Something For The Weekend (263)
Waking up with a semi - its a lovely feeling.
What a turnaround it proved to be. One day it was Emile and the defectives, after Villa failed to look convincing against Harry Redknapp's Lily White boys and then by the end of the week, the Villa fans were already running round the Bull Ring with the cup, after a very decent away performance against Portsmouth.
Up and down like a bride's nighty.
When the dancing had stopped, it all seemed to be pretty well predictable. The Spurs forward-line which had scored nine against Wigan, never really had a shot on goal, proving the efficacy of Villa's defence and their equaliser came from a defender, which meant that Villa's defence was doing its job but someone in midfield wasn't. So nothing new there then.
There was just the merest trace of a banana-skin look about the Portsmouth trip, as they had just got a new manager and Villa are well known for having the odd off-day. Petrov's early own-goal produced some rolling of eyes but then Emile Heskey went straight down the other end of the pitch and scored his best goal since he added the fifth against Germany in 2001. It was the sort of goal us fantasists were dreaming he would score, lots of, when he arrived and donned a Villa shirt.
Total class Emile, total class.
The one-on-one has always been and always will be the ultimate test of bottle and whether it was Brian Little's debut goal against Torquay, or Sir Mortimer against Liverpool, when they hit the back of the net, you know you've got a good'n. If a player has any doubt about his ability to put the ball in the net, then having 14 stone of hairy-arsed goalkeeper heading your way, with all legs, elbows and knees flailing, is going to find it out.
He scored in a wink with a dink.
The big surprise of the night was the effect Milner had on the whole team when he moved into the centre. He answered the nagging question as to how O'Neill was going to accommodate his three wide-players, now that Downing is available. After Jimmy-Jimmy scored the sort of goal, which usually brings commentators to the verge of orgasm, when Ryan Giggs is the shooter; the answer was before our eyes.
Surprised? I was amazed.
What it was, was that the whole thing has just crept up on me and finding Villa are only one two-legged game away from a trip to Wembley, has a touch of the unbelievable about it. How did that happen? But one thing is for certain - no one should take Blackburn for granted, even if, in the relief of avoiding one of the mega-monied Manchester teams, it could be mistaken for a shoo-in.
Strangely, with Big Sam Allardyce being in charge of the team (he should be back at work by then), it is a reminder of Villa's FA Cup semi-final against Bolton Wanderers in 2000; a game which required penalties, I recall. I somehow suspect that Villa's two match tussle with Rovers, may require an equal amount of nail-biting, as that famous battle with Bolton.
You can bet good money that Blackburn are as relieved to be playing Villa, as Villa are to be playing them.
Meeting up with United in the semi-final would have brought back all those nasty memories of how they have that horrible habit of bringing one of their star-strikers off the bench and then slaughtering you in the last half-hour, as Villa found out on at least two occasions, when van Nistelrooy and then Rooney proved their nemesis.
Although there might be some high romance associated with meeting Man City in the final, what with the chance of meeting up with Gareth Barry again and the irony of the Richard Dunne situation, is quite delectable, I would much prefer to meet United in the final because City would be just a little too desperate, while its just another minor trophy for United.
But hey, there I go, it sounds like I want jam on it too, just getting to the final will be a blessed achievement and choosing your preferred opposition, is coming it a bit brown and taking far too much for granted.
At their best Villa are more than capable of reaching the final and actually winning the thing but many a slip between cup and lip, as they say. As usual the fates have set up a series of January fixtures with Blackburn which, if the FA Cup tie is not settled first time at Villa Park, could lead to a right old marathon of games, between the two clubs.
With the FA Cup game and the first leg of the Semi-Final only three days apart, it seems to simplify things, as both managers will assume that the other might decide to rest some key players. Are Blackburn more likely to rest players, so they can give it a go in the home leg of their semi-final and if so, do Villa follow suit, to keep legs fresh for this Tuesday night fixture? Its quite a conundrum but it would be far worse, if they weren't playing one another.
Only the guys at Fink Tank, can work out what's best.
In the meantime, the bread and butter of the Premiership continues to make severe demands and Villa must face a resurgent Hull City on Saturday, and the table tells them that another draw or a loss just will not do, if they are to stay in touch with the pack. It promises to be the battle of the two Jimmies, what with Bullard being back and James Milner being the fans' darling, at the moment.
The chances are that what with Downing still building his fitness, he will start on the bench and the Villa fans will get the chance to re-examine the merits and qualities of Sidwell or Reo-Coker again.
Like the man at the circus who spins the plates, Martin O'Neill has got quite a few on the twirl, right now, and we all wait with baited breath to see if he can keep them all spinning.
Exciting times - keep the faith!