I'VE NEVER MET A NICE ASTON VILLA
Mickey Blue Eyes
Footy apart, the 1980s was the most wretched of decades. Typically, the stiff-faced hypocritical neo con harridan who helped oversee it all found tears for her own redundancy but not for the millions she supervised into poverty. The same applies to every political leader we have had since. But one of the few cultural gains of the era was a short-lived satirical TV programme named Spitting Image. A slogan to come out of it and stick was, "I've never met a nice South African," a phrase I think of every time we play Aston Villa. It's difficult to avoid the notion that everything about the Brummy club is repellent, most of all the notorious crackpot worst of their fans. In Martin O'Neill's last season as manager there it took just forty five minutes for them to start booing their own team. No wonder he got off as sharpish as every other manager they've had. And too many of their shaved head players somehow always manage to look and play like thugs. As for sour faced Ashley Young...........words fail. The aggregate impression is of a football club you wouldn't want near your dog, never mind your community.
All of which meant I wasn't really looking forward to Saturday's match, especially with half our team missing through injury. In the circumstances the side almost picked itself. If you could walk and wear footy boots you were in. Even Bily and John Heitinga got on the pitch. The bench was full of untried kids. I feared the worst. As it turned out Villa and their fans lived down to their reputation. The match was an often bizarre spectacle of tacky "tackling," sharp movement and uncertain excitement. That said, irritatingly, the result was about right. But we should have won, the story of many other games this season.
The opening phase of play was slightly to our advantage without, as usual, us looking much of a threat. What quickly became obvious was that Leon was up for the game and seemingly determined to compensate for missing Mikky, Fellaini and Cahill. It was equally apparent why the Brummies find themselves complying with the standard Scouse interpretation of the opposition, "Deezr shite deez ar." They were indeed. Still, we couldn't break them down. I wondered if we would fade as the match wore on, or whether we would get one of Dunney's Famous Howlers. Neither transpired.
After ten minutes Beckford was put clean through left side penalty area one-on-one with time to take another pace forward. But he decided to shoot immediately because his first touch isn't, shall we say, of the best. Usually, if they go in they look spectacular, or they soar wide. This one got saved. Our other highlight was a break through right side that ended with the ball ricocheting off a post, but it was offside anyway. Meanwhile, Tony Hibbert saved a certain goal when he threw himself in front of a close range shot. Alas, midway through the half the Inevitable Villa appeared and they started kicking everything that moved; naturally, but stupidly, we retaliated and the game began to disappear in a swamp of free kicks relieved only by a flurry of corners to them. Naturally too it was the retaliators who suffered - Jags and Heitinga got booked. All of which is why I really should never bother watching matches against these boot boys. It merely interferes with my digestive tract.
About ten minutes before half time I had just finished saying to Plewsy, "Christ, how desperate are we.....a front two of Becks and Leon Osman," when Bily - Bily! - won a tussle on the half way line wide left and stuck a pass through to Leon same side and closing at an angle into the penalty area. He just ran right through what passed for the Villa "defence" and from the corner of the goal area slotted it under baldy Brad. Simple as. It was no more than we deserved.
In accordance with our Curse of Half Time the enemy equalised two minutes after the restart. The ball got wide right to where Bainsey or Bily should have been marking their man, but weren't, and he had a clear run into the box, pulled it back to right of the penalty spot where Distin or Jags should have been, but weren't, and it got side footed in by Bent. Also simple as. You could have screamed. All this season we've hardly had time to relish any gains we make. No wonder everyone gets frustrated.
Cue a sub, Magaye Gueye - a racing certainty "Maggie" - on the right for Seamus. It was a good move because he took on their left side defence and kept them occupied by the kind of close control dribbles speed merchant Seamus can't do. For a while it changed the balance of the match as the Brummies tried to adjust their game to suit. But Maggie did more than enough to get another chance, perhaps a full run out next time.
Then a seminal moment with twenty minutes left. A move down our right led to Maggie playing an angled ball to the right of the D to Becks and he hit a tremendous first time shot from the edge of the box. It hit the underside of the bar, bounced down and out. Straight away we let in yet another stupid goal thanks to a mix up between Distin and Tim. A long punt upfield by their follicly challenged Yank got to left side midway in our half, headed up in the air, lobbed forward left side edge of the box, and with Buzz and Tim waiting for each other, Bent had a simple job to knock it home. After which, his behaviour showed he has bought wholly into the Ugly Villa Club Syndrome. They really are a horrible, horrible crew.
But the game wasn't over. Despite our fractious season we know this squad have always got a chance even when they go behind. Sure enough, with just under ten minutes left an unco-ordinated attack down our right saw Jags get into their penalty area, right corner and he was felled. Penalty. Seen them given, seen them not. But this was Villa and frankly I couldn't give a shit if it was or it wasn't so long as, to coin yet another Scouse phrase, "It werked it up dem." Bainsey's trusty left foot banged it home where Friedel had been standing and it went to 2-2. Where it stayed when Leon missed a sitter with minutes left.
All in all, it would be a great service to the sport if Aston Villa get relegated. They wouldn't be missed and the game would have a slightly healthier air about it. In short, if they go down - unlikely of course - good riddance.