Something For The Weekend (258)
Although it hardly registered on the entertainment meter, it has been a very decent week for Villa, as they took a point at Molineux and then survived a very tricky sojourn to the wilds of the North-East to keep themselves in the League Cup.
The hours of football dirge were punctuated by a very nice little goal for Gabby and some incredible goalkeeping from Villa's other American, Brad Guzan, whose 6ft 4inches of Polish-American muscle, so filled the goal that Sunderland's various penalty-takers could find no way past him and his substantial torso, which would put even Stanley Kowalski to shame.
It was obviously, with this collective thought in mind, that I heard the animal call for, 'Stella!', and a double Brando in my local, after Ashley had slotted the winner home. It was great to see Ashley enjoying a bit of glory, as there have been rumours that his boots have been sponsored by Royal Mail, which explains why his delivery has not been very consistent this season (copyright P. Bland) but I think it's more likely to be down to a lack of motivation, since his old school pal, Lewis Hamilton slipped into anonymity, as Jenson Button took over as national driving god.
But have no fear, Ash is still total class.
If I was pleased with Villa more than impressed, I am more than amazed that so many Villa stalwarts took the journey north, for their experiment in sleep-deprivation and sensory-underload, even if Randy did lay on the transport by way of baksheesh. Well done Randy and well done the Villa fans - you're better men than me Gunga Din!
And for once, the fans were glad Villa didn't play like Real Madrid.
The recurring problem for Martin O'Neill, seems to be, that despite the overwhelming evidence suggesting that Villa are a much better side, when playing 4-5-1, he keeps trying to prove that 4-4-2 can work. You can't blame him for trying but I can't think of many good results or convincing performances, which Villa have achieved lately, while playing 4-4-2.
Meanwhile, on another planet, Man City have been throwing points away and the predicted corrosive power of mercenary motives cannot be entirely discounted. And, even at the Arsenal the platonic values of football purity fail to defy the ugly demands of the Premiership. Even Spurs didn't look great. So there seems to no other option than to stick with the O'Neill plan.
Elsewhere, I found myself in a huge quandary, or more like a quandary's quandary, when I had to decide which would make me the most miserable: Man United winning or Liverpool?
I have no great affection for either club, as the result of wrongs done me in the past, at the hands of both. But as every fan knows, there is no such thing as indifference, if you care even a jot about your football, and every game always requires you to choose sides for any number of reasons, from their history, to how they play and how dirty they are, or have been.
When it came to Liverpool versus Man United, I just could not decide, one way or the other, I just assumed I was a perfect neutral. It was only when I found myself jumping around like a mad thing, after Torres brushed aside the defender and crashed the ball into the roof of the United net, that my
feelings were actually known to me.
It was madness of course because seeing Liverpool run into the iceberg which would be them failing to finish in the top four, would do Villa more good, than Man United finishing second. But history is history and feelings is feelings. And you can't change either.
Some things don't change and so it was no surprise that across the city at the Sty, the second thing they announced after declaring they had mega-millions to spend, was that they were on the look-out for players on loan, which had me whistling the Party's Over much to the annoyance and pique of a blue-nose of my acquaintance.
I actually can't wait for the day, when their new owner builds them the team of their dreams and they get Cliff to sing The Young Ones - he should be around eighty by then.
Even so, I can't quite come to terms with the rumours that David Sillyman is about to buy West Ham. Why would he want to do that? I keep asking myself. Unless to fulfil his long time dream of bringing a team in claret and blue to its knees. And he's bound to put the ticket prices up, as he always charges fans in claret and blue, double. What was wrong with the Blues? I think we all know the answer to that.
Meanwhile, Villa have enough on their plate without expending too much energy on their local rivals and a trip to Everton and then a midweek fixture away to the Hammers, followed by a tough encounter with the bruisers of Bolton, completes their demanding programme, before they get a fortnight's rest.
It all stands as quite a test for the depth and quality of Villa's newly expanded squad.
As long as Villa get something from all the games, they keep themselves in contention, as they await the arrival of the quality and balance of England star, Stewart Downing. Then we'll see.
Keep the faith!