Something For The Weekend (247)
As the brand new season is all set to kick off, the consensus amongst the pundits, is that Villa will finish around seventh or eighth and as a genuflection towards the altar of optimism, I am going to boldly go for seventh, with Tottenham and Everton being in a position to look down on Villa, even if they are the usual million miles away from the big spenders.
For me, the start of every season is always accompanied by a certain amount of queasiness, like you get when you are queuing for a fairground ride, you are not really sure you want go on. There's the doubts and the hype which repeats like a dodgy hotdog and there's that little bit of fear that the wheels could fall off, this time round.
There will be screams, there will be fear, there might even be puke and even the odd adrenalin high but will it be good?
I find it hard to say.
I have to say that I did find myself getting that sinking-feeling this week, when I heard Martin O'Neill, make his, 'I will not bankrupt this club' speech and I could not help but think I had heard it all before and many times, from different managers and different chairmen. Neither then, nor now, did it make me feel very happy. I just took it as an official announcement that the dream is over and that it was merely the punctuation in the ongoing process of managing expectations. Colon or full stop? That is the question.
Its what Gareth S and Gareth B knew and the rest of us denied out of loyalty.
There was only one thing to do - have my Champions League dreams taken outside and humanely put out of their misery.
So its back to the satisfactions of decent mediocrity for me and the reality that Villa are a big club but perhaps not quite big enough.
But all is not lost and as reality is actually not a bad place to be and as we all know, its the hope that kills you; sitting back and expecting nothing but hoping to be surprised, is quite a comfortable position to be in.
And at least they never sold Ashley and their rumoured plans for expanding the capacity of Villa Park, presumably indicate a belief at some level, that they can keep the dream alive enough, to fill that extra capacity at some point.
But there were at least some consolations this week, as Gareth made a huge mistake for England, which, now that he wears another's shirt, allowed me to call him everything and was not required to make excuses, or worry about any feelings he might have about his very public embarrassment. Instead I could enjoy the sheer quality of James Milner's powerful run and perfect cross, which salved the blushes of his team-mates and kept the manager's winning-run intact.
This added up to a very pleasant night of consolation: so, well done James Milner and thanks Gareth, you're a star.
Seeking consolation from the trawling through Villa's roster as those Yankee fellahs insist on calling it, is not such an easy pleasure to be had and although the squad numbers go up to fifty, this seems to have been achieved by promoting some youngsters for their sterling efforts in Spain and eliminating all the numbers in the thirties. This may not be as sinister as it at first appears and the explanation might be as simple, as the club shop being short of threes, or maybe just have too many fours.
Its hard, if not impossible, to construct any kind of rant as regards the state of the squad, because apart from a straight swap between Barry and Downing (both £12m), any putative lawyer from the terraces, is stuck with trying to subtract any number of 'undisclosedes' from each other, as in Zat Knight (undisclosed) from Delph (undisclosed) and Beye (undisclosed). This leaves the figures in dispute and leaves us all guessing whether the club is going forward or backwards.
But obviously, as soon as you work in Laursen (retired) into ones calculus of class, then the answer has to come out negative. Whether there has been an equivalent amortization of goodwill, remains to be seen.
In fact I am getting a bit desperate for some more quality signings, as I and a few others demonstrated down the pub, this week. After someone spotted someone's kid with the name Harvey emblazoned on the back of his Villa shirt. We started to speculate whether Mon in one of his more eccentric moments had in fact signed a six foot three and a half inch rabbit and we had yet to hear about it. There then ensued a blazing row about whether he should be played at centre-back or as striker. There was even speculation, as to whether his reported height included his ears or not. It all got a bit stupid to be honest because as everyone knows, pookas can shapeshift and therefore he could play in any position he damn-well pleased.
It all calmed down, though, when we concluded that its unlikely Villa will sign anyone. Someone bought pork scratchings all round and we returned to our Villa moping.
But we can dream.
Anyway, whether Mon goes out and buys thoroughbreds, donkeys or rabbits, it does look as though the top and the bottom of the table will not bother Villa, and unless anyone actually cares whether Man United wins it yet again, or whether Blues or Burnley will finish bottom, or not, the top and the bottom of the table might easily be snipped off, as far as Villa interest is concerned.
Having given up on the Champions League and excluded ourselves from the top five, lets hope we can at least win the Carling Cup. Everyone knows Villa need to win it for the sixth time to keep ahead of Man United and put them just one win behind Liverpool
But if the Villa can't win a trophy or at least flirt with entry into the top four, lets hope the fans can look forward to getting a free Villa hat, to go with last year's scarf.
Keep the faith!