Another weekly dose of SFTW from Steve Wade who asks ‘Does the manager know a bit more about what it takes than me and my mates?’
There used to be an advert for salmon on the telly, years ago. It showed a huge amount of the tinned stuff being shoved off a table to leave a single well-lit can and the voice-over went something like, ‘This is the amount of
salmon John West rejects, to find the best’. As a particularly spotty youth at the time, it kind of rang a bell, as it seemed it was one of the absolute golden rules of sexual politics – a woman proved her worth not by who she managed to get in the end (rather too much evidence otherwise – same shit different shirt) but actually by who and how many she managed to reject along the way. Getting those numbers up is very important for the giggling years onwards, when scrapping for a place on the pantheon of loveliness. So it was with a knowing chuckle that I recognised the truth behind Woody Allen’s old line about making sure he got rejected early on, because it saved a lot of time and effort. And of course, it is far easier on the self-esteem to have your worst efforts rejected rather than your best, even if it is hard for the rejector to tell the difference.
Heck, I wasn’t even trying.
So it seemed with the Villa last week, when, after delaying defeat until the ninety-first minute in their previous match, they were determined to save themselves the grief and instead, got the job done in 34 minutes, which amounted to the same outcome but with the consoling thought that ‘We’re better than that?’.
Okay, so it was Man United, but those who could take credit from the game, were few and far between. Even the manager might want to take a look at himself (they do a lot of that in football apparently), as his eccentric selection and rather strange formation, didn’t seem to make much of a positive contribution. With no one operating on Villa’s left (I couldn’t see anyone except Bouma), it left Neville to enjoy the afternoon sharing duties as a winger with Park. Every United goal came from the right, even though Villa actually started the move for most of them.
I never actually thought they would beat United but it was the kind of performance, which even robbed me of the usual hoped-for consolation of feeling cheated by bad luck or an iniquitous referee, which is the usual refuge for the defeated. Villa were poor by all accounts but although the fans might accept that half the team very often have difficulty in trapping a sack of spuds and the technicalities of pass and move often escape them, the evidence of a certain amount of lacking in the work-ethic department, left them feeling a bit worried: that and the increasingly scary number of games since they won.
It was a shame because the fans were really proud of their team’s previous week’s efforts and despite being out-classed, it seemed to reveal everything they were hoping for: that Martin’s nous could narrow the gap and that the young players were beginning to show their professional mettle. In one fell swoop, they managed to erase all this positive stuff and replace it with a creeping dread, that a slippery slope had turned into the Cresta run. But the real truth is that all this was on the cards, the moment they failed to beat Charlton.
More shattering for those who spend the odd moment in cloud-cuckoo land, like myself, is not Villa’s recent persistent attack of the marthambles, a certain griping in the guts, but the return of that age-old cry, thought to have been retired, of ‘too dear’, which has been the only thing we have heard of in regard to the signing of much needed reinforcements. It is all very well to lament the sort of prices being asked but as Villa is about as attractive to potential signers as Baghdad United, then it seems likely that until the club is transformed into something with a bit more allure by having the sort of team players really want to play for, then paying over the odds, surely must be inevitable. So chicken and egg, or curate’s egg, I can’t remember but it is probably both, with Villa at the moment. But wanting it both ways as usual, I don’t really want them to spend big money on a tosser, just to appease us whingers. There’s nothing like having your cake and eating it.
After all this I am gradually getting reluctantly reacquainted with reality and the fact that seventy grand a day plus luncheon-vouchers, has ruined my fantasy of Becks, playing a quarter-back role in a Villa shirt, popping laser-guided balls over the top for Gabby, to remind us of the late lamented Gerry Hitchens, means I need to retune my expectations just a smidgen.
Its a bit shit, in these days of instant gratification, that the only straw left to clutch at is reality and strong questions need to be asked of the self, like: Does Villa’s failure to beat Man United recently, render the
many things held to be true three months ago, untrue now? Possibly not. Or, maybe: Is it possible that there are actually a limited supply of the sort of players which can form the kind of team, which the manager has in mind, or will any number of good players do? And: Does the manager know a bit more about what it takes than me and my mates? (I threw the last one in as a joke because he’s good but he ain’t that good).
Reluctantly I have to presume that after Marvellous Martin transformed a bankrupt Celtic, into a multiple SPL-winning team, in a league where coming second is considered a disgrace – an achievement preceded by Rangers winning it a zillion times on the trot – then, I have to assume that he knows what he is doing and that he is not daunted by pressure. And I seem to remember that that bloke from Tibet with glasses and the orange dress, said something about quick solutions not leading to lasting outcomes (and he said it long before the Chelsea row kicked-off). Oh yeah, and Michael Palin was a she elephant in another life apparently, but that was probably just his way of saying, he’s a nice bloke.
But the only question exercising the minds of Villa fans this week is: Is there a Watford gap and in whose favour, is it?
By Steve Wade