Oh, the beauty of a Villa shirt. You walk into a pub, spot two guys you hardly know, and within two minutes you’re talking tactics and formations. Do Chelsea fans do that? I don’t think so. I think they think, Hmm, a lot of guys in here wearing Chelsea shirts . . . Maybe I need a new team.
Anyway, the apertura campaign of my sons’ AYSO teams have ended (the U10s with 7 wins and 2 draws, the U8s with 1 win, 5 draws, and 3 losses), meaning my Saturdays have just a little bit of wiggle room from now until April. And, despite having house guests, I showed my true colors as a host and fan by heading down to the Globe, where the first guys I saw were Brian Hanna and Rick Edwards. Rick’s wife Brenda joined the table a moment later, and before long the Villans were piling in the door: Simon Leach, Cat Stewart, Bob Kemp and his son Grif, Mike Reed, Greg Asad, Tyler Fisher, even a couple I didn’t get a chance to meet. Fantastic support for a club that hasn’t seen the top four in a long, long time. (At the risk of flogging a dead horse, I didn’t see that kind of support for Chelsea’s referee-gifted draw with West Brom, being played at the same time.)
Anyway, after a first half in which we all griped about long-ball tactics, and recalled fondly how, just a scant year ago, fans had sung proudly that we were passing the ball (“Just like Barcelona!” in one version)—Villa gradually began to assert themselves on the game. And, in the 76th minute, ending an awful, agonizing SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS without a goal, Bacuna scored a beautiful, beautiful free kick to give us merciful release. I suspect I wasn’t the only one who needed a full minute to process the fact that VILLA HAD ACTUALLY PUT THE BALL IN THE BACK OF THE NET. And with some style, no less.
Of course, a scant minute after that realization I soon found myself in nervous agony, convinced we would cough up an equalizer, or an equalizer and a go-ahead goal, at any moment. And then, less ten minutes later, WE SCORED AGAIN, Beanpole Kozak on a header that was so slow to unfold I felt certain that the satellite feed had frozen and, when it resumed again, we would see a replay of the ball being miraculously cleared off the line by an alert Cardiff defender.
But no, not so. And the ball was not headed wide and rolling around behind the net as I momentarily feared, but actually, yes, inside the goal. TWO GOALS in ONE GAME. Inspiring a brief chorus of:
Top half of the table, top half of the table, we’re Aston Villa, we’re top half of the table!
For a short while, anyway. Well, three points at home, beating a team we really ought to beat. A second beer before I rejoin my family? Thanks, Mike, don’t mind if I do!
Reasons for Optimism
We won a game without a goal from Benteke (who is looking more and more match fit)
We won a game without Gabby, Weimann, Delph, Luna (and, it goes without saying, Okore)
We scored two goals
We kept a clean sheet
We won at home
Did I mention that we won a game?
Reasons for Pessimism
Keep them to yourself. I’m still enjoying it. Bring on the Baggies!