Something For The Weekend (302)
The Spurs result certainly left a bit a stink hanging around this week but even if Spurs' latest acquisition of Rafael van der Vaart had too many reminders of Arsenal's late signing of Andrei Arshavin (which also gave them the edge over Villa) was a bit too painful to get philosophical about I was chuffed to see Emile Heskey put in another superb, albeit curtailed, performance.
Seeing it on the telly I got a bit shouty-excited, a bit like this:
Yep, Emile scrapping for the ball and then teeing up Mark Albrighton for a tap-in, was one of those moments, the video compilers could not possible leave out, when they get round to issuing a Heskey DVD, examining one of
football's great enigmas.
Typically, the sharper the knife the more easily it is blunted, and Emile was forced to leave the field.
Alas, just like Yorick in the play, Emile too, has borne a centre-half upon his back, for something like 16 years now, and so he has to be expected to get the odd twinge. But when he battles like that, it can't help but remind me of that classic match against Leicester in Feb 1995, when Brian Little had just answered the call.
Villa were enjoying a bit of a romp by half-time and even after Leicester popped one in to make it 3-1, Tommy Johnson added a fourth for Villa and the points seemed in the bag. But then a young Emile Heskey and a classy-looking
Mark Draper just ran Villa ragged. I can remember the young Emile darting about the pitch like some tireless thoroughbred, and just running the legs off Villa's defence.
It was a tremendous performance by Leicester - probably inspired by Brian Little's defection - but it turned out to be a swan-song for the Foxes, as they were relegated. It is likely, that Draper's brilliant performance on that day which got him his move to Villa, the very next season, as the 33 year-old Ray Houghton was moved on.
Happy memories of Emile's total work-ethic for every team he ever played for.
Let's hope that it is just a twinge for big Emile, or we risk him extinguishing the present fire in his belly.
Other's mentioned in dispatches after Villa's loss against Spurs was Nigel Reo-Coker, or the Purley King as I like to call him. No doubt many Villa fans will be asking who was supposed to be marking van der Vaart, when he
scored his winner, but obviously with the desire to get a new contract or a new club come the summer, our Nige, is showing some of the top form which got West Ham to the Cup Final in 2006, and proved a showcase for the lad's
No one can doubt that Nigel has been a huge disappointment at Villa. I thought he was going to be Villa's Marcos Senna, or Claude Makélélé (yeah, I always get carried away) but it seems that he is a bit of an independent thinker, what with his choice of reading and all, and the oil and water relationship with his old gaffer, never quite managed to form a viable emulsion. The mixture and the relationship curdled.
A sort of long division:
At only 26 Reo-Coker's best years should be ahead of him. No doubt freed from the distraction of butting heads with O'Neill, he should get the opportunity to show us and the England manager what he can do. He could really be the business.
Villa have some tough fixtures coming up and what with a home game with Chelsea, followed by a tough trip to Sunderland and then a test of mettle against Birmingham City, Villa's credentials and the fans' nerves are going to get a right old jangling.
Worst of all, Villa must face City without the guy who usually scores against them - Gabby Agbonlahor - who has had to endure the surgeon's knife a little too near his family jewels, than most gentleman prefer. I am sure the first thing he did when the operation was done with, was to count them. Hopefully with his full allocation of maracas intact, he'll be back in a few weeks to give Villa a bit more of a goal-threat.
In a month, after these crucial fixture, it looks like we'll all know where Villa are in the Premiership pecking order. A test of class against Chelsea. A test against their peers in Sunderland. And, a test of everything that matters against the Blues.
The story of the week however, has been Liverpool, and I can't imagine anyone being more shocked by their defeat by Blackpool than myself. I kept looking at the team as it stood on paper and was confounded.
I can trace my former dislike of Liverpool back to a single moment, some time in the Eighties. It was not the many fine goals which Liverpool scored against the Villa, which proved the difference between the two teams, and killed my hope (a volley from Rush in the FA Cup, a Barnes special, and a sub's goal from Paul Walsh another time), it was a single look of contempt dished out by some snooty female scouser.
I was shouting some tactical instructions to the Villa defence, as you do, with a slight hysterical note in my voice, I have no doubt; and she turned and gave me this look with her nose in the air, as if to say, "What do you expect? This is Liverpool".
I went home and over the corpse a chicken (actually a Chinese take-away), I uttered my incantations of revenge and swore eternal hatred for Red Scouse.
So it was very surprising, that I didn't enjoy Liverpool's humiliation quite as much as I would have predicted even a decade ago, since ten years of Premiership failure has diluted their status as my personal bete noir, in favour of another team in red.
I have suffered some mild nausea at the presumption of Liverpool's Divine Right to success, which has flavoured the reporting, but as they say, revenge is not a dish to be enjoyed when served cold. Villa's 3-1 win at Anfield had rather more piquancy.
When it comes to apportioning blame, I blame football's regulators for their failure to prevent what the Yanks call a leveraged buy-out - where a club is stuck with paying the interest on monies borrowed to buy it.
For medium sized clubs, who would no doubt attract similar contempt as Villa did under the scrutiny of said snooty scouse cow, the debt burdens which the likes of Liverpool and Man United are struggling under, do tend to off-set
the permanent advantage handed the big clubs by UEFA but it certainly seems a huge anomaly, for those who regulate the game and whose stated aim is to bring financial stability to the Premiership, to allow the big brands to be bled white by humungous interest payments.
Any club, no matter how well it is run could end up in a similar position, where they are just pissed away in interest payment. The fans might accept the consequences of unrealistic football ambition but debt burdens created just by the club changing hands, are just not acceptable.
They say, greed is good, but I have my doubts.
With all this talk of Liverpool being a national institution and the rest of the rot, it seems certain that things will turn out okay for the club. They are a massive world brand with substantial income-streams and so it seems certain that someone will enjoy playing the white knight.
Other's without such heritage, status and lacking the Divine Right handed to Liverpool by their media friends, will not be so lucky.
Its the regulation that needs sorting, or the game has no future.
Keep the faith!