Something For The Weekend (250)
I don't really want to make too much of it, because I am always on the verge of blubbing about something, or other - I even find adverts for laxatives on the telly, quite moving - but I definitely got a lump in my throat, last week, when I discovered Garth Crooks had included Villa's young debutante, Ciaran Clark, in his team-of-the-week.
Oh, the sentimental joy, of a Villa youngster making the grade and showing the watching world what he could do, with the sort of cool aplomb, which is the mark of a thoroughbred.
Presumably, if we are to attach significance to the name, the lad is of good Irish stock and the name Clark, suggests origins in the great city of Galway, a place renowned for its sports; and presumably, his ancestors must have been taking the eye out of the opposition with a hurley stick, long before Ciaran made his short journey into the world and found the light of day in Harrow across the water.
The lump in the throat proved to be a passing indulgence but the pride and pleasure has lasted me all week.
No doubt, there will be all sorts of people, telling him that he'll have tougher days, when he faces teams rather less jaded and sleep-deprived than Fulham appeared to be. And, no doubt, he'll be chanting every mantra in the Big Book Of Football Mantras, about keeping his feet on the ground, taking one game at a time and how much he's got a lot to learn, but I am sure he can't help being thrilled by his accomplished first-team debut. Who wouldn't be?
The only question now, is can he get enough first-team games, to bring him to maturity, now that Richard Dunne and James Collins have arrived?
As we all know, Gary Cahill was forced to do his maturing elsewhere and it would be quite a blow to see Ciaran having to do the same.
Alas, I can't have it both ways. Having done a fair bit of moaning (along with plenty of others) about what looked like jam-tomorrow policies at Villa, I can't have it both ways. Villa's summer splurge in the transfer market, which has seen a dizzying amount of cash change hands, means that they are now equipped to play two games a week, as the different cup competitions begin to make demands.
It can't be stressed too much, to those who do the listening at Villa, that a decent cup-run is paramount amongst the faithful. Villa might not be able to actually win it, because there is always a good chance, that they will meet one of the Big Four in the final, who will unleash their big guns for the one-off demands of playing Villa. But at least a semi-final, would give Villa's season that extra piquancy, which the bread and butter certainties of the Premiership, somehow lack.
Besides, it would be a piss-poor showing, if Lerner's wedge should take such a battering, for Villa's now substantial squad, to prove themselves not good enough to sustain Villa's interests in the Carling Cup, into the new year. The Europa League might not have been worth the candle but a bit of cup fever would do the Villa brand the world of good.
Back in the Premiership, where the haves, the have-nots and the have-mores, plot their predictable course; Villa's couple of wins seem to have steadied the ship and quelled the early panic, which the Wigan rout unleashed.
Whether pragmatism prompted O'Neill's move to 4-5-1, or not, the decision seems to have made Villa rather more difficult to beat, even if they are not better to watch. The consequences have been, six points on the Premiership board and a transformation of the fans' mood from the funereal to moderately optimistic but no one's getting carried away.
With only one place up for grabs in the line-up, it means Villa find themselves with a surfeit of strikers, all competing for a single berth, which means they can now get all the rest they need and a bit more besides. Most fans are rather glad to see Martin give up on the various partnerships which were not quite working, and Agbonlahor's brilliant left-foot strike against Fulham, seems to suggest that Erdington's own, is revelling in his new role and has benefited greatly from his summer of R&R.
But of course, these days, Villa don't need strikers because they usually persuade the opposition to score for them, which is far simpler.
The extra man in midfield seems to have given the Villa defence, that little bit of extra protection they needed, and we can be hopeful that perceived weaknesses in that area might be improved. Such pragmatism from Martin has not quite been enough for me to declare him entirely magic but I am willing to go so far as to declare him nearly magic, which by my feeble calculations, makes him at least a magi.
With three wins in a row and the Liverpool scalp still likely to bring a heart-warming smile, its a big pity, it all has to stop, so the collection of meaningless internationals can take place. But at least it might distract the referees from their latest pandering to UEFA opinion, by re-writing the rules regarding penalties. This has brought the game and those who rule it, into disrepute, as after one guy might or might not have dived, caused a moral-panic amongst Football's fascists, to the effect that, outright cheating by defenders we witness, in every international tournament, is swept aside in an attack of selective moral indignation. It seems, it is only wrong to deceive the referee to score a goal, but quite legitimate to do so, to prevent one.
As ever, one guy shouts sh*t and everyone jumps on the shovel.
I am sure it was different in the olden days, those golden days of yore.
But you'll have to ask Villa historian John Lerwill about that. Here's a clip of him being interviewed by Carl Chinn, about his new book about the Villa, The Villa Chronicles.
Keep the faith!