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2002 Away Match Reports




Posts from my old Blog

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Newcastle Match Ramble and Marks


I was back at Villa park today, and for a change thought I'd write a home mini-match report.

Only my second visit to VP this season today. It was nice to be able to visit the Tavern again. Nice beer, good company.

As for the game, from my vantage point at least, it wasn't a great one, neither side managing to get on top, or threaten the goal much, despite a flowing game, with few interruptions. First well done to the ref (Bennett was it? - I've always thought he was awful, but today not so).
Before the game I thought that the two attacks were pretty similar, they would have the stronger midfield and us the stronger defence, with two good keepers. Shows what I know, as the two keepers between them looked the likeliest source of a (own) goal - Enks nearly threw one in his own net, a la Gary Sprake, and dropped a cross at bellamy's feet a yard out. Luckily Bellamy was startled and prodded it wide. Given too looked extremely dodgy on backpasses and almost "controlled" one into his own net.

Enks, like James before him though made a couple of good saves from a deflected shot and a long-ranger. Given pushed a Barry shot from range over too.

With not much goalmouth action my attention was caught mostly by 3 of our players - Barry who went off injured shortly after a hefty collision with Given, as they both went for an under-hit backpass, but who had looked classy and in-form. The second player who caught the attention was Ronny Johnson. He was superb. He gave Shearer nothing and became more and more dominant as the game wore on. So much so that Mellberg wasn't noticeable. And in midfield Hendrie too got better and better. He was the one, running into space, passing inventively and never giving up trying to create.

Of the rest DV was again lively, but apart from one snapshot didn't do most of his best work in the box, but down the channels. Dion was Dion, but good at it today. He was subbed for Angel, who had one half chance which rattled the bar from his header.

Kinsella on for GB was a yard off the pace, particularly with his passing. Hitz started well, had a poor spell and then settled for trying to play a bit simpler. Little influence after the first 40 minutes. Leonhardsen ran and ran, put a header wide and scurried around.

At the back the two full backs were sloppy defensively, Jlloyd on the left and DLC on the right, and neither totally made up for this with their preference for the adventurous side - the quality of their work was below par. RJ was imperious and Olly played second fiddle.

There was basically not much between the teams, which given that we were at home, but they are higher up than us and a better side was perhaps about right.

Then 10 mins from the end a cross from the corner flag on our left, after a throw somehow found shearer, marked by DLC. Only one outcome. It was only a half chance really, and the bloke who had spent most of the afternoon second best and moaning to the ref, scored the winner. Hey ho.

Marks, as is the fashion these days
Enks, 5.5, DLC 5, Jlloyd 6, Olly 6, Ronnie J 9 (joint MoM)
Barry 8, Hendrie 9, Hitz 5, Leo 6, kinsella 5
DD 7, DV 7.5, Angel 5.5.

Very high marks for LH and RJ, but they were that good (IMO).

I guess GT subbed Dion because of the lack of efforts on goal by the team, not because he was poor or injured.

Good choice not to play Stan, too.

er...that's it.

We're on our Knees again, saying please again


Monday, December 02, 2002

Villatalk's "The Greatest Villan" Nomination - Gordon "Sid" Cowans


Why do I nominate “Sid” as the greatest Villan?
Well, Perhaps first I should explain the criteria I would use to determine whether anyone is deserving of Villa “greatness”.

Ability above far the “norm”, Loyalty, Love - both ways “we” have to love them and they have to love the club. Committment too, both on and off the field. Vision, inspiration, perspiration and the ability to affect the course of history too are essentials too.

Sid has all of these in buckets.

Anyone who has seen Sid play will find it impossible to argue that he has footballing ability in spades. He’s the only truly two footed player I can recall seeing. With either foot Sid could pull the ball down from mid-air and stroke, caress even, a pass to a team mate in the best position to recieve the ball. Nearby or 50 yards away. Did he ever put a pass astray? He must have, but I don’t remember any. Perhaps the first indication of greatness - memories of him are all good.

Although born in Durham Sid came to Villa as an apprentice in 1974 at 15 and was part of the bunch that won the youth Cup. An early indication of his talent. He soon made his first team debut, at 17 in 1975 whilst still an apprentice. He became a member of the England youth team, too. Progress continued and he was soon in the Villa first team on a regular basis during the season when we won the League Cup (eventually) at Old Trafford against Everton.

Sid’s progress continued and he became part of the England U-21 side. Then later the B side and in ‘83 the full side, winning 9 caps and scoring against Scotland at Wembley. If it wasn’t for a strange preference for the very inconsistent and underperforming, London based, Hoddle he would have been capped far more often in what was a barren period for Enland’s national side.
Back where his heart lies with Villa things were going just great. He was a pure class act in our midfield and was voted PFA Young Player of the Year in 1979-80. Things got even better for Sid and for Villa, when after a few years of steady improvement the Club won the league in 1980/81. Sid, in this season was perhaps at his very best. He of course continued to make everything look easy, but he seemed to turn into the complete footballer - he would pick the ball up from Allan Evans, or Ken McNaught, turn and lay it off, out wide, or find Shaw or Withe and then suddenly he’d be recieving the ball again and playing through a pass to create a chance to score, or cross. he could tackle, too. Sid is lightly built, like a taller Lee Hendrie, but boy could he tackle. No bottling out, just straight in there, and more often than not winning the ball, and then maybe after a turn and drag through his legs the ball would be with Swain or Morley and off we’d go again.
Like all of Ron Saunders’ team he was very fit and ran all day. Of course the whole side was fantastic - all 14 players used that season could perhaps be nominated. But Sid did more than any of them - he played more games for us - 399 League apps (+15 as sub), scoring 49 goals in 3 spells.
After Ron Saunders left, courtesy of Ron Bendall, Tony Barton suddenly found himself manager of the team he led only a month or so later to become European Champions, 26 May 1982. And Sid, again, was an absolutely crucial part of the side that beat Bayern in Rotterdam (‘scuse me while i pause for a moment..).

The next season we got to the quarter finals, but were knocked out by Juventus in the second leg, after a great game in the first leg, during which Sid scored a diving header in front of the Holte, to get us back into the game. We did win the Super Cup though, and Sid scored a penalty in the 3-0 2nd leg win over Barcelona. He was assaulted by their keeper on retrieving the ball from the net, but just trotted back to the half way line. Far too cool to get involved in any ructions.  

Sid had his leg horribly broken in a pre-season “friendly” in Spain and missed the whole 83/84 season, but back he came, only to be sold to Bari, along with Paul Rideout in 1985. At a time when players wages were Ok, but nothing at all like they are today, Sid had a chance to earn real money and well deserved it was too. 

Fortunately we had an option of first refusal to buy him back. So obviously we did and in 1988 Graham Taylor brought him back and to our delight he was still the same old Sid. Same wiry frame, same talent and desire and there he was reading the runs of Platty and Rambo and controlling the midfield. We went on to finish as runners up before GT went off to manage England. Some turnaround isn’t it? - from relegated to back where we belong in the top division, and finishing second to Liverpool. And for Sid too, as he was called back into the England side under GT the next season. So plenty of evidence of his talents all round - broken leg, recover, move abroad, adapt well, come back to the club he loves, huge influence on our history and back as an international.

Still the tale’s not over, Big Fat Ron sold Sid in ‘91 to Blackburn (where he helped them to promotion). The attraction to VP was still there though and he came back again for the 1993-1994 season. Sold again to Derby he spent his last playing days doing a good job for a number of first division teams - Wolves, Sheffield United (from one of their sites, here’s a neutral testimony on his talent)

“The first thing I noticed about Gordon Cowans was how many times he actually touched the ball in a game....I could not believe a player could receive and pass the ball THAT many times in a game. Also, no matter how many times he touched the ball he nearly always found another United player with his pass... For a man of 37 he buzzed around and passed and moved all afternoon whilst still managing to bring a calming influence to the midfield.

The part of Cowans game that impressed me most...was his ability to come short, receive the ball from either Kelly, Vonk or Ablett, turn and bring someone else into the game. He was the link between defence and midfield/attack....Gorden Cowans took control of midfield and he wasn't scared to bring others into the game, he made other players "tick". It was difficult to hide when Gordon Cowans was playing because he'd give you the ball and make you play and he was always ready to receive a return pass or find space to give you an option once he'd despatched the ball. One of the last things I saw Gordon Cowans do was set Andy Walker up for a marvellous goal at Reading in April. Nothing special, just a simple 15 yard pass and Walker did the rest. BUT that was Gordon Cowans, so simple, yet so effective.”

Sid moved from Shef Utd to Bradford, Stockport and Burnley where he started into coaching, before yes you’ve guessed it, returning back to VP for a 4th time, in ‘98, to coach the youth team. And as with all the other times, he’s done a great job - the youth team won the FA youth cup last season and more than that the players that are coming through all seem properly coached in the footballing skills that Sid is remembered for.

There’s a lot of facts and figures in all that lot above, but in truth the things I remember Sid for are the things on the pitch, the perfect 30 yard pass down the line on a wet wednesday at Stoke, the ball spinning backwards so as not to run out of play on the greasy surface. Perfect. No one else on the pitch could do that. 

So there you have it really. Pure class. All the other people nominated ARE Great Villans, but none has given us as much as Sid, none have had such an influence and continue to do so.

Finally, almost as an afterthought, anyone heard of anything bad about Sid- fights, drink or Drugs, controversy of any kind? Failure? No obviously not. A great player, a winner, a modest man, a nice bloke and one of us.


First Division Champion, European Champion, League Cup winner, promotion winner, youth Cup winner, youth cup winning coach.

Sid Sid Sid Sid Sid....


Saturday, October 26, 2002

Old Trafford Match Report


Went to ManU with Al today.

Now that's what I call a good performance
It looks like someone has done a bit of hard work in the week. That's the first time this season that I can honestly say that they looked ORGANISED. The midfield and defence in particular. The team played 4-4-2 as many of you have been saying was what was needed.
The players played for each other and the manager, that much is clear. The fans too, we sang our heads off for the side and no-one, apart from the platic mancs, obviously, got the slightest bit of criticism. Maybe it was because we were "backs to the wall" and no-one expected anything, but the pressure of expectation versus under-achievement was off, and it was a real pleasure to see that we can look a very decent side.
Enkelmann looked a good solid keeper. Delaney and Leonhardsen worked hard down the right and JLloyd and Barry did the same on the left.
Stan just concentrated on defending and Olof Mellberg was an absolute rock.
In the centre Kinsella and ITVP chased and tackled all afternoon long.
The front two were a bit of a surprise - Dion and Stefan Moore started. Dion was sort of ....there, and Stefan looked lively. He had a great chance, put clear through by Dion, I think, but Fabian Penis saved well. Good goalkeeping, but things were looking bright , especially with ManU missing Giggs and Ruud Van thing, two of their better players. Beckham was being forced to come inside and deep to try to get them into anything like a creative position. The theatre of tourism was quiet, apart from the away corner. And then things got better.
From a corner taken in front of us Olof came charging in to absolutely wallop a header into the goal before anyone could move. Fantastic.
After I picked myself up from an undignified sprawl following spontaneous moshing, the realisation set in. Yes, we had scored a goal away from home, had scored from a corner and were 1-0 up, and deservedly so at a bogey ground.
Second half and it was Gareth Barry's turn to catch the eye. In the first he had been solid, but not that involved. This half he was like a man possessed. We all know he has a good touch and can pass, but here he was winning the ball, being in the right place at the right time, getting forward, beating players, notably Beckham several times in MIDFIELD.
The element that we were short of all game was real creative threat, and GB was the player who looked most likely to create something, or even score himself on the break. Dion and Stefan both tired and on came JPA and Crouch. I think it was about this time that ManU equalised with a header from that fellow who never scores. typical Villa.
He had been linking play and making good runs all game, but like us, ManU didn't really have that much of a threat up front to worry the defences.
The goal came from a cross after Delaney had blocked the first cross from the edge of the box. Forlan lost Stan, and Enks had no chance. Forlan had done the same first half, but missed. The tourist crowd woke up and United had the pressure on, desperately trying to get a second, but in truth it was all without any real threat, just position and possession.
Fabian Penis was playing in goal somewhere about the half way line and our best chance looked to be a break and a shot from distance into the empty net. Didn't happen though. 
There was no need to bite any fingernails, as time trundled along. The ref was I think Graham Poll. he kept the game flowing, especially for ManU, allowing them to take free kicks from where they wanted, with the ball rolling, but other than that he had a good game. Well done. He also booked Beckham for a narky "tackle" on Barry. Well spotted. The kind of thing that often goes un-noticed at the theatre of Tourism.
Finally a word of humble pie. I have been saying that I'd like Graham to resign, as I felt that he was not taking us in the right direction (to say the least). Well, on this ONE performance, if we can play like that every week and add in some attacking creativity, then we'll be alright and he can happily have my blessing (little though that counts) to stay.
From absolute, despondent, angst to really quite happily satisfied all in 6 days. Yep, that's football, and the Villa for you.


Sunday, August 11, 2002

Why My Season Ticket is Being Returned


I have been a season ticket holder on the Holte for many, many years - travelling down from Lancashire for each game. This year I once again bought a season ticket, but now with only a week to go to the Premiership kick off, said ticket is being returned unused. I explain why.

The decline of Aston Villa Football Club, is undoubtedly sad. It's sad when the situation the club is now in is viewed as we tend to do, over the whole lifetime of the club, it's sad when viewed against what could have been and what is going to happen this season. But I don't see my returning my season ticket as sad, or my disenchantment with the Villa as "sad" in itself.

There's another way of looking at the current status though, and that's through the eyes of Herbert Ellis and his chums. He would say that the club is solvent - we don't owe any money, we are virtuous, not like the foolish others. He would say look at the ground, it is a large, modern venue with facilities for hosting internationals and semi-finals and so on. He would say we're not in the third division, as we once were, the gates are good and the game is popular. 

We have many internationals on the books and are an established premier league team. In all of this he would, I suppose, be correct.

I suspect that the Ellis view is the one most subscribed to by the majority of fans, not reading this perhaps, but out there in the rest of the world. There is in their eyes, no need to look any further. When you add to that viewpoint the return of a popular former manager and a bit of "whip 'em up" PR at the start of the new season then the world is fine and rosy. All is relatively well in the Barclaycard premiership garden, heck, we could win a trophy and qualify for europe.

"Why all these doom and gloom comments from a bitter minority?" 

I think that often, we can tend to look too deeply into the past glories of the club. In comparison, of course, the present is never going to compare to memories of titles and Cups and electric nights, or of the black and white days of doubles and trophies every season. On the other hand the Ellis view concentrates too little on what has been achieved in the past, and thus settles for a 
comfortable "4 bedroom detached house in the suburbs" type of life, rather than realising that with the right approach, we really could live in a huge and glorious castle set in acres of beautiful landscape -we have, after all, done it before. Not only that but the essential raw material is there, if only it could be correctly mined. By that I mean the huge level of support that could be drawn in, the name, albeit sullied and tarnished, and yes, the tradition of the club. These are for me the real assets of Aston Villa.

Another difficulty with the Ellis approach is that by settling/aiming for comfort, rather than glory, for personal ego-massage and self gain, rather than the wider good of the club, it is all too easy to fall short and end up in an almighty scrap against relegation. A scrap in which the other participants are all better prepared - either by dint of experience, or because they have just been promoted and so know that for the first couple of years they will need to be on their mettle to stop from falling straight back down. 

If you aim much higher than this Ellisian suburban ideal, then you could also fail, but instead of falling down to the level of Bolton and Southampton and the rest, you may end battling for the 4th Champs league place, rather than a UEFA automatic spot.

My disenchantment stems from being utterly convinced that the Ellis "plan" I have guessed at above, and which has been our "plan" for the past 5 or 6 years, has now effectively been overtaken by a revised approach. An approach based solely on the "need to cut costs, to raise the share price, to control wages to revise our previous "profligate" ways". Essentially a paralysing fear of almost everything we cannot completely control, leading to obsessing about the only things we can definitively control - costs.

Apart from the self-paralysis this new approach induces, there is one other major problem. That is that there is no focus at all on the reason we exist at all - the winning of trophies.

It is this complete and irrefutable lack of any aim to win or challenge for any trophies which has led me to give up my season ticket.

All the other things which people tend to cite as their reasons for not going anymore- whether it be "style of football", "too expensive", "lack of entertainment" "I want to stand" or whatever, these are not my reasons, though I understand them.

If we had an honest recognition and acceptance by the club, that "yes, we are in transition at the moment, and we have a plan, upon which you can judge us, to firstly to do this, then that and by the third year to have achieved this, and this is how were going to do it", then I could put up with the current situation, just about. But they don't have a plan. They only go from day to day, hoping to preserve their personal, flabby, cosseted, positions and somehow everyone else will just disappear and they will be hailed as great visionaries and men of history.

I live in the North West, and so maybe have a slightly different perspective on all things VP than people closer to Brum. The reason for this is that the majority of people I talk football to are not fellow Villans, or even Bluenoses or Wolves or Cov or Albion, and therefore aware at least of the latest goings on at VP, but fans of Everton, Liverpool, Man City, Preston and Blackpool and even the odd Man Utd fan, would you believe.

When I listen to what they say about their clubs, their good points and bad, their failures and successes and their views for the coming season, they all, to the very last one, know what the plan is for their club. They can explain how it might happen and what they are going to do. They cannnot accurately predict the future with any certainty, but they can all see what is being aimed for, and where their club wants to be in 2 years time.

Now ask yourself where Villa will be in two years time, and how we will get there and why. Doesn't look too promising does it?

That's why I've jacked it in. I just hope Ellis is gone before the desire to come back leaves me.

I guess, like Naz, Villa are on probation for me too, it's just that I'm not paying Ellis any of my money while he fails it.



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