Steve Wade with his excellent column, Something for the Weekend, this time he tried to be good……
I tried to be good……..
Alas, despite my valiant efforts to gird my loins with a desperate piece of gimcrack philosophising, the results were very much the same, as if I had not bothered, so I sought stupefaction in the drink and added dyspepsia to my Christmas woes. Not helped of course, by several defeats on the trot for Villa and I couldn’t help but think that perhaps, that they hadn’t quite grasped the seriousness of taking on the job of keeping my festive chin up, when the spirits are low and I must inevitably suffer the slings and arrows of Christmas and New Year tyranny, and the re-visitations of the ghost of every disappointing Christmas past. Its true there has been the odd gem, which is still tangible enough to tempt me into building my crumbling house of hope upon, but this year was not one of them and it shall be forever filed away as one that never quite did its job. Like the Meccano set I once had – someone threw away the instructions. Like that jig-saw – a piece either went up the vac or the dog ate it.
And, too many repeats on the telly – Villa 0-3 Man United, looked like a repeat, which I never enjoyed, even the first time round.
Say what you like but three-nil against United, looked and felt like a thrashing, especially as it was twinned with yet another win for the blue-noses and if that was not enough alone, to make me feel like the guy collecting firewood on the feast of Stephen but who was not noticed by the king, then another loss against Spurs (another win for Blues) made my despair, good and crisp and even. And just like those bits of tat, disguised by some cheap paper as familial largesse, the holiday results were not exactly what I was hoping for and turned out to be far worse than I was actually dreading. Just like the Villa, everyone I know is much richer than they ever was, so how come the presents never get any better – how come?
Dec 26th 1997 – Villa 4 Tottenham 1 (Draper 2 Collymore 2) Did this really happen?
Yeah, how come, after I have been really good and wrote all those nice things about Martian O’Neill and actually suspending my moaning for nearly half a season, it makes no difference? I thought good things were supposed to happen to those who were really nice but it was just the same as ever, I got the plastic cap-gun, after being nauseatingly good – cheerful even, and the kid down the road, who was really bad, still got the bicycle. It just seems to me that the system is just not working and there is a spanner in the works, a fly in the ointment, a bit of grit in the Vaseline, and a pube in the wine-glass. So bollocks to that then, it makes no difference if you are good or bad, encouraging or carping, the results just turn out the same. What do you get – a Playstation? No, a bruised Satsuma at the end of a smelly old Man United sock.
Crushed nuts too and I dared to hope for more.
The way I saw it, was that Villa would appear in a tight even formation, which moved up and down the pitch, as a single finely tuned unit, simultaneously denying the opposition space while always offering a number of options for the guy in possession. Passing would be crisp and precise and never desperate or over-ambitious – the long ball would be the surprise not the habit. Villa defenders would combine speed, strength, anticipation, with intelligent positional play – snuffing out the oppositions attacks early, should they actually win possession. The left and right backs would press high up the field so attacking wide players never have the luxury of time or space, should they get the ball. Villa’s wide players would be raining in sublime curling crosses which move away from the keeper and onto Sutton’s head, who would produce a medley of deft flicks, bullet-headers and knock-downs for Angel to finish with power and precision, just like Gary Shaw. McCann and Petrov would be operating like a deadly pair of tigers, snapping into tackles, tidying up for each other and mesmerizing the opposition with a full range of long and short passes – both alternating between defensive and attacking roles and totally confounding their markers – the one in the attacking role arriving late on the edge of the box to lash home unstoppable volleys and half-volleys. Gabby would use his pace to the full, like Dash in The Incredibles, making diagonal runs when he hadn’t got the ball, dragging defenders out of position, wrecking the oppositions formations and ensuring that defenders always doubled-up on him. When in possession in wide positions he would attack the corner of the box, so he had the best angle to shoot across the goalkeeper, for simple Henryesque finishes. He would alternate these runs with crosses from the by-line, between the goalkeeper and defence for the forwards to hammer home from close range. Commentators would be saying that ‘they are impossible to defend against’. The other younger players would be totally aware of exactly what their job is, so they are never out of position, thus saving their legs from too many recovery runs, just keeping it simple and avoiding rushes of blood to the head and so eliminating mistakes. There would be nothing flash about the Villa, they would just be ruthlessly professional and ruthlessly efficient, their mental concentration focused to the precision intensity of a laser, combined with an unconquerable spirit and manly resolution, bringing their talent to the absolute zenith of execution, inhibited by neither fear nor doubt. Unbeatable on their day, resolute grafters on their off-days, but most of all never having a single doubt about their right to be the absolute best – world-class and modestly proud.
Dec 22 1984 Villa 4 Newcastle 0 (Evans 1 Rideout 3)?
Dec 26 1988 Villa 2 QPR 1 (McInally 2)?
Dec 26 1989 Villa 3 Man United 0 (Olney, Platt, Gage)?
The fans would be the smuggest bastards in the league and would be like that Harry Enfield character and would be constantly mocked by Man United fans for their habit of saying, ‘Excuse moy but I think yow will foind that moy team is considerably better than yowers’.
But as of yet, it is certainly not the case and sometimes you wake up on Christmas morning to find that Santa has drunk the whiskey, ate the mince-pie, given the carrot to Rudolph, left footprints all over your new carpet but has actually left you f*ck all.
Yeah, it happens, even when you have been good.
By Steve Wade