Date: 3rd December 2010 at 4:54pm
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So is the American fairytale over at Villa?

‘Klaatu barada nikto’

Those are the words which Michael Rennie tells Patricia Neal, in the film The Day The Earth Stood Still, must speak to the robot Gort, to stop him destroying the Earth, and as I searched for some emotional intelligence in my reeling soul, I was saying roughly the same to myself on Wednesday night, as I tried to avoid breaking the furniture, in response to Villa’s howlingly disappointing performance, at the place they call the sty.

Gladly my MFI collection has been preserved for the nation but my sense of doom and gloom persists, and the only relief is to seek humour in emotions which would probably be considered immature for a 12-year-old.

Pity none was found.

Its a pity the game had to end in a punch-up too, although you can’t blame the Villa fans for that. The price they charge Villans down at St Andrews these days, no one can blame them for thinking they’ve actually bought the seat they sit in. But if Man City got punished because Adebayor provoked the visiting Arsenal fans, what price a thousand marauding bluenoses?

Klaatu barada nikto!

If we set aside all pedantry about whether West Bromwich is part of Birmingham or not, and most people do, then we have to face the fact that Villa are now the third best team in Birmingham, and there seems little point in denying it.

The defence which was the fourth best in the Premiership last season and which was the foundation on which success was built, now looks like the fourth worst, and although we might take refuge in the fact that injuries have weakened other areas of the team, the defensive unit is not one of them. Even a goalkeeper known for his cool competence, is now looking error-prone.

When the personnel remain the same but the performances worsen, someone has to take the blame and that person has to be the manager. But ultimately the winning or losing ethos of the club is determined by the owner.

When Villa fail to attract a full-house against Arsenal, questions have to be asked about whether the feel-good of the last few seasons is now on the ebb and whether doubts are growing about the ambition of the club.

Despite the magnificent and consoling performance of Ciaran Clark, against the Gunners, the result, on a day when all the wrong teams seem to win, was a sad reminder of the old days when the top flight was a distant and remote dream for Villa, and the club was a legacy brand of fading historic relevance only.

In those days, watching Match of the Day was not a participatory pastime – right now Villa are heading in that direction. By the time Arsenal’s fourth went in, Villa looked like they had slipped into the category of Premiership cannon-fodder.

It was a miserable conclusion to reach.

The Houllier tactics are a bit of a mystery too. He has a team full of pace and he chooses a slow build-up. His game-plan relies on reluctant attack and sound defence, when the defence is not performing. In fact he seems to have inverted O’Neil’s habit of winning while not looking good, by sending out a team which flatters the eye, only to lose. A toxic combination for those trying to keep their spirits up and their furniture intact.

So is the American fairytale over at Villa?

Its hard to say but its not looking good. Not even Houllier is bothering to big things up, and it looks like we will have to take all that talk about cutting the wage bill, as seriously as we wish it wasn’t true.

It is a real shame because the fans in general have been magnificently loyal to Randy Lerner and have done their best to heap all the club’s troubles onto Martin O’Neill et al, even the arrival of Stephen Ireland: he, who is said to be stuck in a Villa nightmare.

The fans are not daft and they are always going to salute the money over sentiment, any day of the week. Right up to Zigic’s winner on Wednesday night, they loyally dismissed O’Neill’s achievements as either trivial or flawed but when a five year run of victories over the old enemy comes to such an ignominious end, with a goal from the worst player on the pitch, via a freakish deflection, they might see it as a sign that the old Blues hoodoo has returned.

The Greeks called it nemesis – the reward for the hubris of messing where you shouldn’t go a messing.

And someone has been a messing.

The Villa fans’ loyalty deserves to be rewarded and demonstrating to the fans that Villa is a club which signs top players and not just sells them, is the only real and proper way to do it. Just like Christmas, we know it is the thought that counts but usually when we open that Christmas box, we usually know exactly what that thought was.

As for the thought behind England’s failed World Cup bid, I think we know what that was. ‘We just don’t like you!’, seems likely to be close enough, and when Blatter told the world how football was invented by the Chinese, it couldn’t be more obvious, could it.

When you pay out £15m, disrupt the wedding-planning activities of Prince William, and get Lord Beckham to tell tear-jerkers about his grandad, and only get one vote other than your own, your pariah status looks pretty certain, especially when the head honcho of the country with the winning bid, is so certain of success that he stops at home and slags England off on the telly.

As ever we revealed ourselves as a rather naive nation of arse-lickers, who while our media was exposing FIFA as bung-merchants, went to a great deal of expense and trouble to give the selection process an air of respectability, it seems unlikely to deserve. A slick video and a community worker from Manchester, were never likely to trump a shower of rubles and riyals.

What are we like? As for blaming the media – they would say that wouldn’t they?

But it has to be admitted, that apart from the rabid racism, its status as a Mafia-run state and its nine time zones, Russia looks like the ideal place to hold a World Cup, as compared with, say, the well-known horrors of Milton Keynes, on the Buckinghamshire steppes.

The other football event, this week, which should have distracted Villa fans from their misery but which sadly failed, was the performance of Barcelona against Real Madrid. A performance which has been described by football purists, as the best performance ever by any team, and which might even eclipse the famous Brazil performance against Italy in 1970 World Cup. It finished 5-0 to Barce and Messi made Ronaldo, the diving Diva himself, look decidedly crap.

Its a pity I missed it but I managed a smile through my gritted-teeth.

Meanwhile Villa must travel to Anfield on Monday and prove everyone wrong, shove my words down my throat, boost Houllier’s reputation and breathe new life into Villa’s American fairytale, by the simple act of repeating the same result as last season and zooming away from those relegation places.

And, rumour has it, that Liverpool are not a good as they were last year.

Those boots need to start walking where they have only been a talking, Randy.

Keep the faith!


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