So the plan to make use of the CL free winter weeks to boost our position in the table without any distraction from those pesky European superpowers didn’t, thanks to the snow, get off to the best of starts. The Blackpool postponement may lead to an unwanted midweek fixture later in the season but on the other hand, Man City got turned over and none of the other teams above us played either so it’s not all bad.

The weather and everything else looks set fair for the coming weekend and our post-turkey leftovers game away to Villa on Sunday evening.

The current reflex reaction to an impending trip to Villa Park is likely to be an optimistic one given their league position (15th) and general aura of youthful directionless transition. The names on everyone’s lips are those of Clark, Delfouneso, Albrighton and Bannon whilst the likes of Ashley Young and Agbonlahor are thought of as veterans and Carew, Friedel, Luke Young and Dunne conjure up images of zimmer frames and dressing gowns. It’s all relative of course; for Pires read old man Steptoe.

The home fans’ faith in the manager has been shaken by Houllier’s rather eccentric behaviour at Anfield before and after the recent 3-0 loss. Given that he can’t be trusted to try and win the game he clearly should be given time off next time they play Liverpool. ‘Monsieur Houllier’s Holiday’, almost a French comedy classic though without as much slapstick and as many misunderstandings as ‘Carry On Gerard’.

One thing that playing kids will guarantee you is energy and Villa showed plenty of that when we played them at WHL in October. They spent a lot of time hacking at the heels of Bale and Modric in that game but they also played well for periods and were beaten in the end by a couple of pieces of VdV opportunism after knock downs from Crouchy. They’ve suffered only one defeat at home and that was a 4-2 loss they nearly pulled back from the gooners grasp after going 2-0 and 3-1 down. They also came closer than anyone this season to inflicting a league defeat on Man Utd, drawing after being 2-0 up with ten mins to go.

Martin Atkinson is the ref; we had him recently for the game against Liverpool. Plus he saw us get gubbed by West Ham earlier in the year.

For us, there’s been some good news from the treatment room this week surrounding Woodgate and O’Hara in addition to the reports that Van der Vaart is ready to return to the side. He’s sorely needed as we’ve struggled to convert much good work into goals in the last few weeks. Something or someone to bring the best out of Defoe is desperately needed and it’d be very handy if it turned out to be VdV. Fitness and who’s been able to train adequately will largely determine the line-up.

With four games in eleven days to come, those who don’t get a chance on Sunday to run off their christmas pudding will surely get one very soon.

The usual caveats apply, i.e. we need to start at a good tempo, not make silly mistakes at the back and take our chances up front but given our form and confidence we have every opportunity to begin the Christmas programme with three points and edge a bit nearer the top four. COYS.


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