Steve Wade says ‘three weeks into a brand-new football season and at last I can write something.’
Three weeks into a brand-new football season and at last I can write something. A task previously made impossible while I was holding my breath, as I waited to see who Villa would sign to fulfil the dream, several thousand souls have been willing to happen, since magic Martin donned the track-suit and the more gobby amongst us, started publicly rehearsing all those speeches from Henry V.
Alas, as it turned out, that instead of all that stuff about closing up the wall with our dead, our Henry merely announced a five-year plan and forced us to sit through a rather dreary PowerPoint presentation. This was greeted with a heckle, which was initially mistaken for yet another transfer rumour, when some guy from the Irish chapter, uttered a despairing, ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’, from somewhere in the rear. ‘Can any of them play at right-back?’, came a laconic response, in a classic Brummie drone..
Only the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, was ever known, to have had the ability to utter a cry of visceral despair like a disappointed Villa fan. And, it is for that reason that the great man was made an honorary Brummy, in those glory-years, before his untimely death ten years ago. Such was his ability to evoke the yearning of the soul, that its only now that I allow myself to let loose his immortal cry, via my stereo, and let it give voice to my own sense of anguish and disappointment.
Five-year plan, indeed.
When it comes to choosing a dream holiday, there are a few things best avoided. If the resort in question appears in the writings of P.J. O’Rourke or Bruno Levi, its probably not so great and if the hotel is an artist’s impression, then it is almost certainly not built yet.
As things stand, the Villa dream I’d hoped for, is still very much an artist’s impression and Jerusalem is still in the planning stage. This reminds me of the guy who orders a suit from a Jewish tailor and six weeks after being measured up, he’s told that it is not quite ready yet. The customer is angry and says, ‘Six weeks to make a suit?’, ‘It only took God seven days to create the whole world’. The Jewish tailor replies, ‘Yes, and just look at it!’.
So despite my Nusrat-like heart-rending wails of despair, I suppose I have to admit that nothing lasting arises from the quick solution and Rome wasn’t built in a day and maybe it will take time. Luckily I too have my own five-year plan and this is only year one. In the meantime, I shall continue my accustomed rasorial habit of keeping my nose to the ground and hoping for the best.
As for the season so far, it has been far better in terms of football than I actually anticipated. The mesmerizing twirl of the managerial merry-go-round has produced an interesting shifting of power, as clubs formerly on the up, have had to adjust to life with someone new at the helm (Bolton), while Newcastle take on the traits which made Big Sam a candidate for the England job. Adding Sven to the mix has really shaken things up and Sralex’s decision to start the season without a proper striker has transformed the championship from a two-horse race to one of three or four. Liverpool have not been quite so shy to spend their Yankee dollars and have added substantially to their numbers but with superior cash-flow and European football on offer, no direct comparison with Villa can seriously be made, YET.
In fact, I wasn’t looking forward to the season, as what with the state of the Villa squad, it promised to be yet another repeat of the same-old-same-old. I had dutifully sat down to look at the highlights over the first weekend and I was feeling a bit flat, when I saw Berbatov do something absolutely magical when he collected a pass and with total poise and elegance, he laid it beautifully in the stride of some Spurs player, who of course lashed it wide. It was in that moment, as I quoted Dennis Hopper’s line from Blue Velvet ( ‘You’re so fu**ing smooth!’), that my sulk melted away and the football glow returned. Everton’s Arteta did something equally memorable a week later. The beautiful game was back, albeit in minute doses.
In fact Spurs turned out to be the reminder I needed because they were the team to see last season and what with their elegant Smoothy and their delightful attacking style, they were the best team outside the top-four to watch and it seems ridiculous that Martin Jol should be now treading a tightrope. This is just the sort of bollocks Villa need to avoid and I had to admit that the PowerPoint presentation might be dull but it really is the only option – just like my own fiver-year plan.
I had taken Villa’s defeat against Liverpool very badly. I just thought that if everything was positive then they would have enough to beat the Red Scouse – losing in the manner they did, just looked like bad karma. I had compared it with Big Ron’s best season when despite a series of early draws, Villa trounced Liverpool and then gradually built on that famous victory to make a challenge for that first Premiership title. That was the sort of transformation I was looking for and I could not help but compare it with the present situation. But despite Big Ron’s brilliant season, I have to admit that the Premiership in those days was not the closed-shop, it is today. Things have changed and standards and resources have increased substantially since those times.
Villa do not look convincing, so far, and lack the X-factor which might promise a place in the top five but there is a lot to like about them. I just think Reo-Coker is fantastic and looks like he has hero material packed into every inch of his solid frame. He looks like he can really boss that midfield area. He looks like he could be the heart and soul of a Villa revival. Ashley Young is obviously on a high and can produce the sort of wing-wizardry not seen since Tony Morley. Gabby looks slightly eclipsed by the arrival of these new ‘big’ egos but can only benefit from keeping such company. What is fascinating, is that every player MON is linked with, has been captain of their team and this seems to indicate the aim to put eleven leaders on the pitch. Things are not perfect but when all these boys have their day together, what a day that will be.
And I forgot to mention – no one does ecstasy like Nusrat, either.
By Steve Wade