Swings & Roundabouts

Dave Woodhall on Villa and a special birthday.

After beating Manchester City had briefly raised hopes that Villa’s home phobia had been cured, Sunday afternoon was a grim reminder of how much work there is to do if  the team are to get back to the level they should realistically be hoping to attain.

Spurs spent the first decade of the Premier League making up the numbers; never challenging at the top, nor in any real danger of relegation. Less glamorous clubs would have been derided as irrelevant. Spurs, instead, made out that winning was all a bit vulgar and they were above such ignoble pursuits. Then they finally started to get their act together, bought the sort of players Villa should have been signing when Martin O’Neill had money to burn and made a serious assault on the top four. They struck lucky when the world’s biggest and most spendthrift club decided they wanted Gareth Bale more than anything else in the world and the money received for him enabled Spurs make a raft of top-class signings to help their assault on the Champions League.

They came to Villa Park on a grey Sunday afternoon, achieved a routine 2-0 win and left us with the impression that they and Villa are now operating at different levels. Anyone who uses this as a hand-wringing exercise in pointing out that we were their equals a few years ago should remember that clubs such as Villa and Spurs tend to swap places with regularity. It’s not so long ago that we were regularly scoring four and five goal wins at White Hart Lane and we’ll do so again. That’s the nature of football, and if Real could please decide that next summer’s must-have purchase is Christian Benteke, so much the better. I’m sure Paul Lambert could spend £ 100 million wisely.

Incidentally, Spurs are a long way off my list of favourite clubs and I’d smile if they finished in the top four position that’s the ultimate prize for clubs of their outlook only to be unable to celebrate because Arsenal have won the league.

One bright spot in the day was the arrival before the game of the Safe Standing Roadshow, a display of the type of terraced area that is finally starting to be debated sensibly at the top level of English football. A lot of Villa supporters took the opportunity to see the new technology and it was good of the Daily Express’s John Wragge to engage in conversation with the people who are leading the campaign. It was equally unsurprising that Alan Green refused and walked away when invited to see for himself something that he had dismissed out of hand.

Next up at Villa Park are Everton, another club who’ve spent much of the past twenty years at the same level as Villa and Spurs, but without a great deal of investment and without the ensuing dramas. As you should know by now, Villa v Everton is the most-played fixture in top-flight English football. Gold star for anyone who knows why it’s been played more often than Everton v Villa.

The day will also see the 100th birthday of Harry Kartz, Villa chairman during 1980-81 and one of the most popular incumbents of the post. He deserves every one of the good wishes that he will receive on this special day.