Something For The Weekend (255)
Something between mild dread and fiery determination brought forth a very decent performance from Villa players and Villa fans alike on Monday, as the super-rich from Manchester brought their £120plus team to Villa Park to test O'Neill's team's credentials as candidates for the top-six.
With form being a little bit up and down this season and free-scoring City making a very convincing case, that they might indeed crack the top-four elite, Villa fans could not be blamed for fearing a drubbing, should their team not turn up. Even the all-stamping, all-scoring, all-nuts, Togo on a pogo, was back to test Villa's brand-new back-line with his fire-power and brimstone. Not to mention the Welsh wizard Bellamy, who had shown some blistering form against that team from just outside Manchester. Even ex-Villa Great Gareth Barry, was back to add a little superstitious dread, that he might rub salt into Villa
wounds by scoring against them.
Thankfully, things didn't work out in City's favour and in fact the night unfolded in exactly the opposite fashion, as it was ex-City man Richard Dunne, who out-jumped Gareth Barry and put Villa ahead, to turn fear and dread into sky-punching triumphal frenzy.
It was perfect really, because Barry's failure to get that big old arse of his off the ground, sufficiently enough to thwart Villa's new centre-back, was all the Villa fans needed to remind them, that their former hero was not the infallible paragon, their grief at his departure had suggested. There was the reminder why he was never going to be a centre-half and why even his position at left-back was never a shoo-in for the lad. It was a reminder why his arrival as England midfield regular, had as much to do with good fortune and the opportunity he was given at Villa, as it had to do with his obvious ability and marvellous temperament.
It was always down to that big old arse of his, which robbed him of enough real pace to be a natural left-back and kept him rather too earthbound, to make him the leaping salmon in the heart of the defence. And there it was for all to see.
So thanks for that.
But let no one accuse me of decrying the Barry arse, because I know of at least two female Villan's who were entirely smitten with the Barry botty and their real grief at his leaving, was more about the loss of that object of fond contemplation, than about him as a player.
So all hail to the Barry botty and let his callipygian reputation multiply and increase.
Unfortunately, despite the favours of Barry's gravity-prone rear-end, Villa could not deny City the single chance they needed to share the points. And it had to be conceded that even with enough chances to have buried Man City's ambitions, an away point for City is a better result for the Hughes crew than a home draw is for Villa.
Still if Villa had spent a £120m over the Summer instead of £40, I would have expected them to have thrashed City's slickers.
In the final analysis (and would we like one of those) I was happy with a point and happier still with Villa's team performance. This of course did not make me as happy as my local blue noses though, as I heard the fizzy-stuff going pop as they celebrated the departure of their cheeseparing owner David Sullivan, who despite having a reported £500m turned the club into a bargain basement brand, where most seasons half the team seemed to be on loan from the stiffs of more ambitious clubs. A yo-yo club, who didn't even own their own string, most of the time.
Happy blue noses are not a pretty sight but I got over it.
But no one is kidding themselves; the Man City game was just a rehearsal for Villa's real test against Chelsea next week. Chelsea are many pundits' favourites to dislodge the Premiership trophy from its seemingly permanent residence at Old Trafford and offer an even sterner challenge for O'Neill's boys.
In the meantime, England have a couple of games to dot the i's and cross the t's of their World Cup qualification and with all the terrestrial television channels keeping their money in their pockets, the fans are left to invest a fiver of their hard-earned in the delights of watching their heroes on the Internet, with all the promise of a stuttering slide-show, which Eastern blok bandwidth can provide.
'Tis a pity because there will be plenty of Villa interest to add spice to an otherwise meaningless encounter, what with Gabby in the squad, with Milner sat along side him - even Ivanhoe. But there would be even more joy in seeing Gary Cahill make his debut, should el Maestro give him a run-out in a proper grown-up England shirt. He'll always be a Villa player no matter whose shirt he's wearing.
So it is a big disappointment that the FA's dash for cash, has resulted in, what should be a national occasion being banished from our screens. This is the new multimedia age when there is an infinity of stuff you don't want to watch but an Englishman can't see his team, play a World Cup qualification match, or witness the debut of the Bolton wonder. But there's progress for you folks and it seems we have gone full circle, since the Likely Lads made their most memorable episode - No Hiding Place.
Ay up! I always had a soft spot for that Audrey. She were a canny lass.
Obviously, there is the radio and there might be highlights but its not the same and unless I persuade my friend the radio ham, to find a Ukrainian who can give me the full detailed commentary in Morse, it looks like those magic moments where our Villa boys, present and past, put on that shirt, will remain lost forever.
Which leaves me to say just one thing - Arse!