Something For The Weekend (232)
No doubt, the Revd Andy Jolley offered some prayer up to the Almighty, that Villans would see the light and he should be thanked for that. But I am sure if he were to explain that his church was named St Peter (Withe) and St Paul (McGrath), he might get slightly bigger attendances for his splendid, ancient place of worship. Obviously if the church was in America, they would erect a prayer booth, to save Villa souls, while they prayed for improved results. However, be warned, since Frank Skinner took up religion his team have not been great, but thinking about it, knowing Frank, I suspect he might be praying for pain to expiate all those years of rum, sodomy and the lash. The tendency of the Albion's defence to part like the Red Sea, can be no coincidence.
But whatever, all Villans deserve forgiveness because if they had their way, Villa would never play on a Sunday. It is the moneychangers of Sky television who invaded the temple, not the Villans. The fans have just rendered unto Caesar, or as we call him, Mr Murdoch. So Revd Andy Jolley, its him you should be telling, not us.
Oh Lord, we beseech thee, ban Sunday football and smite down the enemies of tradition.
Villa may have disrupted the Sabbath and conflicted with the church's cross-purposes but their fight-back after doing a fair impression of the sea of reeds themselves, at least made it an exciting afternoon out for Villans and Evertonians alike. The victory was with Everton though, as they as the away team won on away-goals. Only Villa's last-gasp winner at Goodison offered the consoling knowledge that Villa won this season's battle. In the head-to-head Moyes must be handed the plaudits for doing so well while lacking a proper striker. It is no criticism of O'Neill to acknowledge what a fine manager Moyes is, just as it is not to suffer jealousy, to realise that there are many excellent managers in the English Premiership. The standard has been set amazingly high.
This fan's smug satisfaction at his team's heroics for making such a thrilling comeback didn't last long, as it was eclipsed within a couple of days by Chelsea in the Champions League against Liverpool, a game which offered even more thrills and a two act drama in which my Villa delusions were played out.
The first half showed two teams who lacked the usual technical aplomb associated with the Champions League and some goalkeeping which might even have offered consolation to Scott Carson at his worst. It had me thinking that neither side looked that much better than Villa and perhaps my dreams of Champions League football next season had not been that deluded. I was just warming to this cosy conclusion when Chelsea decided to spoil it all by moving up several gears and scoring a couple of goals impossible to defend against. I actually still think that Drogba's opening goal was better than Ronaldo's rocket of a day later. The timing, the endeavour and the technique to send it home, was Didier at his very best but obviously, seeing Anelka actually run, was even more amazing.
By the time fat Frank had sweetly struck the fourth home, I was left in no doubt that Villa are rather further behind, than I had hitherto been willing to admit.
Seeing the quarter-finals of the UEFA cup confirmed the realisation that Villa are not equipped for winning it and remembering how they were thrashed by both Hamburg and Man City, I reached the same conclusion as Martin O'Neill, that any Villa victory in that competition would have been Pyrrhic. Even though his decision to keep his powder dry for more pressing priorities proved futile, his conclusions were correct. Villa are a very decent team but still a distance from actually handling the silverware.
How big that distance actually is, is the subject of much debate and discourse amongst the fans.
I consoled myself with the sincere belief that Villa's season turned on the fitness of Martin Laursen and had he stayed fit Villa would now be fourth and the papers would be talking of the crisis at Arsenal. I can't get many people to agree with me but I really believe that Villa's only way forward, is to improve their defence. Despite the much mythologised depth of Lerner's pockets, I can't see Villa venturing thirty-million smackeroos on a player who would consider himself bigger than the club. I have looked at Man City, seen the damage done to some very decent young players and have decided I don't much fancy the same happening at Villa.
So I am prepared to accept more of the same, and judging by the less than subtle hints coming out of Villa Park, I suspect next season is likely to be one of consolidation, rather than prodigal revolution.
I find I can live with that reality and expect more of the same, in the happy knowledge that even when your team loses, there is always beer.