Something For The Weekend (304)
Dogged Villa more than match the Drogless.
So neither blue heaven nor blue murder against the champions for Villa and with fat Frank and Drogba missing for the visitors, Villa's oh-so-near to stealing of all the points seconds before the end, seemed to indicate that the gap between them and the best team in England, right now, isn't the gulf which many had dreaded, going into the game.
A home draw against a slightly weakened top side, gives a few clues as to Villa's current status.
Neither side had the cutting-edge to take them over the line but the accusations of 'why not?' were more appropriately directed at the rouble-rich denizens of the King's Road than at Villa. Adrian Mutu owes more money to Chelsea, than Villa have spent on strikers over the last five years.
It was one of those games which a manager could quite easily use as evidence that his team were only a couple of excellent players short of making a challenge (Lord Sugar's oft repeated bugbear). But how deaf Villa's owners are to Houllier's pleas, we will no doubt find out in January.
In the meantime Villa look a solid, if not a fantastically capable unit, with the name Reo-Coker being the most prominent name mentioned in dispatches, come Monday morning, along with the wish that Villa could get one of their strikers back, for their challenging trip to Tyne and Wear this Saturday, where no doubt Darren Bent will be intent on adding to the five goals he's already scored this season.
Should Richard Dunne not have recovered from his gashed ankle, Villa's manager will need to decide whether Clark's fine performance on Saturday will earn him a recall, along side Collins who had a particularly strong outing against Anelka and co. But I suspect Dunne will play, even if he has to have so much bandage on his wound, that he looks like a colonel with gout from the Beano.
These kids have to be watched - miss a few games and they nick your place in the team.
With John Carew seemingly needing a bit more chalk on his shooting-boots lately, the fans are sure to welcome back Emile Heskey in the hope of another barn-storming performance from the lad, under the hypnotic influence of his mesmeric mentor - the mighty Geraldo.
With the Albion drawing at Old Trafford and with them boinging all over the place these days, Villa's draw with Chelsea didn't provide the fans with any kind of monopoly on the bragging-rights, but with Blues losing at Arsenal, it was not an unhappy week for Villans.
And even the European games in the week, were not sufficient to disturb their equanimity.
Even Tottenham did us the favour of allowing themselves to be publicly taken apart in their game against a very slick Inter side, who seemed to hypnotise them into a ball-watching trance before a quick change of pace, followed by four superb finishes. It was only when Spurs played it at their own Premiership pace and not Inter's, that the Italian side (with only one Italian), found themselves looking down the barrel of a shock draw when Welsh maestro Gareth Bale scored one the best hat-tricks you are ever likely to see. It was the sort of power, pace and precision which was reminiscent of Thierry Henry at his Arsenal best, and had a few England fans wishing he was English instead of Welsh. So it was, 'All hail to the Bale!'.
No doubt the Southampton fans would have looked on wistfully, at yet another who got away. But alas, he looks like another Welsh player born to blush unseen and waste his fleetness on the Cardiff air.
Not for sale! Says Harry Redknapp. We'll see.
Meanwhile all rumours that Wayne Rooney is a bit daft, have had to be set aside, since a crowd of torch-bearing irate peasants gathered outside his mansion with all the menace of a scene from a Hammer Horror film, to express their wish that he should not leave the borough of Trafford and migrate to the city of
Manchester, in search of glory or a pay-rise.
Rooney, is now being used as a synonym for u-turn by the BBC.
Obviously fans who are prepared to travel all the way from Essex and threaten butchery and burning to the one they hold so close to their hearts, must really care.
It is a strange reflection on the English that they are willing to go to so much trouble to persuade an off-form footballer not to defect to a rival, while the French save such passions for the pursuit of pension rights, which the 'rosbif' gave up without the slightest demur.
Its all barmy, I tell you; barmy!
So Rooney is set to stop at a club whose fan's favourite song is about scousers eating rats in their council houses, and must accept that love is a complicated business and while they hate every single scouser, they are willing to make a singular exception in his case.
These are probably the same fans who will declare that Wayne disrespected their club.
Its not entirely certain whether the Man United fans were that concerned about the loss of Wayne the player, or the accompanying humiliation which his departure would have signalled, to the rest of football. Man United are very much used to imperiously beckoning other clubs' top players but they feel it should not happen to themselves.
Such things would suggest that Old Trafford had become less the Theatre Of Dreams and more a place of long-term unspecified aspiration, like the vast majority of other clubs.
No other club has a bigger sense of its own Divine Right than Man United.
Rooney's five-year contract ensures they can put off facing up to the reality, other clubs have been forced to get used to, until the next time a money-no-object club, comes a knocking.
Meanwhile, Villa must continue their search for a replacement, for Marlon Harewood.
Welcome to the real world!
Keep the faith!