Something For The Weekend (268)
Surprisingly, that is not the title of a sex manual for seniors, it represents the best hope for those who lack the right paperwork, of getting a ticket for Wembley come the end of February. The grey doughnut being the area shown on the seating-plan of Wembley, which for mysterious reasons, just so happens to cover all the best seats in the nation's prestigious top sporting venue.
This must be the biggest confiscation of proletarian property rights, since the Inclosure Act of 1801.
So for those who basically supply the occasion, which just happens to be between the biggest brand in the industry and the greatest club in the history of the game, they are allocated the gods or the pits, while the prawn-sandwich brigade, who may or may not even have an interest in either the game, or either of the two clubs, are pre-allocated the seats with the best view. While the real supporters are reduced to low status groundlings, who are pushed to the periphery of the occasion.
The class-politics of dog in the manger exclusion.
For anyone who sees the game as the ultimate expression of classlessness, with none of that 'gentlemen and players' nonsense which surrounded cricket, and who might have taken the pratings of politicians, even a bit seriously, it looks like a shocking reminder of the realities of modern Britain.
It certainly makes the PFA's purchase of L.S Lowry's Going to the Match, seem like an act of empty piety. There are no grand carriages or footmen in that painting, as far as I recall: just workers and their kids, shouldering a chilly Lancashire breeze, with soot in their hair and Bovril on their breaths.
In the old days, you got the Royal Box (no tittering) where all the big nobs hung out, while the market for the rest of the best seats was regulated by price: if you had the dough you could sit, just about where you liked. These days, Wembley has a huge no-go area, which, whether it is used or not, offers an impenetrable barrier to ordinary fans, to deny them access to the very best seats.
For those who have been willing to pay through the nose, for access to this special area, it seems reasonable that they should be able to buy their way in, but for those who choose not to use their seats, it seems obscene that they should remain empty, while real fans are excluded, from what for some, would be an experience of a lifetime.
For those ex-pats who are now trekking across the frozen wastes of the Yukon, or the deserts of the antipodes, in the hope of a Villa at Wembley experience, this pre-allocation represents a kick in the pants, no bull moose or giant boomer is ever likely to deliver. A lifetime of panning for gold in the wilderness and they still can't get a ticket.
Shame! Is what I say.
The only consolation is that had the grey doughnut been included in the clubs' allocation, no doubt it would have been filled with Man United fans from the Home counties, their natural habitat. Its not as though there is any danger of the Villa fans being out-sung, as it is just about impossible to chant in anywhere near a gentile manner while nibbling a vol-a-vent, but being out-numbered by the Scum is not a pretty sight.
So we all start equal: underdogs and champions alike.
Whatever the outcome and whether Martin has a particularly happy 58th birthday on the Monday after the game or not, no one can deny that the two semi-finals provided some of the most exciting football seen, for a very long time. If Villa's drubbing of Blackburn verged upon the ridiculous, United's defeat of City was high melodrama.
In his interview, after the Arsenal game, Martin said that he had caught the last few minutes of the United game, and it must have been a strong reminder that when you take on Ferguson's team, you need to keep playing for the best part of a 100 minutes.
Its going to be a big ask and as we all know, getting to a final can turn out to be a turning point for a club, good or bad, and whether it is John Gregory at Villa or Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth, reaching a final can turn out to be a crossroads and sometimes there is the devil to pay.
In the meantime Villa have a rather tricky-looking trip to Fulham to deal with and Roy Hodgson's team look like just the team to beat Villa if they have their minds, even slightly on other things. As Martin is aware, winning the Carling Cup might bring glory and a ticket into Europe but if you lose, you end up with nowt, so any neglect of Villa's Premiership obligations would be a disaster, especially as those buggers in blue across the city, are now breathing down our necks.
I might be thinking of nothing else but Villa's up and coming fateful day at Wembley but I just hope Martin and the lads can concentrate on immediate matters at hand and leave the fretting, worries and fantasies to us amateurs.
Is it our time or not?
Keep the faith!