Something For The Weekend (283)
Time to play swappies?
Just like it used to be the tradition in the old days, that Spanish waiters on the Costas, thought it their professional duty, by way of a compliment, to pinch the bottom of an Englishman's wife, so it has become the tradition of the rich Premiership clubs to make advances to the better players of the club's they consider their lesser-rivals.
So it was no surprise this week that Man City, the richest of the richest, should start serenading James Milner from beneath his balcony and no doubt throwing exquisitely folded origami flowers made from €500 notes, to substantiate the seriousness of their courtship.
After having already borrowed one Villa Action Man and having managed to break him, they obviously think they can return to their favourite toy shop and demand a replacement.
You can't blame them because signing Gareth Barry was integral to the success of their season, or more accurately Tottenham's, as they deprived Liverpool of a player they certainly would have benefited from, had the blundering Benitez coughed up the dough when asked.
So the question remains whether Man City will offer the sort of mega-bucks which will make it an easy decision for Martin O'Neill and sweeten the loss for the Villa faithful, or are we in for another boring marathonic public auction, which prolongs the fans' misery, distracts the player and does no one any good at all?
The sort of sum which would make for a snap-your-hand-off deal, is around £30m.
O'Neill had already hinted that he might be forced to trade one of his best assets to take Villa forward and it seems likely that all the talk about whether he would stay or not, was based on the perception that he had set a deadline with Randy Lerner, when he would make that decision. This decision must be ranked along side Alex Ferguson selling Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis in 1995, or Keegan selling Cole to United. Or, more likely, Leeds selling Cantona.
Villa's loss would equate to a double gain for City and any fee should reflect that.
Its a tough call but if the Lerner wallet is looking a bit thin these days and he's down to a few Subway vouchers, then O'Neill must decide whether to stick or twist, in his quest for further progress. That decision must obviously depend on the silliness of the sums on offer. Buying for £12m and selling for £30, is in Wenger territory when it comes to trading thoroughbreds.
Not many Villa fans would sell Milner at any price and I am sure they would resent it just as much as Gareth Barry's departure. For them the logic is simple - you don't get better by selling your best players. For the dreamers they would see that shed-load of dough and think it was the chance to buy the marquee player which would make Villa something like the real deal, and they talk of the likes of Xavi joining from Barcelona when he's displaced by Fabrigas.
Sadly, in my experience, every player Villa signed in that bracket, turned out to be more manqué than marquee, without naming any names.
Personally, I don't see anything wrong with Villa which Fernando Torres, or Didier Drogba wouldn't put right and as they are unlikely to be arriving any time soon, I would stick with what we have and just try and freshen up the subs' bench. The incurably unhappy and the permanently uninspired might be best let go, to remove their drag, and a few sparky newcomers drafted in to improve the smiley culture.
I am not in the business of underestimating Martin's genius but I really think there was an element of fortune in being able to replace Gareth Barry in midfield so seamlessly. To believe that O'Neill can succeed with the exact same trick within a year, would seem to verge on the hubristic. But as I am more of a stick rather than twist sort of guy, and Big Ron would probably still be manager if I had had my way, there is nothing surprising about my conclusion.
They ain't buying over at the Red House either and it looks like a sign of the times.
In the meantime we are all waiting to see how much Spurs are going to spend to prove that they are taking the Champions League seriously, and knowing Harry, its going to be a bob or two. This looks like a tricky one for the accountants and although the papers are all talking in millions and millions, the reality is that unless Tottenham make it past the play-off round and into the Champions League proper, the big bucks do not start to flow.
As Leeds found out, the dizzying dreams of the Champions League can trigger a culture of profligacy in a club and give them the sort of problems, not even George Osborne would swap his poisoned chalice for.
So Spurs better look out. Jealousy? Sour grapes? Dog in the manger?
The FA cup final went very much as expected, even though, which ever Chelsea player it was who uttered 'touch wood' before the kick-off might have regretted it by half-time. Only Chelsea's preference for hitting the edge of the target instead of the target itself, seemed to have kept the score down and prevented a rout of Villa proportions.
Villa fans might have noticed that Portsmouth's big miss when Piquionne deflected Boateng's shot wide, was almost identical to the one Drogba scored against Villa in the semi-final which turned the game away from O'Neill's boys. By the time Boateng had fluffed his penalty, he couldn't be blamed for thinking that the gods had decided it wasn't going to be his day.
His suffering wasn't enough it seemed and the Germans have been having a go at the lad all week, for putting their Captain out of the World Cup. Although it was very late and obviously an act of revenge for a previous handbag exchange, it was not worse than John Terry's on James Milner in the semi, a tackle which the pundits ignored. I have to admit that there is something I can't stand about Terry's winning-smile but obviously I am eager to see more of it over the summer.
Only a perfect strike from Drogba could get past James, who surely must be England's number one, until his next blooper. If only he'd played so well in the 2000 final, or even 1996.
But as he knows well, all you can do is keep on running and keep on trying.
Keep the faith!