Something For The Weekend (423)
At long last and after months of it looking quite impossible, Villa have got their forty points; the fabled pass-mark for Premiership survival these days, we are told. Not always of course but forty is a nice neat number which should make it such, even if in some years it proves to be not enough.
Wigan's extraordinary loss at home to Swansea on Tuesday certainly seemed to suggest it might be enough this time around but Villa definitely need a point or two to make it a certainty. A couple of boobs and things could quickly go from pair-shaped to pear-shaped, so I am not taking anything for granted just yet.
But judging by the number of fans who travelled to Norfolk last week, faith is not lacking amongst the Villany.
It was a very good performance by Lambert's boys and I cannot think of two better goals scored by Agbonlahor. He's definitely scored more spectacular goals and even more difficult goals but for sheer classy finishing, they were absolutely they were unsurpassed.
He used his pace to get himself a yard of space and then without trying to break the net produced two of the sweetest well-timed shots you are ever likely to see. Two text-book beauties across the goalkeeper and into the corner. The sort of goals the great strikers score.
The main point of discussion after the game was whether Villa's very own Rochdale cowboy, Joe Bennett, should have been sent off for a collection of scruffy challenges and shirt-tugs. For those still breathing a sigh of relief, it was all a bit too close for comfort and imagining how close it came to all going wrong, tended to bring forth a cold sweat and some unkind thoughts.
Things did balance out in the end though because I didn't think Norwich deserved their penalty, which looked like a crafty piece of gamesmanship to me.
But as young Joe seems to acknowledge, by declaring himself five foot nine and a HALF on his Wiki page, he is not quite the physical presence he or the rest of us would like him to be, which he tends to over-compensate for.
He'll learn though, we hope.
Gladly, over at the Baggies, Wigan were recipients of an even more substantial gift than a bit of leeway, when the Albion were denied a certain penalty, when one of their players was felled with a blatant body-check as he was about to shoot. So things balanced themselves out between Villa and Wigan. Even so, young Joseph will definitely have to watch his step, now that his playing-style has come under a little bit of media scrutiny.
But its not as though anyone is going to actually remember much about Chris Hughton's opinion after the big media frenzy this week which the announcement of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement initiated. To say that it was disproportionate, overblown and idiotic, would be to understate it somewhat.
As far as I am concerned football should never be on the front-page not unless it is something momentous at least, and a 71 year-old retiring is just not momentous enough to warrant displacing serious world events from TV news and the front-pages of newspapers. It was yet another sign that the broadcast media are intent on spewing out more and more trivia these days.
What made it unbearable was the knee-jerk arse-kissing which passed for analysis of his career. An impressive trophy count, without doubt, but his bullying arrogance, the special status which allowed him to boycott the BBC for seven years without sanction, his mean-spirited sulky aggression whenever things didn't go exactly the way he demanded and his banning of journalists who asked the wrong questions, all reveal him as a man who could hardly be considered a good example.
Would such a temperament and personality have made it possible for him the manage England? I think not.
If the absence of a critique of his personality and character was understandable, the lack of an analysis of the huge advantages which Ferguson enjoyed at Man United was remiss to say the least. That advantage can be quantified by the billion pounds and counting, which Man City needed to spend to catch up. A financial gap no amount of football nouse is ever going to close in the future. The sort of financial advantage which has reduced Liverpool, their long-standing rivals, to a mid-table club and Villa to what we've yet to find out.
So we find that even when football finds itself promoted to the front-page or top of the bill on TV news, the analysis never gets past the banal, the trivial and the facile. It is just the same old half-truths and mythmaking bull, repackaged for those who usually have the good sense to skip the back-pages.
Those back-pages are now discussing whether David Moyes is about to become the new Wilf McGuinness or the new Frank O'Farrell, at Old Trafford. It looks like a poisoned chalice but a six year contract, looks to make it a lucrative one.
But while media eyes look north Villa concerns lie in the south. A tough game against their season's tormentors in Chelsea, presents quite a challenge for Villa. They may be playing better these days since their December humiliations but Chelsea still represent a gulf in class for Villa and it would seem that the most we can realistically hope for is a draw or a narrow loss, to ensure Villa keep their slight advantage in goal-difference they presently enjoy over Wigan.
So unless Villa unleash the type of performance shown against Newcastle, it would seem likely that we will be back to sitting on the edge of our seats on Tuesday night, as we wait to see which Arsenal team turns up for their home game against Wigan. The team which came close to beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League or the one which lost to Bradford in the League Cup.
We just have to have to await our fate or decide it for ourselves.
But just maybe, the best is yet to come...
Keep the faith!