Something For The Weekend (280)
That's my boy!
There were no surprises this week as Villa's James Milner was presented with the PFA's Young Player of the Year Award and as he stood next to Rooney, all anyone could realistically think was, who else was better and who was more consistent?
No-one as far as I could tell and his fellow-professionals seemed to agree.
In my more barmy moments, I often tell complete strangers, who might have joined me on my ride on the number 11 bus, where I do some part-time work filling in for the usual nutter, that James Milner is actually the reincarnation of Charlie Athersmith, one of the all-time Villa greats, and that his on and off, rather circuitous route which he took to Villa twice, as he went back and forth to Newcastle, was merely fulfilling his karma to become a Villa all-time-great all over again.
But when I am enjoying my more sane and sober moments, I just conclude that our Jimmy is a bloody good player who just happens to look like he'd look fantastic with a big moustache and centre-parting. I am not holding my breath though and unless I can arrange some charitable sponsorship deal, which would put such a choice into the context of irony, I can't see it happening. Sadly, when it comes to image-rights and advertising, I don't think the big money is in Bovril and moustache-wax these days, and so no doubt, he'll be tailoring his image nearer to a character out of Avatar, rather than someone off a pre-World-War-One cigarette card.
Shame though because he'd look great.
The thing, which both his and Rooney's win seemed to prove, is that there are a limited number of leading roles within any team and it usually takes someone to move on before someone else is allowed to step into the limelight and be handed the role of star striker or midfield maestro. Even Ashley Young has had the monopoly as star-winger slightly diluted by the arrival into the team of Stewart Downing, while
Richard Dunne has stepped into the role of last-gasp hero, vacated by Martin Laursen and has been known to augment the role with a bloody bandage. This leaves James Collins to explore the narrow possibilities of the role of heroic-defender with a beard. With the added potential of being dubbed Barbarossa, should he pull it off in the manner of previous incumbents. Now that would be really something.
I like a nice beard and we have had a few beauties down Villa Park.
Over at Old Trafford Rooney has seemingly done the impossible by stepping into the substantial shoes of Ronaldo (C), which not many saw as possible. And for once, no one can really begrudge the accolades, which have so often looked premature in the past. No-one can kid themselves otherwise, the weight of responsibility on his shoulders is absolutely immense these days and you can't help being impressed. But for me, the most impressive thing about Rooney, is the fact that he can't half run for a fat guy.
All natural endomorphs should rejoice at his example - lets hear it for the fat guys of the present and of the future.
There were no surprises either that Inter managed to smother the hoped-for delights of Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League semi and covert what should have been a beautiful watching-experience into a frustrating two hours of boredom and misery.
It was like going on a date with Elle Macpherson and finding she's turned up in a burqa.
The whole game confirmed every prejudice the British have ever had about the Continental game, which have been confirmed by too many nights in front of the telly and a really ugly encounter by Villa with Barcelona in the 1982 Super Cup.
I have got used to the convention of two European teams surrendering the middle-third of the pitch where everyone is given time to do a twirl and a little party-piece before passing it to one of a phalanx of opposing defenders but occasionally something good will happen, the shock of which usually is so profound that we kid ourselves it is a better game than the relentless charge of the British football brand.
But for Wednesday's dirge Mourinho, known as the 'boring one' from now on, seemed to have based his game-plan on the battle of the Somme, and his players just dug themselves in until Barcelona ran out of ammunition. For this post-modernist smothering of the beautiful game, we were supposed to cheer and the commentators did their best to convince us that what we were enduring was a wonderful spectacle.
To make things worse, the referee was as daft as Jacques Tati and gave a foul every time a player fell over but thought a player having his short ripped from his back was within the rules. When a defender
hammered the ball against a guy's elbow, standing only a yard away, and the Ref then disallowed the goal which resulted from the rebound, it was time to put the kettle on and give up. It was time to conclude
that the reason no team every retains the CL is because it runs counter to UEFA policy.
It was another lesson in the politics of football and a dire warning of what we can expect from the World Cup.
The only thing which cheered me up, was Fulham making the final of the Europa League, which I had not expected. I did them the favour of underestimating their staying power and they ate the Hamburgers with relish. Amazingly Liverpool got beaten in their second-leg by another goal from the ex-Man United nemesis Forlan.
Just how bad are Liverpool these days?
Meanwhile Villa have to beat Man City to keep their chances of a Champions League spot alive. There are quite a few ifs to take into account but if Villa beat City and City beat Spurs then it all goes down to the last day but Spurs are definitely in the box seat for that fourth place.
So just when I thought that it was safe to come from behind the sofa, Villa have another must-win game again and I have to start feasting on my fingernails just as they were beginning to grow back.
Villa have not done anything too surprising this past couple of weeks; they have beaten a couple of sides they would have expected to better and then they were just good enough to beat a highly motivated Blues team, in a close game last Sunday. Their encounter with City really tests their quality in ways their recent opponents never did. If the points-tally is a measure of average performance for a team, it looks like their is barely a hair's breadth between the two clubs and Saturday's encounter looks like the decider.
If anyone wants me I'll be behind the settee, hoping Villa can defend like Inter and score like Gerry Hitchens.
Keep the faith!