Let the festivities begin
Dave Woodhall reports on another Villa draw. Again.
The waiting is almost over. Barring a miracle of seismic proportions (Bolton winning 9-0 away at Stoke, Villa losing by the same score at Norwich and QPR costing Manchester City the title by getting something from their trip to whatever Maine Road is called these days) Villa will be in the Premier League again next season. Let joy be unconfined and the party commence.
The reason for such scenes of wild celebration are the results from Sunday, when Villa drew with Spurs while Bolton let a two-goal lead slip and were held 2-2 by Albion. Villa’s result on the face of it was a reasonable one; Spurs are going for the Champions League and would have been heartened by the sight of rivals Arsenal dropping two points at home to Norwich the previous day (an aside here – does it give an unfair advantage so late in the season to have sides still in contention at either end of the table kicking off at different times, therefore enabling some to know what their rivals have already done?).
Even the fact that Spurs played most of the second half with ten men after one of the nastiest assaults seen at Villa Park for many a while wasn’t too damning. A sending-off doesn’t seem to affect the outcome of a game as much as it used to – maybe it’s because the players are so fit that having one less in a team doesn’t make much difference. What’s particularly galling was the 45 minute siege on the Villa goal that the second half entailed. I suppose I could praise our defence for only conceding a single goal, but I’d rather point out that with a bit more invention this might not have been yet another lead thrown away. Instead, it was a nail-biter until the final whistle, when the players’ lap of appreciation was distinctly one-sided and the McLeish abuse heartfelt.
Anyway, it’s all over bar the last day at Carrow Road. As soon as the final whistle goes we should witness the most almighty inquest and clear-out of surplus baggage on and off the field. This has already started with both Carlos Cuellar and Emile Heskey announcing that with their contracts up, they’re leaving for pastures as yet undisclosed. The other thing that links these two is that supporters tend to rate Cuellar highly, yet managers have never played him with any great regularity, while Heskey is the opposite. Some of the game’s top managers have wanted him in their side while supporters can fly into paroxysms of rage whenever his name is announced on the team sheet. But what do we know?