Date: 13th April 2009 at 12:16pm
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This most enduring and possibly grandest of all fixtures lived up to its reputation yesterday. The clubs have met three times this season, and scored a total of 15 goals, at an average of 5 per game. Not only that, but there have been thrills and surprises packed into those three fixtures.

Perhaps the most glaring lesson to be taken from yesterday’s match was that these two are very similar in capability. Different styles, though – and boy, couldn’t Everton push the ball around if they were
allowed to? But both defences had frailties that could only lead to plenty of entertainment.

I went to the match with an elderly distant cousin who had a severe heart attack a year ago. ‘Cor!’, he said, ‘if you want another heart attack, this is the place to come to!’, he said after 60 minutes’ play! This 85-year-old had been away from Aston for near 60 years, and as he took his seat with nearly an hour to go before the kick off, he gazed at the new monolith that had grown since he’d last viewed it all those years ago. ‘Look at that roof!’, he exclaimed, talking of the huge Trinity overhang, ‘… and what a pitch – it’s so green!’ But we both agreed that the quality of the tannoy had not improved much!

Filling in time we talked of the great names of his era that he could remember clearly … like the very late Harry Parkes, ‘… a clever player’, said Ken, and George Cummings … ‘a tough bugger!’ Ken was brought up within the sound of Villa Park, and went to his first match during 1930-31, that great season when 128 Villa goals were scored, yet we only finished second.

He’d seen some great names and great games, and early in the match he was of the opinion that football was not as good as it once was. ‘Why don’t the players follow up?’, he asked, noting also that there was far more emphasis in teamwork rather than individual inspiration. But by the 60th minute, he’d warmed up to the match and was in danger of another heart attack.

Coming out after the match, he was so enthused he tried to break into a trot to catch the minibus to take us back to the car park, and that nearly – and seriously – did ‘im. Out came the magic spray, and Ken
was revived to re-live the memories of what he’d just seen.

Yes, he’d enjoyed his visit. And so did I. And I felt just a little pride that these two grand old teams could entertain the way they did, and also be close to challenging the very best in the country. They won’t finish in the top-4 this time around, but I reckon that if the domestic quota rules come into effect, and the credit crunch continues yet a few months, then there may well be a more level playing field for these two teams to really show their mettle.

I hope Ken – ex-toolmaker, soldier, greengrocer and dairy farm owner – stays around to see Villa back at the very top.

 

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