Something For The Weekend (312)
Mind the gap!
As the bad news falls as heavily as the snow on the nation this Christmas time, and many thousands contemplate a new year of futile job-hunting and personal debt-management, it was pretty damned difficult to feel too sorry for Big Sam Allardyce this week, as he tootled off in his super-car, after getting his P45 from Blackburn, comforted by the problems of Avram Grant and the reassurances of his lawyers.
In times like these it is not really possible to drum up sympathy for a disappointed millionaire, who is hot favourite for any number of other jobs.
Even shedding tears for Chris Hughton, must be left to his fellow football professionals, trapped in the industry's luxuriantly insulated bubble.
That is not to detract from the qualities of either man but as Robbie Savage pointed out not so long ago: two or three years in professional football, these days, is enough to set most people up for life.
And when you hear tales of the likes of Alan Shearer being chauffeured down from Newcastle to do his bit of punditry for the BBC, its hard not to conclude that the comforts and privileges of that bubble often extend to life-long membership, for those labelled special.
Shearer's metal-bashing father, must surely remind him, he doesn't know he's born.
Villa fans might be forgiven for thinking the same, when they hear of some player, they are told is on fifty grand a week, has thrown the toys out of the pram because he doesn't quite like the training methods of his new boss.
To them, fifty grand a week should make any demands seem reasonable, especially as they themselves have to submit to many demands from their own bosses, for far less; even a wage cut.
Thus the gap between fans and players turns into a gulf of misunderstanding and frustration.
Obviously inside the bubble things look different and the realities of human nature must prevail, and will always be beyond the remedy of any amount of money to alter.
So we are left to ponder whether it has ever been known that money improved anyone's character, and the answer seems likely to be 'no'.
Are we to expect that a player who is hyper-competitive and lives in a world of high emotion and testosterone, is likely to ignore what he considers a personal slight or unfairness? I am not sure we can.
Are we to assume that a manager is always right and always fair, and not rather too desperate to impose his authority, that he picks on the biggest lad in the class, in an effort to impress the others. I don't think we can.
Managers are paid massive amounts to man-manage their resources, players are paid massive amounts to put up with the insults, bullying, bellicose tripe and facile manipulation.
So let's call it a draw - both parties are equally to blame.
We can only be amused by the fans, who, when O'Neill upset players, blamed him, and now when Houllier upsets players, they blame the players.
But as the General said the other week, the fans pay their money and can say what they like.
Its a pity the General is reported to be taking a back seat because his robust response and his occasional drift into forthrightness, was far less anodyne than the usual stuff which comes out of football clubs. He gave as good as he got, while still staying on message, and his style was English with its sleeves rolled-up.
He did a very decent job and added colour where there is traditionally only blandness.
Villa take what's said on forums surprisingly seriously and saying the wrong thing has been known to cost a person their job, so the General can count himself lucky.
Let's hope that in the future we don't have to rely on Wikileaks to find out what's going on in the sanctum sanctorum of the club. We'll never know the nitty-gritty but at least we could get an idea of the temperature, from the General.
With a few difficult fixtures just over the horizon, Villa might need the best PR at their disposal, come the New Year, and it seems unlikely that sending out Paul Faulkner to tell us Villa are not a selling-club, will be quite enough to mollify the fear, dread and anger of the fans, should the club flirt for too long with the relegation zone.
It was another great performance from Albrighton last Saturday and with two quality crosses, he created two neat close-range goals, seemingly out of nothing. The audacity of the nutmeg which led to the first was an absolute delight. Ending the game with a thick lip from some defender's elbow, he never shirked the physical challenge either.
The lad is a right bobby-dazzler.
What with Ashley Young, Downing and Albrighton, the Villa strikers should have little to complain about when it comes to service. A little more defensive security and they might begin to look a quite decent team, once
S o squabbles not withstanding and snow and ice permitting, Villa visit Wigan on Saturday and desperately need another win from what can genuinely be described as a six-pointer.
A draw would be no tragedy but a win would be really neat.
Keep the faith!