Do we need a win?
Simple beauty and ugly truths.
Despite the flattering scoreline, Villa’s victory in the FA Cup against Bristol Rovers last weekend, hardly succeeded in transforming my overall view of McLeish and his team. The first thirty minutes of hoofball and bad passing didn’t provide much evidence which might inspire confidence and optimism in the present set-up, and it was only when a momentary bout of passing to feet broke out, that Petrov put Mark Albrighton in, and the lad finished neatly.
Villa had, right up to that point, hoofed it long and inaccurately from the back, for Heskey and Bent to chase, which more than suited Rovers. It was not until McLeish was forced to change things when Heskey went off injured, that Gabby came on and Villa managed to impose a passing-game on their hosts.
Rovers eventually ran their legs off, playing chase-ball on their heavy pitch, and further neat finishes from Gabby and Clarky confirmed Villa’s superior class.
But just as I was doing my best impression of an imperious and smug brummie, and the brown and mild had begun to flow in tepid torrents, the Dunnie monster tried a rather ambitious back-pass over his left shoulder and the dawdling McGleish scored a consolation goal to the home fans’ delight and delectation.
More panic was soon to follow, as the now priapic pirates pressured Villa, and just like the fabled bull in a china shop, Warnock made one of his catastrophic interventions, and Rovers had the chance to make it 2-3.
Fortunately for Villa, McGleish fluffed his penalty kick and Villa were left to hide their embarrassment behind a flattering scoreline, which obscured the reality of their hoofing start and their lamentable late collapse.
Inevitably, this brought out the Lady Bracknell in just about every Villan, and most concluded that; to make one crucial mistake may be considered unfortunate, but to make two in as many minutes, looked like carelessness.
For Villa fans, the impression of systemic psychological weakness remains.
The draw for the next round went very favourably for Villa, as they were handed an away tie at Arsenal, which gives them the twin advantage of being able to play away from home, which suits their style, and avoiding any embarrassment of going out of the competition in an encounter with a banana skin. So, Villa have a reasonable chance of beating Arsenal and there will be no hysteria if they don’t.
Other things on Villa minds this week was the email Alex McLeish sent out to season-ticket holders.
As might be expected the Villa manager even managed to sound defensive in his message to the fans, as he claimed to have been misjudged by those who choose to ignore the facts. He claimed that if we were willing to go back to his time at Rangers which ended in 2006, we would find evidence that he likes to attack.
This would be true, as most people would think that any manager in charge of one of only two teams likely to win the SPL, might be expected to tell his team to attack quite often.
Unfortunately, the implicit message in the ‘ I am attack-minded’ claim, is that he is only attack-minded when he thinks his players are good enough to do so. Therefore, he didn’t think Birmingham were good enough to attack and ergo, Villa’s players aren’t good enough either.
So I hope he CCed in Villa’s DOF, when he mailed his missive.
Unfortunately, having made such a cogent claim that he has a preference for attacking football, he undermined his second claim, which is that the Villa squad is good enough. Logically, he cannot claim that both are true.
Basically, he is telling us that we’ll know when he thinks the players are good enough, because he’ll revert to his preference for attacking football.
He tells us we should be optimistic but I suspect that what he means by optimism, is more to do with stopping in the Premiership than qualifying for Europe.
So we have to be grateful for his attempt to express his thanks and communicate with the fans, but in his effort to defend himself and avoid implicit criticism of those who are responsible for the reduced state of the playing resources, he fails to say anything meaningful.
Definitely a worthwhile gesture but not quite as worthwhile as sending out a team which is at least good enough, to avoid humiliation against the likes of Swansea.
Everton come to town this weekend and lets hope the Villa team can make a stronger statement to the fans than Alex McLeish managed with his pixalated prose.
There is a huge amount at stake on this contest with Everton, and should Villa lose, McLeish will have the irksome task of not only trying to explain away criticism as a problem of perception, he will have to explain how he has managed to match the record set in 1963, when Villa lost five league games in a row at Villa Park.
Young Villa historians will need to ask granddad about the Mercer Minors and the terrible winter of 1963, to get the full Villa lore on that particular season. But suffice it to say, it was probably one of the examples which prompted Alan Hansen to assert, that you win nowt with kids.
So at the very minimum McLeish needs to draw against Everton, if he is to avoid being lumbered another accolade of failure.
Everton find themselves very much in the same boat as Villa, with money enough to solve most of their problems, just out of reach, in the bank account of minority shareholder cheese Baron Grantchester, the grandson of former Littlewoods Pools owner John Moores.
I always think of Everton as a big club because of their fantastic history of success since the inauguration of the football league (9 league titles to Villa’s 7), but their financial figures tell a different story, and their turnover is only a little bit higher than Fulham, which I always think of as a small club. Everton probably have more problems than Villa, and the depth of those problems are probably reflected in the fans willingness to ground-share with Liverpool.
Their biggest asset as it stands, is their much-admired manager David Moyes. Like Villa, their better players, like Jack Rodwell and Leighton Baines, are rumoured to be leaving about once a fortnight.
If results against Tottenham are anything to go by, Villa and Everton are much of a muchness, as they both lost 2-0 at White Hart Lane, but when it comes to current form Villa are fourth from bottom, just above Wolves and Everton find themselves in between Arsenal and Chelsea.
Home advantage should be enough for Villa to get at least a point, and with Thierry Henry having already made an auspicious return from MLS, Villa fans can only hope that Robbie Keane has arrived back home, with magic in his boots.
Do we need a win?
Keep the faith!