Dave Woodhall on the (lack of) events at Villa Park this week.
The title of this piece was supposedly what King George III wrote in his diary on 4th July 1776, the day America declared independence. It was also the title of an episode of the X Files and, more importantly, could have been said at any time over the past week – at least were the Villa are concerned.
It’s difficult to write when nothing has happened at Villa Park. England lost, which means that they needn’t bother turning up in Brazil and Roy Hodgson is the root vegetable of your choice. There were no Villa players involved, which lessens the changes of our leading lights being tapped up during the World Cup.
A few of our ex-managers have been in the news. Martin O’Neill has moaned about Paolo di Canio, and here’s a brave prediction – the target of his ire will say something in return at every available opportunity for the rest of the decade. Eric Djemba-Djemba has criticised David O’Leary (and looking back, how incredible is it that a Villa team managed by O’Leary arguably went closer to getting into the Champions League than his successor, who spent a nine-figure sum in the process, did?). And Alex McLeish says he may have to go abroad to get a job because he’s out of favour here. You don’t say.
Of course, contrary to what the national media might tell you, football doesn’t entirely stop when there’s an international weekend. I love watching non-league, not for the silky skills on display but because things happen that you’d never see in the sanitised world of all-seater stadia and crowd segregation. Take, for example, Denso, who lost their Mercian regional Football League division two game to Claverley 10-0 on Saturday. This in itself was a moral victory for Denso, who have conceded 138 goals in 13 games so far this season – and one of them, amazingly, was a 1-1 draw.
But the match I’d like to have been at was in the Suffolk Primary Cup, where Thurlow Royal Exchange beat St Clement’s Hospital 3-1, with two of the winning side’s goals coming in the final three minutes with the home team reduced to nine men. The informative www.nonleaguematters.co.uk forum contained the following description of the climax to what had been a lively game – “The scoring player gloated in front of the fans as if he was some superstar.… a punch up started with all & sundry involved…a fan may have got a couple of quality punches in but unfortunately it wasn’t the number seven on the receiving end, he was being restrained elsewhere.” The attendance was nine.
There’ll be more than that at the Hawthorns next Monday, when the oldest derby in league football takes place. Sky won’t bother mentioning the fact, but I’m sure they will manage to patronise both clubs while making it clear that what they would really like to be showing is Manchester United (or Chelsea, possibly Arsenal) against anyone. Two clubs with almost 300 years of history between them (most of it in the top flight) now, like all but half a dozen clubs in the country, exist primarily to make up the television numbers.