Something For the weekend (448)
More ups and downs than Sisyphus on a pogo-stick...
One of the disappointments in modern life is the decline of the cigarette, as a style accessory. The taste of a cigarette may be vile but it sure could make someone look or feel cool. These days all the cool has been removed, as can be witnessed when seeing all those doorway smokers, who shiver and shuffle their feet outside every public building and workplace. But that isn't the worst of it. The biggest loss has been that post-nooky Woodbine, which served to disguise the disappointment and inadequacy of the actual performance, by offering a moment of cool and style, which helped with the pretence that it wasn't a disaster.
Watching someone eating pizza compounds the crime, smoking like Bogart at least looked good.
So it was with Villa, as they looked pretty good in the last half-hour of their predictable defeat to Arsenal last Monday. Benteke ended his barren spell, Villa spirits rose, but it was just a consolation for another disastrous performance, concentrated into a couple of minutes of clumsy bumbling and ill-timed gropings. So it was a case of not much of an actual performance but hey, we sure looked good smoking after it was all over. The congratulations that followed looked as premature as Villa's collapse.
Still, if the game had been played fairly Villa might have got a result. It really would have been the gentlemanly thing for Arsenal to do, if they had fielded a team worth the same as Villa's. And surely if they had just played Özil on his own, against Lambert's eleven, Villa might have got something out of the game, if they could have avoided the off-side trap.
Anyway, let the record state, that I was not too disappointed at the result and I was actually over the moon that Benteke had scored, which had me and another idiot I know, saying stuff about how he'll grow in confidence and start banging them in from now on.
By the time Villa's Paul Faulkner had given his rousing midweek peroration, in which he pointed out that Villa have had some 'ups and downs', I felt inspired enough to forget every last trace of disappointment, and wondered how come Bill Shakespeare had missed such a trick, when he was writing that speech for Henry V. Proud men of Aston, I know we've had a few ups and downs, but cry Harry and England. But little did I know that he was going to surpass himself, when he accused every fan of fancying themselves as experts. This seemed a bit daft and suggested that the guy had missed the whole point of being a fan, in the first place. Like, having an opinion on tactics was some weird innovation just invented by the Villa fans and was as churlish as kibitzing Neil Armstrong's moon landing.
Where do they get these people?
At least we know where Grant Holt is coming from: Wigan in the Championship. Now I have to say that I quite admire the big bruiser and look forward to him knocking a few in the net, but I was surprised that his arrival would mean Villa would have to send Helenius out on loan to balance the wage bill.
I seem to remember Lambert was telling us how good Niklas was last week and how much confidence he has in him. But I guess, if we can't afford him and Grant Holt, something had to give. The most shocking thought this week came when I saw Darren Bent get applauded off by Fulham fans, after he'd help rout Norwich, at the implications of Villa feeling the need to borrow Holt sank in.
There is a certain hilarity about the fact that when Villa wanted to ditch experienced players on high-wages, the masterplan was all about youth, and that now that most of those are being paid by other clubs, the club suddenly ditches youth in favour of a 32-year-old who has scored 2 goals in 16 games in the Championship.
All very cynical but not actually shocking: we knew their game.
But the real shock, which I discovered this week, is that Lee Child has run out of Villa players iconic enough to include in his Jack Reacher books. It would seem to confirm the perception that recent acquisitions of the last five years, have just lacked sufficient romance to be included, and that they are just perceived as just too dull, uninspiring and mercenary, to be worthy.
Child (Jim Grant) has become so desperate that he has moved on to baseball players and even authors, Eliot, Duffy and Baldacci. Worse still, is that when he's felt the need to use footballers' names he's gone for Mancini and Cassano. But worst of all, when he decided to use a British footballer's name he used Duncan Edwards. The last Villa player he used was Delfouneso, who, as a Brummie boy, at least shares a sense of romance by being a local lad.
Things are getting desperate.
But it seems that Lee Child is actually so disillusioned with the whole game of football, like the rest of us, because, when he needed an Italian name, he chose not to use Pelligrini (ex-footballer and present City manager) he opted for Pellegrino, a name for a bottle of water. Which judging by the state of the modern game these days, I think a lot of fans would find more exciting, more romantic and certainly more refreshing than Premiership fare.
And refreshment is what we really need, but I am not sure Villa are going to be getting much refreshment of their spirits, either in the transfer window or at Anfield on Saturday. Liverpool have been resurgent this season and their frontline of Sturridge and Suarez and will certainly be a stern test for Villa's defence, which these days is the whole team.
No one really expects Villa to get much but no one expected them to get much last season either but they blew Liverpool apart that day and Benteke laid his claim to be one of the Premiership's top strikers, since under review.
I don't think anyone can realistically expect another shock and awe display and most will cling to the hope that they don't get tonked and that the damage to their confidence is not terminal.
But it is definitely time to wake up.
Keep the faith!