With Aston Villa’s fortunes more good and less ugly nowadays, MOMS podcast contributor Phil Shaw resurrects ‘The Good, Bad & Ugly’, an old favourite MOMS column that started over seven years ago on the site…
With all of us in the Villaverse still basking in the glow of 7-2 win over Liverpool, the international break saw a number of Villans head off to join up with their national teams with varying degrees of success, while English football declared war on itself.
John McGinn put in three performances for Scotland, including one as captain, that showed he is finally back to his best as he helped inspire his country to one game from the delayed European Championships. As well as the shoot-out win against Israel in the play-off semi-final, Scotland also had a credible victory against the Czech Republic, that left the Scots top of their Nations League Group.
Scotland have shown a remarkable efficiency by winning their last three games with only three shots on target in total.
Douglas Luiz put in the same kind of performances for Brazil in their internationals that he has been putting for Villa since lockdown. His impressive passing stats and no nonsense style, continues to earn him praise in his home country as well as B6. In a 5-0 demolition of Bolivia he completed 88 passes and in his second start against Peru, he put in the kind of crunching tackles that have been missing from many a Brazilian side in their 4-2 win.
Emi Martinez was involved in the Argentina squad that now seems to be a happy place for Lionel Messi after his Barcelona transfer saga. Despite not getting any minutes, training against another great number 10 can only keep his reflexes sharp.
Meanwhile, Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings were involved in England’s three games, with the Villa Captain earning a man of the match award against Wales in his first start. Mings and Captain Jack both landed assists in that match and Mings went on to play an hour of the later defeat to Denmark and didn’t do himself any harm at all in a composed performance against the man advantage.
Of course the week has been dominated by the Premier League’s PR own goals. First PPV football for the matches not covered by any of the football subscriptions, came in at an alarming and misguided £14.95 a game meaning that on top of all your subscriptions it will cost an additional £44.85 to see Villa in October.
If this wasn’t bad enough we then had the farce that was ‘Project Big Picture’. Liverpool, Manchester United and the EFL fronted by ex-Liverpool exec Rick Parry, cooked up a deal to save and restructure the English game. Whilst the money bailout was attractive to the EFL, the tacked on restructure was met with shock and dismay by any rational Football Fan. In exchange for this short-term rescue package, power and core voting rights in the Premier League were given to the ‘Top Six’ clubs. Thankfully, this has been voted down, but it is now clear the objectives of these clubs and it will only be a matter of time before they try something more subtle. It would be foolish to think that these ideas will simply vanish overnight and any supposed victory for common-sense being celebrated online should be a warning to prepare yourself for their next attempt.
In fact, bailout attempts continue to fail as Leagues One and Two have turned down a £50 million rescue package from the Premier League, as the Championship clubs were left out of it.
Some Championship teams like Stoke and Blackburn have seriously rich owners, while other teams like Brentford, Swansea and Bournemouth have received multimillion cash sums for some of their players, while teams lower down the footballing pyramid are struggling to keep the administrators from the door. There is no easy resolution to this problem but clubs that have disposable income pleading poverty is not going to make negotiations go any smoother.
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Conor Hourihane’s Irish side somehow continue to underperform despite the good players they have in the team. Hourihane scored his penalty in the shootout, but they still lost against a Slovakia side to miss out on the chance of an all-Ireland playoff against the North for a place in the Euros.
The England defeat to Denmark was ugly on and off the pitch as Gareth Southgate’s side struggled against the Danes and fell to a 1-0 defeat.
Setting up with a defensive formation designed to strangle the game and leave his front three of Marcus Rashford, a half-fit Harry Kane and Mason Mount to cause the damage always looked like an overly cautious way to approach a home game against a well-drilled unit and so it proved.
After being in control without ever damaging the Danes, Harry Maguire lunged into two ridiculous tackles and got himself sent off. This led to the introduction of Mings but not Captain Jack, much to the online chagrin of the Villa fans and an increasing amount of the football media as England toiled without creativity and drive, things we know that Jack can provide.
Things got uglier in the after match interviews as reporter after reporter asked Southgate about Grealish’s omission. Becoming visibly tetchy, Southgate suggested he needed pace out left and more defensive work-rate, as excuses why he brought on Dominic Calvert-Lewin in an unfamiliar position of left-wing and Jadon Sancho and Jordan Henderson as the other subs in straight swaps. We all know that Jack Grealish is deceptively fast and does put a shift in when playing for Villa at both ends of the pitch, so this just gave Southgate’s critics more ammunition to throw at him. It seems increasingly like the more he is pushed either online or in the media to play Grealish, the more he resists, so the ugly vitriol aimed at Mount and others is becoming more and more counterproductive and tedious.
Ending on a positive, Jack Grealish has returned from the England camp, fresh, with an enhanced reputation, without injury and fired up to face Leicester City at the weekend, which is the main concern of any Villa fan.