Something For The Weekend (437)
Reading the runes and counting the spoons!
It was a week of contrasting emotions for the Villa faithful, a fine and desperately needed result at Carrow Road, which even included the satisfaction of a clean-sheet, was quickly followed by the painful reality-check, against Tottingham Hotspurs.
Personally, I was so grateful for the three points against Norwich and so pleased that new boy Libor Kozak scored on his second Villa outing, that nothing Spurs were likely to do was going to spoil my week. I know exactly what my priorities are for the season and preserving Villa's Premiership status remains a long way ahead of any dreams of Pyrrhic victories in the early rounds of the Capital Wotsit Cup.
However, when I saw the side that Lambert had picked to take on Spurs, I was surprised how unequivocal his message was about his own priorities and how determined he was to wrap his best eleven in cotton wool.
There was absolutely no sign that he is confident of finishing half way, while enjoying a decent run in the cups. He is obviously aware that avoiding relegation is his main priority and that everything else comes a very poor second. He knows exactly where Villa are in the pecking-order, and he now knows that we know that he knows.
As the late Hylda Baker would likely to have said, 'He knows y'know!'.
This was all a bit academic for those who spent £50 of their hard-earned to witness the fact that four-nil is the same gap between Villa's second-string and Tottenham's, as it was last season between the two clubs' first elevens.
It is all the more painful for the fact that it was Tottenham who were handing out the thrashing because since the Premiership started Spurs have long represented the next tier when it comes to financial clout, and under the latest grand plan, that gap has become a gulf, as the north London club has benefited from several shrewd and highly-profitable signings (Berbatov, Modric, and Bale et al), which when sold on, have provided substantial funds to reinvest.
Villa seem to have achieved the exact opposite, with every gainful sell-on being more than compensated for by losses.
On recent evidence, there seems to be a bigger gap between Villa and Spurs now, than there was between them in 1971, when Villa were in the old Third Division, and they out-played Tottenham in the League Cup final. No one can blame the Villa fans who went into meltdown after Tuesday night's hammering.
There are just too many reminders of 2005 for people not to get a bit excited about it, even if it can be claimed these days that Villa have a more appropriate manager for the cheeseparing job at hand, than David O'Leary.
Tuesday was a particularly unlucky night for Villa because it seems that not only do the bigger clubs not take the tournament seriously, referees do not either, and but for one of the most bizarre refereeing decisions seen on a first-class football pitch, Villa could have definitely managed to go some way to papering over the cracks, if they had rightly spent the second-half playing against ten men.
But like the referee refusing to send-off Ryan Giggs against Liverpool the night after, when the United player kicked the ball away (a mandatory booking offence), referee Moss obviously had a certain agenda in mind, when he somehow decided that debagging an attacker, while on his route to goal, with only the goalkeeper to beat, was well within the laws of the game.
It may even be possible that the referee thought it was all part of the Rainbow Laces campaign, but whatever his thinking, it was one of those decisions which brought the refereeing profession into disrepute.
There is a lot to be said for the old platitude about referees having to make decisions in a split-second, after only seeing something once etc, but this was not one of those, it was just glaring incompetence.
Nothing new there then.
What would be new, is if Villa were to win a game at home this season and with Man City being the visitors on Saturday, it looks highly unlikely but well within the possibilities of the funny old game. If I was offered a point now I would accept it with gratitude but with City still thinking how great they are after stuffing United so easily, it is still not beyond the realms of possibility that Villa could battle something out of the game, given fair luck and a half-decent team of match officials.
To state the screamingly obvious, Benteke's absence amounts to a huge loss, but it surely must be the chance of a lifetime for one of the other strikers to transform the unlikely into the miraculous.
But even a loss, will not be the end of the world.
Keep the faith!