Something For The Weekend (276)
I think most boys and girls will agree, it was a pretty miserable week, all round. Seven is supposed to be a magic number but it didn't feel that way. It was less the seven joys and more the seven sorrows. Less the seven virtues and more the seven deadly sins. It might have been seven heavens for at least two teams in blue but it was the number of doors in hell for the claret and blue fraternity.
Its that number which has haunted me all week, like some football stigmata, the number seven has just burnt and gnawed at my guts, ever since.
Amazingly, according to the seven Villa sages who roam, and were witnesses to the rout, the actual Villa performance was not quite as bad as the scoreline might suggest, and even the 'highlights' on the TV didn't reveal Villa's defending as too farcical, they just showed Chelsea moving the ball with such speed and precision along the ground, that Villa couldn't cope. Malouda proved too slippery and precise. Lampard too elusive to his markers (sic!). Villa's waning spirits did the rest.
Villa were still in the game right up to the 44th minute when Fat Frank slotted his first penalty after Villa had scored a very nice goal from Ashley's cross and Big John's tap-in. It was just before the hour when Malouda scored his first, when the Villa collapso flowed and the rout began. There had been indications in previous games that Villa's legs and lungs had gone but the subsequent annihilation suggested to some, that it was Villa heart which was the organ which faltered.
Unless Villa got caught thinking they were going to do one of their famous come-backs, a la Reading, it looked like the right stuff was missing.
Martin O'Neill described it as 'unforgivable' and I had to agree. Being out-played I can put up with. Getting stuffed I can stand. Disappointment I am used to. But seven fu**ing goals, is just unbearable.
So shame on you Villa.
Things weren't improved by the blue-noses scoring an unlikely equaliser against Arsenal across the City and even Jasper Carrot's joke about the blues fans smelling of Cuprinol these days, because they are all coming out of the woodwork, didn't quite manage to mollify my feelings.
I was feeling like Malvolio banished to the black hole of despair for believing some unlikely fiction of Villa greatness and I thought the joke was on me. There were no yellow stockings and cross-garters to mock me though, just my shrine to Martin the magnificent and a Villa scarf tied into a noose.
A cheering little ditty, don't you think?
Things got better when Manchester United lost in the last minute in Munich to a goal by the guy Olic, the same fellah who was so lethal against Villa for Hamburg, not so long ago. Rooney hobbling off seemed to prove that even United are not beyond the mockery of the football gods. The scan a few days later proved, at least for now, that England had escaped the cosmic cream pie in the face, the football fates are prone to hurl.
Things started to get substantially better as I watched the Arsenal v. Barcelona game, which doctor Frankenstein might have used quite as affectively as a bolt of lightning to put life back into his monster. It had everything. The magnetic-footed magic of Barce and grit and determination of a shell-shocked Arsenal. It even had an unfolding of a personal tragedy as goalie Almunia went from impervious candidate for a role in the Incredibles to dithering dolt, in the passage of an hour. The drama climaxed with hero Fabrigas converting the penalty which gives Arsenal a slight chance in the second-leg, before collapsing injured, where if he had uttered, 'Kismet Wenger, Kismet!', he would have brought the house down. It was a great game, a great night and Messi didn't even play well.
And there it was before us, for all to see - even Barce ran out of steam and certainty, and faded accordingly, once they were undone by the pace of Walcott and the technicians supreme were definitely on the ropes.
So by the time April 1st approached and the rumours were abroad that Martin had walked, I had enough armour back in place to deflect the temptation to believe. It just seemed like the fact that Villa nerves were raw and Celtic were in need of a new manager, was altogether too much temptation for the tabloidistas, not to make something of it. It flushed the usual O'Neill gainsayers out of the woodpile, prompted a little debate about who was better and who would come, before it choked on its own vomit and joined the rest of the dead rumours amongst the used cat litter.
The only positive thing which can be said about it, is that it served as a certain cathartic function, in a week of doubt and misery.
And one thing is certain, once we have enjoyed our little moments of histrionics; there is little doubt that Villa have made significant progress this season, which even a blind man on galloping horse could not fail to see. Achieving a cup final and a semi-final, while sustaining a challenge for a top-four place until the last week in March, is substantially better than the last few seasons.
The odd seven-goal thrashing notwithstanding, the squad is better than it has been for a decade and the emergence of Milner as a midfield player of England quality has been a substantial bonus, in a season when we fretted about whether it was actually possible to find a replacement for Gareth Barry.
So, my personal stigmata aside, the Villa project still looks to be well on track even if, despite our sincerest wishful-thinking we have yet to make the gap between the Champions League teams, entirely vanish at the wave of maestro Martin's magic wand.
No doubt, come the end of the season, Martin and Randy will sit down and discuss what the one thinks he needs and what the other is willing to give, but in the meantime.
Sometimes its hard to be a Villan
Giving all your love to just one team
We'll have bad times
And We'll have good times
Doing things the Blues don't understand
Stand by your man!
Here's Tammy modelling next season's away kit.
Keep the faith - no matter how much it hurts!