Something For The Weekend (392)
I am not sure I have felt such a sense of relief since I last had a burst on my banjo. I have to say that the combination of Villa signing some players, even though I'd never heard of any of them, and a very good performance on Tyneside, lifted the gloom considerably, even if at no point did hysteria actually break out.
Obviously, a win would have been fantastic but the fact that it was what they call a wonder-strike, gave us the excuse to claim that Villa did well enough to win all the points, and only Holman's tired legs and Ben Arfa's outstanding technique, earned Newcastle a point they might realistically feel grateful for.
Even the habitually niggardly and the normally grudging Pardew had nothing negative to say.
What with a few promising players arriving last Friday, it just seemed that Villa had turned a corner and are ready to start moving forward again. Say what you like about the deficiencies of Houllier and McLeish, but in any business, it is nigh on impossible to create a positive culture in a place. when the redundancy notices have been handed out and the management are trying to constructively dismiss the rest. Villa seemed to be going through such a process for the last couple of years and it is more likely that fans caught their negativity from the club, rather than the other way round.
There may still be players who the club will continue to persecute but there can't be many and so things have looked decidedly positive this week.
The return of Gabby was a very positive sign too and I just loved seeing that little clip on MoTD, where he put on the after-burners and left Colloccini breathing his smoke. I was thinking of Gabby this week when I saw some white-van-man, bored and stuck in traffic, asking a guy in the TVR in front to rev his engine, so he could delight in the sound of that four litre burble. Even atheists amongst the Villa faithful must be praying that we will soon hear the roar of the Holte greeting a Gabby goal.
Even so, it looks like Gabby will be getting some competition from the new lads who arrived last week. Obviously, no Villan could be accused of neglecting their scouting duties for knowing nothing about Christian Benteke and Jordan Bowery.
Presumably, Paul Lambert must have been tracking these players for a while and has seen something he really likes.
With Benteke costing the bigger fee, it was always going to be the case that the pundits would give the lad the greatest amount of scrutiny, and the cynics were saying that unless he is Belgium's best-kept secret, our expectations should not be too high. Not as though the Villa fans are likely to take much notice of that. Villa paid £3.5 for Savo Milosevic in 1996 and felt cheated because he was not quite as good as Alan Shearer who Blackburn paid £15m for. Add in the fans' history of the general disparagement of big players from Tony Hateley to Pete Crouch and we can only hope Villa's new acquisition has a thick skin.
I was and still remain very positive about the signing and feel that if he can link the midfield with the attack by holding up the ball, bring other players into the game, attract three marking defenders at set-pieces, to create space for Darren Bent, then he will be doing a good job for the team and I won't be too concerned if he's not fantastically prolific. He's only 21 and so has a huge amount to learn and I hope he gets his chance from both Lambert and the Holte End critics.
As for the boy Bowery, it definitely looks like Lambert went shopping for a Jordan, decided that the Rhodes variety was too expensive and opted for the Bowery version instead. He is obviously meant to do the job which Nathan Delfouneso was meant to do but has so far disappointed.
I can't say how much I hoped that Nathan would make the breakthrough at Villa because local lads are always special as far as I am concerned. I have little doubt that Nat has the talent but no one can pretend that Villa has been a good place for anyone, these past few seasons, who are stuck in that exposed no-man's-land between the sheltering youth set-up and the first team. It's too easy for a young man to get neglected in such circumstances.
But even if he is as disappointed as I am, I can't think of a better club for him to be going to, than the attack-minded entertainers of Blackpool.
So its been a good week for hope and consolation, and even though many Villa fans will be disappointed that Villa didn't quite bid enough to secure the services of Hulk, we at least have the luxury of two weeks respite from the perils of the Premiership, which will allow us time to despair at England, gird our loins, nurture our optimism and dream of better things.
After all it is Friday, the sun is shining, there are women walking the streets with barely enough clothes to keep them alive and that ice-cold beer won't drink itself.
So let there be joy!
Keep the faith!