This Is Villa Park

This Is Villa Park

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Premier League

Dangerous Football. When Chris Herd, lunged in for a header yesterday, missed and crashed head first into the goal post. From where I was sitting it seemed like a very terrifying incident which was instantly replayed in high definition from several different angles. After a couple of minutes, the young Australian climbed groggily to his feet and played on. He seemed all right, even coming close to scoring when he did manage to strike the ball with his forehead in the second half. But it was a scary reminder that football, like any sport where fit young men hurl themselves around, carries risks. That point was brought chillingly later in the afternoon, as Drogba lay for a long period unmoving on the grass at Stamford Bridge. Drogba plays as if he would, and could, run through brick walls. He showed all his power, athleticism and strength as he sprinted forward and leapt to John Ruddy, the Norwich keeper, under a bouncing ball. And suddenly Drogba's vulnerable humanity was exposed. The two collided. Drogba appeared to be already unconscious as he fell. His head smashed into the turf. Later sent off for tripping Ramires, John Ruddy seemed to get out of being red carded for this seious challenge. It was challenge which is seen many times, yet it ended with Drogba strapped immobile to a stretcher with an oxygen mask on his face. He was taken to a hospital and was released after tests. The club later reported that he had suffered only a concussion.

Manchester City. I'm not a fan of buying players for such a lot of money, but fair play to them. They've spent their money on players who are influential and change games. For example, Samir Nasri, David Silva, Kun Aguero, just to name a few. Against Tottenham Hotspur today, I actually wouldn't have watched the game if I knew that City would hammer Spurs. Over the past two seasons these two teams have created an exciting end-to-end game, which has decided whether or not they'll be playing in the Champions League. Manchester City's class shown throught though, winning 5-1 against a very, very poor Spurs side.

"He's A Bluenose Though." The banks of empty seats said more about the home club. Villa is historically a huge club. It is the biggest team in Britain's second-biggest city. 'The City is Ours!' It finished second in the first Premier League season. Now, it is a finishing school for Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City. Fan frustration boiled over when Alex McLeish was appointed from despised and relegated neighbors Birmingham City. The fundamental problem is not that McLeish is a "bluenose." It's that his hiring suggests that Randy Lerner, has given up hope of breaking into the top four. The two previous appointments, Martin O'Neill and Gerard Houllier, suggested the club thought it might be possible to go toe-to-toe with the big boys. Which with O'Neill that did happen and given Houllier was fit enough to carry on we could have been. Although McLeish did win a couple of Scottish titles during his checkered reign at Rangers, there has been nothing in his recent past, that suggests he will break Villa's soul-sapping 12-season streak of finishing somewhere between sixth and 16th. What we learned Saturday was what most Villa fans already knew, this team is not going to be in contention nor is it in danger of relegation.

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