Date: 26th July 2013 at 4:29pm
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So yes, it has been a great week, and Villa are definitely a club in transit.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Nothing new there then!

So I had to put my ‘ Villa: the end Is nigh!’ sandwich-board back in the shed and was quite happy to do so. So happy in fact, that I even felt the need to celebrate.

I am not particularly known for actually celebrating being wrong but last Friday was definitely a wrong worth any amount of celebration, after Christian Benteke not only withdrew his transfer-request, he even put pen to paper and signed for another four years. I definitely thought he would go and I was so glad to be wrong.

Villa fans don’t need telling what marvellous news it was, because without Benteke Villa looked destined to endure another worrisome season, but with him, there looks to be a reasonable margin for error, for any periods of catch-up and bedding-in, which the new defenders can’t be
assumed not to need. So things don’t exactly look dazzling, but they certainly look a million times better than the prospect of facing the new season, without the services of Mr Benteke.

Everyone at Villa needs congratulating on the cool manner in which they handled the upset and the pragmatism they showed by not getting too precious about the implications of what looked like Benteke’s slight loyalty-deficit. My own take on it is that the lad assumed that there was a market for his services, which on testing was shown not to be there, so he signed the best deal on offer and that was at Villa. Business is business, as they say, and let’s hope that the whole thing is forgiven and forgotten by the time Benteke faces the fans at Villa Park.

No matter what the actual truth is about the motives of the parties involved, every fan I came across was displaying smiles which ranged from the beatific to the full rictus sardonicus, at the news, and it was even pointed out that my own habitual bitchy resting face was less pronounced than usual. This was a source of considerable worry to me, because at my age, any change in behaviour which may include, buying rounds of drinks out of turn and smiling for no reason, can get you sectioned.

Anyway, I wasn’t to worry for too long because things began to return to normal within a few days, as the news unfolded that my prediction that the new royal sprog, with his Villa connections as strong as any royal bloodline, was to be named Prince Pongo, also proved to be false.

The name George seems to carry rather too many anti-Catholic historical references to be the right name in this age of egalitarian multiculturalism. But as the Eton boys are back in Number Ten, reasserting their right to power, we can’t be surprised if royalty choose to remind us of their German Protestant antecedence. Prince Pongo of Witton would have been better, but alas, it was not to be.

Even so, things did get better as the week progressed and my grimace was thawed into something nearer a wintry smile, when Villa published the squad numbers and I could enjoy the warm glow of sweet vindication.

Having been lambasted for my expressed belief that Villa were trying to push the highest-paid players towards the door with a series of petty humiliations which would amount to constructive dismissal in any other industry, I had been working on a more benign interpretation of the known
facts, which gave Lambert some rather more laudable motives which were about helping the youngsters rather than persecuting those whose contracts the club regretted.

But faced with such an unequivocal public announcement there can be little doubt that these players have received another petty sanction to encourage them out of the door. As someone pointed out, in reference to Benteke, if the club has such a cold-blooded self-interested attitude towards contracts, then no one can expect players to be driven by more noble motives.

The fact that Gabby has shown himself to be motivated by the increasingly rare sentiment of loyalty and has suffered for it, makes him worthy of sainthood in the modern game.

So it was a pleasing Villa week for me all round, as after the ecstasy over the Benteke news had prompted me into some mad thoughts about winning cups and challenging for Europe, I was led gently back to reality by nursy and I can now contemplate the new season with realistic expectations, which avoid the crash and burn of bat-shit-crazy optimism.

In fact, the week even had its moment of hilarity, as after England’s women suffered humiliating group-stage elimination from the Women’s UEFA Championships, while garnering only a single point against the lowest ranked team in the competition, Hope Powell, England’s coach, announced that the only cure for the England team’s complete lack of quality, was more money.

This did make me smile because she doesn’t want the money spent on grass-roots football, so girls get the coaching early enough to learn and practice the skills the latest crop lack. She wants the money to go towards making professionals of players who do not have the talent to warrant such feather-bedding. English women’s football has never had so much money, and it has got worse, not better.

So yes, it has been a great week, and Villa are definitely a club in transit.

Keep the faith!


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