Something For The Weekend 427
It was with much relief this week that I found a modicum of normality had returned to life as football returned to my TV screen, in the form of the Commiserations Cup, which turned out to be a solid reminder of why that tired and overused cliché, 'the beautiful game', is not entirely a figment of a marketing man's fevered imagination.
Inspired by the certain knowledge that watching other Premiership teams was likely to make me feel a whole lot worse about Villa's disgraceful season, I thought it in my own best interest to avoid watching the good teams on Match of The Day, for huge chunks of last season. I'd actually forgotten that football could be so entertaining.
So I sat back and allowed myself to be reminded of how top players are so adept at controlling the ball, they can even fit in a bit of showing-off between all the utility stuff and make it look like an art..
Brazil, it seemed, had made the tactical decision to refuse to score from anything less than a spectacular volley and we even got to see what all the fuss is about with regards to Neymar, something which was left in doubt by his lack-lustre performance in the Olympics and my inflated expectations of the 21-year-old. Brazil are winning their games easy enough but until they play Spain or the likes of Germany, we can't be sure how good they are. Besides, from the look of the crowds of protestors on the streets, Brazilians have rather more on their minds these days than whether their new number-ten is the real deal or not. It seems fine football is no longer enough consolation for having to live in a favela these days.
The competition has had everything and even supplied the requisite refereeing controversy, when Japan fell to some diabolically dodgy decisions when Italy were given a helping hand, after Buffon was handed the gift of a yellow card when the rules say it should have been red. Add in a very harsh penalty in Italy's favour and it quickly became clear that the goal-line technology is very unlikely to preclude the tendency for referees to decide crucial games.
My libellous and slanderous rant against the man in the middle, brought me to an exquisite ecstasy of football delight and suddenly made the meaningless tournament meaningful and satisfying and I was a happy boy; a happiness only slightly tainted a little later by the ten-nil humiliation of Tahiti by the ruthlessly precise and efficient Spain. I am always discomfited by such public eviscerations.
Perhaps such things are reminders of Villa's various record losses last season and with the fixture list out this week, the dreaded prospect of some further public dissections of Lambert's grand plan. Lambert's team of unknowns must travel to Arsenal on the 17th of August, who according to the papers, have thrown financial caution to the wind and could have fifty-million pounds worth of strikers on parade, to test Villa's reinforced defence by then.
The only consolation I can find at the thought of Villa's difficult opening schedule is that if they lose their opening games just like last season, they will at least be losing against better sides. And let's face it, as we get used to losing, it definitely seems likely that it will get less painful. But in the meantime, like every other Villa fan, I will be muttering incoherent stuff, along the lines of, 'You never know!'.
Not as though I actually believe it.
Villa have signed themselves five players so far this closed-season, including Luna this week. I can't say I am over the moon about any of them, as it is hard to have an opinion when you have never heard of them before.
There may be a world-beater and future Villa legend amongst them but their anonymity hardly offers much of a mouth-watering prospect to get us dreaming through our holidays. Any hope is off-set by the knowledge that tens of millions have been wasted in off-loading players Villa paid top-dollar for, which more than wipes out the savings and financial sacrifices the fans have been required to learn to live with.
The big question is still whether Benteke will move on or not. If there is a club out there with sufficient status and money to give him the package he is reported to desire, it seems likely that he will be off. If that happens, those fans who bought a season-ticket on the strength of their belief that he is the one silver lining in Villa's dark cloud, might feel particularly aggrieved should he go.
But I have to say that even if he went a week before the start of the season, I would be surprised if there would be much of a backlash from the fans. The fans have put up with so much over the last few years, and every expectation, that I have had, that the last straw had been heaped upon the fans' backs, and that it would produce some kind of enough-is-enough reaction, has proven false.
So it will be business as usual, no matter what happens. The fans might be taken for granted, lied to, patronised and exploited but that it just the price they are prepared to pay.
And, ain't it amazing?
Keep the faith!