Something For The Weekend (308)
So I got the respectable draw I asked for against United but as ever there was plenty to rue about Vidic's late leveller. Having peppered the woodwork of Van der Sar's goal, and with Stewart Downing producing one of those singular performances which earned him twenty-odd England caps, it was a pretty convincing display by Villa, and in the end it was the strength of United's bench which once again proved Villa's undoing.
Macheda got his Villa mojo working and Villa's backline went dangerously deep. For once someone didn't pick up. Hard cheese on tough titty was served out.
Gerrard Houllier was typically philosophical in his analysis but even his disappointment must have been eye-watering, to some degree.
Amazingly, a win for Villa would have only moved them up one place and with Liverpool's train coming off the tracks at Stoke, anything still looks possible for Villa, as any number of clubs scramble for the places left vacant by the preoccupied Spurs and the transitional Reds.
What sort of difference the arrival of Robert Pirès can make to Villa's campaign remains to be seen, but with only a six-month contract, its not much of a gamble, as Gerard attempts to bolster his injury-depleted squad.
At 37 years young, no one is expecting the player who was so integral to Arsenal's success between 2002 and 2005, but the hope that he could play a similar role to another left-sided wizard, Ryan Giggs, since he moved to midfield, is highly seductive to dreamers like myself.
This old fool still goes misty-eyed at the memories of Didier Six, who like Pirès also played for Metz, and was still playing at 38. What a happy day that was against Man United (October 6th 1984). Man United had spent a fortune and Villa took them apart (3-0), with Six on his debut, lacking pace, but exuding total class. One of only a very few great days from that era.
So I can't be blamed if I get carried away, just a bit.
Being a lefty, he should offer a bit of balance to Villa's midfield, and if its true what they say about never losing it, he should still be able to pass to perfection. His arrival certainly takes the pressure off the youngsters and provides back-up for the fixture-congestion, Winter demands often bring.
And lets be honest, if Houllier plays one of his formations where most of the team never cross the halfway line, the veteran's lack of legs won't matter.
Here's a Frenchy who definitely had legs and is to blame for granddad's carpal tunnel syndrome.
Can she sing? Who cares.
England didn't have much to sing about in midweek when the Rosbifs got a roasting by a French team which had set aside its World Cup differences and decided to play football instead.
No one should have been surprised by the technical superiority of the French but Capello's selection hardly made it difficult for them, as several rookies got their chance in what proved crucial areas of the pitch, notably in central midfield and the left side of defence.
Even taking into account the fact that England were trying out the untried, they were pretty poor, and I was left wondering if we are pointing the finger in the wrong direction when we pick on Capello, and whether it is really all Man City's fault.
What have they done to Gareth Barry and James Milner? The same as they have done to Micah Richards, I suppose; never given him a long enough run in the team to allow him to find some consistent form. Confidence undermined by doubt and an ever-changing role.
Gareth never had any pace to begin with and that is why his career at left-back was curtailed, but once he moved into midfield, he overcame that by his poise and positional sense. Now his pace looks like a problem. James Milner looks like he's going backwards too. Man City are beginning to look like a club where good players go and swap their talent for money. Even Adam Johnson is taking a battering from his under-pressure manager.
Man City - the graveyard of England promise?
Trying to sort cause from effect as regards Capello's masterplan is hugely difficult, but it sure as hell looks like he's demonstrating to the fans and pundits, who are the candidates he expects to replace the so-called golden generation, in the next few years. And the news is not good. It looks like we might have to welcome back the same old names, who have let us down, or expect to be out-classed in every game, by technically adept nations like the French. Nothing new there then?
England just do not have the resources to indulge in revolution, and evolution looks like their only option.
Villa's Ashley Young had his most convincing outing in an England shirt to date and provided one of the few moments of quality in the game, which allowed Crouch to bring a bit of respectability to the score-line. If we judge anything from Ashley's progress, it seems that it takes something like a dozen or so caps before a player feels really comfortable in the shirt. So, like it or not, and disappointing results or not, Capello needs to blood youngsters, in preparation for the future.
The fans will have to learn to bite the bullet, or get the manager the sack, so they can start pretending England are world-beaters all over again.
Meanwhile Villa must take on the muscular qualities of Blackburn this Sunday, who no doubt will be wishing to move themselves up the pecking order, after their new Indian owners completed their £43m take-way.
Obviously Villa will be keen to avoid a stuffing and give them too much to crow about.
A win for Villa will certainly give them a feather in their cap, as none of the pundits give them a chance. What ever the result, I am sure one set of fans or the other will be looking for a nugget of comfort.
How they will get on, only the parson knows, but one things for certain, should they win, nothings going to stop me doing the funky chicken.
Keep the faith!
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