Martin O’Neill should have been the England manager who guided the team into Euro 2008. He wasn’t, and he says he won’t be the next one either. Which is looking a more and more depressing prospect for England fans as his Aston Villa team look more and more like the best of the rest (the best Premier League team outside the top four). A week or so ago that would have been thought to be Blackburn; not now, though, they failed to beat Fulham at the weekend and then lost 4-0 (yes, four) at home to Villa last night. Even so, Rovers boss Sparky Hughes is not so sure it was a sign of a gulf between the two teams.
“We have been beaten 4-0 but no way was there four goals between the teams. For the first 30 minutes we were totally in control of the game. The turning point was the penalty. It was a penalty but why the referee sent him off, you’ll have to ask him that.”
But let’s not dwell on Blackburn, let’s look at Villa’s fourth win in a row and their boss, who was rather pleased and as always far more honest than your average manager.
“It has been a terrific effort in the last few weeks. I think the game was closer than the scoreline suggests but I think we defended very strongly and Gareth Barry is back to his very, very best. I was concerned about the game beforehand. That was our game in hand and we have won it.”
Admitting his worries? Getting the best out of Gareth Barry? Winning games? Steve McClaren can only dream of being this good.