Soap: work in progress

All in all, it was a decent day out. Pete Sixsmith enjoyed the pleasures of Lichfield – pork scratchings and Pedigree – and the sunshine of the Midlands in late summer. Even the disappointment of defeat at Villa Park failed to usher in clouds of despair. It was a good performance against a team on the rise…….

Aston Villa are clearly flavour of the month as far as the national media are concerned. They are seen as a possible contender for the top four, have a manager who is good copy and are within two hours of London.

That might explain why everything I have read in the national press and seen and heard on TV and radio has been geared towards Villa and how effective they were and how Young, Agbonlahor and Davies should be in Capello’s next squad for the games against Kazakhstan and Belarus.

But not much about us and how we gave them a hard game! They had to work for 90 minutes and were never in complete control against a side who appear to be being shrugged off by the media as a middle of the table, there to make up the numbers team..

I suppose that’s progress and maybe we could do with a little time out of the media spotlight – although with Keano that’s quite difficult. Like O’Neill he is good copy and both have taken after their mentor Brian Clough in keeping newspapermen guessing.

Well, I thought we did well on Saturday. Maybe not quite enough for a point (remember, the Sixer’s Sevens are done as I am leaving the ground and there isn’t a lot of time for reflection), but we actually played better than we did in our win last season.

The side is better balanced and plays more football. There are still areas to improve but there are clear signs that the new players are gelling and beginning to look like a respectable Premier League side.

The back four was never dominated by Villa’s impressive front three although they had to work hard to keep them down. Gordon hardly had a save to make, which shows that the guys in front of him were doing their job well enough.

The midfield still needs to get control early on and without Tainio we don’t do that. Miller was disappointing and yet again gave away a needless free kick which resulted in the equaliser. He looks a decent Championship player but struggles at this level. Reid is a much better player, but I can see what Keane is thinking of in away games: “Keep it tight, release the ball quickly and get up there and support Cisse.”

It worked for 20 minutes and we scored a cracking goal, but once they equalised, Petrov got hold of the game and his drive and elegance on the ball were superior to that of Richardson and Malbranque.

Chopra or Healy may have been better choices than Murphy when we tried to give Cisse some support in the second half. He must be eagerly awaiting the return of Kenwyne Jones so that he will have someone who can hold the ball up for him and flick it onto him. He took his goal really well. Great piece about him in Saturday’s Guardian – he seems an interesting guy, although I don’t think I’ll be emulating his gold lame underpants!

Finally, a plug for Lichfield. I’m really keen on mooching around medium sized English towns. My favourite is Skipton, followed by Lancaster because they are in the North and I share the great John Shuttleworth’s view that it’s nice up North.

But if I had to re-locate to the Midlands, Lichfield would be a great choice. Good shops and cafes and a gem of a pub called the Queen’s Head which dispenses a fine pint of Pedigree, guest beers like Bonkers Conkers and the finest pork scratchings known to man.

Paul Dobson found a beauty in his packet – about the size of a large marble and covered in hair. It was so gross that it could not be eaten but has gone down in SAFC folklore as the scratching that needed a Brazilian – and I don’t mean Emerson Thome!

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