Something For The Weekend (270)
No one really knows who will be in between the sticks for Villa come Wembley time but all bets are on it being someone called Brad. However, the mystery deepened this week and the Guzan geezer might have thought his chances had improved slightly after he witnessed a less than convincing performance from his senior partner, also called Brad, as the latter was caught flapping at a Palace corner for their opener at Selhurst Park, in the FA Cup.
By the time Palace's Ambrose had eclipsed a very nice header from Collins, by finding the top-corner from an unlikely distance, doubts about which Brad should get the nod were spreading like a grin on an Eagle's fan's mush. Only some heroics from Villa's man of steel and rock, levelled the tie in the last minute to give Martin and his team a little midweek distracter before their fateful appointment beneath Wembley's iconic proscenium arch.
Neil Warnock was a little too forthright in the expression of his disappointment at the awarding of the decisive corner, which led to the Petrovian goal but peace seemed to break out, as both managers appeared live on the radio, a few days later, and competed to see who could seem like the nicest boy in the school. A contest in which Villa's O'Neill seemed to take all the points. While Warnock managed enough reasonableness to hopefully reduce the level of his forthcoming misconduct fine.
The real important thing was that it released most of the tension, which was likely to surround the replay.
With Rooney looking world-class again, in Milan this week, I have to say that I am rather grateful to be offered a little midweek distraction between the long wait from Sunday's dual with the clarets and Villa's date with fate seven long days later. This should ensure that the analysis of the FA cup game, will at least delay the transition of the worry about the final, from a my head to my guts.
A ticklish prospect.
I don't suppose Crystal Palace are that miserable about it because if they had to play Villa away, they might choose to meet them a few days before an important cup final, rather than at any other time, and they do need the money.
Judging by the way they are playing, it seems (a bit like Leeds did) that deducting points is one of the best motivators in the game.
They must see themselves as being in with more than just a shout.
Meanwhile at numerous addresses across the Portsmouth hinterland, they are setting up shrines for the worship of Saint Platini, who has been the long-time Cassandra of Premiership profligacy but, who it seems, the English football big wigs are determined to prove wrong by delaying the execution for as long as is possible.
Just like your local bank, if Portsmouth are liquidated they bring down the whole rotten edifice and the competition becomes a farce. So just like in the real world, it seems that the sensible will end up paying the bills of the prodigal and then find themselves in the same queue as the rest of the creditors, when the inevitable finally happens.
No doubt, the likes of West Brom and Cardiff might be wondering about the legitimacy of Portsmouth's FA Cup win (2008), as it seems it was achieved using monies which were not quite their own. And even Villa fans might find a justified reason to complain, after their own club suffered several years of decline, which was justified in the name of financial probity.
But the real names in the frame are the football authorities whose test for who is a fit and proper person to run a Premiership club, looks to be as hopeless as everything else they have set out to achieve.
As ever the voluntary arrangements have proven to be not fit for purpose and the hat is being passed around, while special dispensations are sought from FIFA, to allow Portsmouth to sell their players outside the transfer-window. This is hardly fair, as Portsmouth fielding a team of stiffs, to round off the season, would make of mockery of the outcome of the Premiership competition.
Perhaps they should ask Adam Crozier to return. He's making such a fine job of down-grading the postal service, and did such a fantastic job setting the budget for New Wembley, that he could surely come back and finish the job he started.
Worst still, football could find itself the subject of government legislation, the thing they have been trying to avoid since 2003, when the men in blazers first sat down to decide upon their master-plan to head off the sort of criticism, which Platini has been spouting since he got the top job at UEFA.
This is not good news for Villa and after years of cheeseparing economies, it would be a real blow to find that the sugar daddy was suddenly outlawed. Should the expenditure of a club be fixed in relationship to its turn-over, then it would just set in stone the dominance of the top-three (Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool) and exclude all other clubs from making a challenge.
Villa are definitely making a challenge and like others, investment has been needed to bridge the gap, which a decade of Champions League money, has afforded the top clubs.
And long may it continue.
For that challenge to continue, they now have to win the next three games on the trot.
Can they do it?
I am still waiting......
Keep the faith!