Something For The Weekend (251)
It was one of those weeks of sublime England ecstasy as Capello's boys booked their place in the World Cup finals and the fans could start dreaming of chilly African winter drizzle and get measured for their Kevlar England shirts, in anticipation of 2010's world festival of football.
England panning for gold, with diamonds on the souls of their shoes - its a wonderful thought - and all credit has to go to Mr Capello.
At last we can say the players seem to have fulfilled their potential, which is not to say they are paragons of technical football but despite their glaring faults, which mostly reside in the passing part of their game and a certain amount of defensive weakness down their right, eight wins in a row, says everything we need to know about them as a team.
From this showing they certainly deserve their top-ten world status but still look a little way off the technical perfection of the Spanish. But technical schmechnical. Winning and confidence is everything. The only thing we can ask for is that they do what they look capable of doing, which is at least to make it to the semi-finals where the football gods and referees will be left to decide their ultimate fate.
One thing is for certain - the build up and expectations, are going to be both hysterical and absurd. The Red Tops are going to be pumping it up and its going to be almost impossible, to not get carried away. This will do the economy more good than the players and the fans, I suspect.
Villa's contribution to England's resounding qualification, has been more workman-like than spectacular and no doubt Heskey will be getting a cow's arse and a banjo for Christmas, in the hope that he can put in a bit of practice and kill off the media lobby, to hand Jermain Defoe his starting-place. As every Villa fan knows all too well, if Ivanhoe could add a few more goals to his unselfish work for the team, he would bring his light from under a substantial bushel.
James Milner seems to offer a safe pair of feet, on the England left. He never looks like he's going to do anything spectacular or fancy but he never looks like he's going to give the ball away cheaply either, which makes him a very useful asset to have for certain situations, where the manager might want to try and keep the ball.
Like everyone else in the present squad, it looks like Ashley Young's place will depend on whether he keeps his form, or improves it. How strong Joe Cole's claim is when he returns from his cruciate injury, might have a bearing on his chances of a trip to South Africa. Even Stewart Downing could stake a claim, given a bit of form at the end of the season.
Obviously, with ten months to go before the balloons go up, its rather premature to start speculating who will make the final cut and certainly, there will be players who have made crucial contributions to qualification, who will not be there. Conversely there will be players who might possibly be destined to win a late surprise inclusion.
A decent season for Gabriel Agbonlahor, could bring a double joy for him and the Villa fans.
There was not much joy to be had watching England's women getting thrashed in the European Championship final this week, especially as it was against that old enemy the Germans and it stood as a stark reminder of the downside of the hype and the expectation we are about to participate in, as World Cup fever grips the nation.
Have no doubt about it, the fact that it was England's women and not the men, did not alleviate the sheer misery of seeing England lose. To say that I was as sick as, if not sicker than, a Norwegian Blue, is only to overstate it slightly, especially as England's women had been so very convincing in the first half, when they had more than matched the Germans and only a long-range wonder-goal from Gehringe gave the German girls the advantage.
As ever, Kelly Smith was total class and Faye White looked like she had Birgit Prinz in her pocket, with Anita Asante looking very assured at her side.
Alas, despite a brilliant assist and a goal from Smithy, the second-half followed the same pattern as England's World Cup defeat against the Americans. Legs got tired, they failed to clear their lines and the Germans just turned on the power. A respectable 3-2 quickly turned into a 6-2 rout and the misery had to be faced.
Just as in the World Cup, the manager never got the tactics quite right and the superior German forwards - Grings and Prinz - gradually overpowered the England back line. To reach the final was a tremendous achievement but England are still a couple of class players short, of matching Die Fliegenpflaumen.
But knowing that, did nothing to mollify my patriotic suffering.
This weekend offers the possibility of bringing the source of my suffering, a little closer to home, with Villa taking the short journey across town to take on their bluenose rivals. For me, and I suspect quite a few others, this fixture and even its return, will forever be associated with a certain amount of dread. I might puff out my chest in defiance but the series of freakish wins enjoyed by Blues, based mostly on a series of freakish goal-keeping errors, has left me permanently scarred and with the superstitious belief that the football gremlins and demons, have too much to do with the result. It hardly seems the right occasion to be trying out a brand new pairing of centre-backs.
So for me, I would settle for a draw every time and I don't care how many white feathers, I get sent.
Like the bride's nightie - come Sunday night, will I be up or down?
Tell them Mr Shuttleworth.
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