Date: 15th May 2008 at 12:21pm
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EXCLUSIVE insider news from Villa Park

Having spent the entire season hiding unnoticed in Stiliyan Petrov’s bouffant hairdo, our intrepid undercover reporter Avi Nalaf uncovers all the latest idle gossip and unsubstantiated piffle coming out of Villa Park.

As we all know, the big Villa story this summer will centre on Gareth Barry, and we will be keeping a close eye on his movements to bring you all the latest scoops. The latest of his movements that I scooped was greenish-brown and of a primarily liquid consistency, suggesting a nervous and apprehensive disposition that I could only attribute to his indecision about the future.

But eagle-eyed fans watching the players warm up against West Ham will have noticed that he laced up his boots in a manner that spelt out the words ‘there’s no place like the Bullring’ in Spanish Braille, and that he spat out a wad of phlegm that looked a bit like a Liverpudlian being enthusiastically bummed by a Lion chasing a star. Looks like Captain Schismatic is staying after all!

This, of course, means a continuation of the well-documented war of words between Martin O’Neill and Rafa Benitez’s evil twin (no-one has seen Rafa since last summer when he was replaced by a sinister bearded doppleganger). It all started when the lesser-known of the Benitez twins was spotted at the sidelines at Villa Park, cocking an eyebrow at Gareth Barry whilst enticingly waving a wad of cash, a high-class prostitute and a comfortable-looking bench in his direction. When he followed this up by faxing his arse to O’Neill, the Irishman’s ire was fully raised. Expect this one to run all summer.

We can exclusively reveal that this season has seen more unsung, behind-the-scenes innovation from our colonial benefactors. In early February, the club set up a dynamic new department to count our players, and it emerged that we didn’t have as many as previously thought – a mistake attributed to pacy players like Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor running around the back of the team photo while the shutters were open in order to appear twice. Compounding the problem was John Carew’s insistence that he counts as three. Who’d have thought it?

Following this, the new department turned to more specific matters in terms of squad requirements by sending scouts to other premiership matches in the hope of learning some new tricks. This, it turns out, was a masterstroke.

Having familiarised themselves with the position of ‘left-back’, the scouts were astonished when the teams stopped after 45 minutes, went away, and came back again on opposite sides of the pitch, revealing the secretive existence of the ‘right-back’ position. Apparently, this is just like a ‘left-back’, but on the opposite side; a position previously unseen by the scouts because they were too far away. It is a pretty safe bet that Villa will be adding one of these ‘right-backs’ to the squad this summer to keep us one step ahead of our rivals. You heard it here first.

Finally, some breaking news: this year’s transfer window has been experiencing some teething problems since it upgraded to Transfer Windows Vista. As soon as they get the IT man in to repair it, we’ll let you know.

Stay tuned for more insider exclusives throughout the summer.