Something For The weekend (590)
Mostly, sitting around and waiting..
The international break didn't offer much by way of meaningful Villa stuff but the hype certainly stood as a reminder of the vested interests of the broadcasters and football media, as happens before every international tournament which they hope might turn out to be a bit of an earner. The not quite so astounding fact that Italy had failed to qualify somehow managed to break into the main news broadcasts but the amazing story that Australia had succeeded by means of a hat-trick from Villa's Mile Jedinak, was ignored. Mile's triple brought his total for the World Cup qualifying campaign to ten goals, so it looks like Villa fans will have to start thinking of him as a goal-scoring midfielder, from now on. That definitely won't happen but he certainly should be allowed to take a few more free-kicks.
While the do-or-die drama was taking place elsewhere, back in England there had been a couple of friendlies arranged. These are often described as pointless but the real purpose of them is to allow your ordinary punter, a chance to watch England play, when the great and the good have better things to do. One hundred and sixty-three thousand got their Wembley experience while helping to pay the FA's mortgage. Gareth Southgate was forced to field an unfamiliar line-up for the two knockabouts, because having declared that no player could take the shirt for granted, most of the better ones took him at his word and cried off injured. This forced the football press, in desperate need of a player to represent the England brand, to pick out Loftus-Cheek and inflict star-status on him. Not the sort of pressure which is good for a youngster, but needs must. He's a magnificent athlete but not as technically gifted as Villa's loanee Onomah, in my totally unbiased opinion. Two dull goalless draws hardly provided the basis to promote England's chances for next summer's World Cup but that didn't stop them. So, as ever, England fans were left to console themselves that the Three Lions had qualified, while the Scots, the Welsh, the Irish had not, and neither had the Italians. And, who would want to miss out on a trip to democratic and freedom-loving Russia?
As we waited patiently for an injury update the only story of Villa interest to emerge was the return of Aaron Tshibola to the club after the player and MK Dons decided to terminate their relationship. This is not how the plan was supposed to work. Villa were hoping to send Tshibola to Milton Keynes and after a short stint as a loanee, they would send back another Dele Alli, but it didn't quite work out like that. It looked like a chance for him to prove himself at a lower level and build up his confidence while adding to his experience. According to Internet gossip he made a few expensive ricks and the The Dons decided the arrangement wasn't working out. When he arrived at Villa he looked like he was going to be a useful box-to-box midfield player but it didn't take Steve Bruce too long to decide he wasn't for him. It must be disappointing for the lad but he's definitely young enough to turn things around. More positive news was that Keinan 'the power' Davis had signed an improved deal. There is little doubt that he deserved his improved contract and every fan will be absolutely delighted that the club has secured his future.
Unfortunately, the rest of the news coming out of Villa Park was not so good, as Villa prepare for an away trip to Loftus Road. Kodjia broke down on international duty and has been seeing various specialists. Hogan has had an operation to relieve some kind of bowel obstruction. Snodgrass is to have a late fitness test on his painful rib and of course John Terry continues his recovery from his broken metatarsal. Jedinak is unavailable due to only arriving back in the country today from his antipodean peregrinations. More positively Josh Onomah is reported to have recovered from his groin-strain. Bruce has a few options but it looks like it is going to be quite a while before Villa will be able to field the eleven which got them into the top-six. With no breaks or respite for the next three or four months, this is where the real attrition begins. Villa have built themselves a platform and here's hoping they can stay in touch with the front runners through the winter months.
Villa's game against QPR offers an unwelcome test of their ability to bounce back after their poor showing against Sheffield Wednesday. The Hoops, managed by the much-travelled and experienced Ian Holloway, offer a huge challenge for what will be a depleted Villa side. Villa have not been great after previous international breaks and so the pressure will be on to break that habit. Rangers have beaten both Wolves and Sheffield United on their own ground in their last six games. They are only one place below Sheffield Wednesday, just below halfway in the form table (8 games), and Villa have slipped from top to fifth. It is going to be a chilly afternoon down Shepherd's Bush way and we can only hope that Villa don't catch a cold while feeling the heat. Another loss would be cruel.
Keep the faith!