal experience and history, the magic of 1957 never quite gripped me, as it did my father, or those only a few years older than myself. As ever, you had to be there, to be bewitched by it all. And bewitched they all were.
My own Epiphany came with Vic Crowe's fantastic run to the final of the League Cup against Spurs - a journey which contained every ingredient for a Boys Own football romance. The team from the Third Division beating First Division Manchester United in the semi-final and then despite putting on an heroic display beneath Wembley's mythic towering twins, they were ultimately undone by the class of England striker Chivers. Such was Villa's performance that day, that Wiki records the score as 2-1 to Spurs, and even if Villa never did get the ball over the line, they more than deserved a goal. It was a grand day and many a hairy-arsed Villan wept tears of pride as they sang their consolations to their heroes. Many a true Villan was born on that day and I was one of them.
For Vic Crowe it proved a mixed blessing, as Villa's cup run proved a crucial distraction from the demands of the Third Division, and after 46 games Villa finished a disappointing fourth behind Preston, Fulham and Halifax. The Villan's had to wait another year before Vic's side broke just about every record for the Third Division, when they finished champions and miles ahead of the rest. Villa were back and with style.
This was not inevitable and Vic Crowe deserves a huge amount of credit.
We have two of the greatest moments in Villa's post-war history, when Villa came off the ropes and electrified a whole new generation of fans. Vic Crowe was also in charge when Villa's youth scheme produced some of Villa's greatest modern legends, such as Brian Little and John Gidman.
When Wiki list Villa's notable managers, Jozef Venglos gets a mention but Vic Crowe does not. This is why a whole generation of Villa fans think Vic is possibly the most unappreciated manager in Villa's history.
History is not always fair, when it hands out the accolades, but the old men will always sigh and remember.
Whether the signing of Emile Heskey promises any future happy memories, seems to be a question which is occupying the minds of the Villa fans this week, as they await to see whether ugly rumour turns into reality, as we enter the last ten days of the transfer window.
Heskey is one of those players people tend to file under 'E' for enigma (not just for Emile) and there seems be more sceptics than devotees, in that area of fuzzy logic known as football opinion. Given his career video footage, both sides could offer convincing evidence to make either case. Whether in an England shirt or any number of club's colours, he has been brilliant, he's been ordinary, and he's sometimes been awful. When a player is forced to resurrect his career at Birmingham City, I think its safe to assume, things are not going entirely to plan. But resurrect his career he has done and is obviously thought of very highly by the England manager.
Admittedly, for the football fantasists, gainsayers and second-guessers, Heskey will not fulfil their demands, but the big fellah seems to meet the main criteria for a January purchase - willing, able and familiar with both manager and Premiership. All we can hope is that MON's little punt gives the squad, that little bit extra to get us over the line in league and cup. We'll wait for the summer to sign those world beaters.
How will he do?
Only the old men of the future will able to tell you that.