Something For The Weekend (233)
I have always considered Martin O'Neill to be smarter than your average bear and he proved me right last Saturday, when he craftily arranged to swap kits with the visiting team, to see if he could trick the Villa fans into booing the opposition instead of their own. It was a worthwhile attempt but unfortunately the team in white scored first and the benighted amongst the fans were left to encourage the team in claret and blue to stage a fightback, which they did, resulting in a rather better game than actual outcome for Villa's fading ambitions.
A draw was a decent outcome as it avoided the sort of pain which usually accompanies defeat, while still allowing the fans' expectations to trail off painlessly. Who am I kidding? Only draws in which your own team scores last are anywhere near analgesic, and it was another gloomy Saturday evening for me, contemplating the loss of Villa's magic ingredient, which used to allow them to win such games.
But after importuning the opinions of your average sort of fan; the sort who never inflict their yampy views on casual surfers of the Internet (you know the sort), most seem to have enjoyed the season and have settled for something less than their wildest dreams of January. Regrets, they have a few, but there again too many, not to mention....
These sensible people are all fine and dandy but they actually don't do me much good at all. In moments of anomie and mild discontent, I have discovered that nutters are much more useful. Its a bit like the way the poetry of John Cooper Clarke would always manage to cheer me up because even though I knew the world was bad, it was never quite as bad as he described it.
Here's Beasley Street for any young'ns unfamiliar with the bard of Salford (not the park).
The only cure for mild discontent and disappointment are the simian gibberings of a big fat idiot. Obviously, it is inadvisable to expose yourself to this sort of thing too early in the healing process, and it is better to avoid the more extreme members of the asylum during the initial stages of post-traumatic stress, but for that final step towards sanity, its unbeatable. Its just like listening to a speech by Margaret Thatcher, always cures me of any creeping right wing sympathies. Its what you might call hectoring shock-treatment - it works every time.
So I found I had managed to get in touch with my inner stoic-brummy once again and spent the day telling people to, 'Teck no nowtiss!'
I was even centred enough to offer my congratulations to a Toffees fan for his team reaching the final of the FA Cup. It is a tremendous achievement and I am sure that their cup-run has helped them in the league as well, as obviously, no player is going to upset Moyes and miss out on his chance of a lifetime.
The Man United line-up was very instructive and revealed Ferguson's priorities, his willingness to stick with players who had got him there and his obvious belief that centre-back is absolutely key, by playing both Ferdinand and Vidic (his best pair); a lesson I will try to remember, when assessing the problems likely to result from enforced changes to this key
After a few key encounters in the Seventies and sharing an arse-achingly dull visit to Wembley with Everton, I have always assumed a special relationship between the two clubs. Some key Everton players who have made telling contributions to their history came from Villa, like Andy Gray, who won three trophies for them before they sold him back to us when he was knackered. Then Paul Rideout via Bari in Italy and a few other clubs, arrived at Everton to score their winner in the FA Cup final against a certain Man United. Villa seem to have traded more defenders from Everton than anything else, and include the likes of Ken McNaught, Derek Mountfield and Martin Keown (going the other way). Adrian Heath's nine games for Villa hardly seems to count but I always see an affinity between Villa and Everton. Everton also broke the hearts of Birmingham fans when they signed Bob Latchford, so they are always worth a mention in a Villa fan's prayers.
Steve McMahon's use of Villa as a stepping-stone to Liverpool, need not be mentioned.
If Everton can beat Chelsea in the final, they will, after last year's success by Portsmouth, be the second team in a row from outside the top-four who have won a trophy which had seemingly become the preserve of the rich boys. Any final without Manchester United in it, is always worth watching but the contrasting styles of Everton and Chelsea offer an enticing prospect. Whether Chelsea can match Everton's commitment, or whether the Wembley pitch will suit Everton's pressing game, all add up to make it a game to look forward to but I suspect it will not be a classic. Michael Essien versus Tim Cahill promises to be quite tasty - the irresistible force against the immovable object.
In the meantime Villa need to learn how to win again - a habit they need to take into next season.
Until then I must remind myself that some things tend to hurt.