For some reason I was really gutted about Saturday’s loss to Blackburn. There were, I think, two reasons for this; the first of which was the introduction of Heskey. I wasn’t at the match and I couldn’t get the streaming going, so I was forming opinions on decisions based on intuition, not observable fact. This is always dangerous.
Substituting Delph with Heskey looked brainless to me because I don’t think Heskey is a good footballer. JPA, keefvilla, Scrumpy and others disagree and have said they understand why he was brought on. Moreover, reading the opinions of people at the match I don’t think I’ve seen anyone actually say Heskey played badly.
Today is Saturday and I’m thinking about it more calmly. On the issue of Heskey for Delph I think I have to give O’Neill the benefit of the doubt. This is not to say I’ve changed my mind about Heskey as a footballer. When we bought him he was a journeyman at Wigan and if he and O’Neill hadn’t bivouacked together at Leicester, that’s where he would still be. At Wigan, Heskey had found his level and nothing he has done for Capello will change that.
O’Neill now has Heskey and Harewood (on loan, but still our player) in his squad as strikers. Be still, my beating heart.
The second issue is Reo-Coker and this is not so easily resolved. I’m talking about the indelible traits of character in a man’s profile. If O’Neill is as unforgiving as people say, and if he can brook no dissent then we have, as our manager, something resembling a tyrant.
Young men make mistakes and we should let them have the opportunity to redeem themselves; it’s good for them and it’s good for us.
It is possible, of course, that O’Neill is doing this to Reo-Coker as a result of rigorous self-examination about what he needs to do for the greater good of the player and team. This would reveal O’Neill, not as a tyrant, but as a benevolent manager interested solely in the welfare of Aston Villa. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Well, take your pick. Why is it important? History is littered with the narratives of men of inestimable virtue and achievement who destroyed themselves and their accomplishments through a character flaw. It’s tragedy – Shakespearean tragedy.
If the catalyst for Reo-Coker’s punishment is the deployment of O’Neill’s ego, then I fear we will not win the prize.
Personally, I’ve gone from a man who had faith to a man who, maybe, has spotted a crack in the dam. The answer will be found because the fixtures must be played. The actors cannot loiter in the wings.
I find it riveting drama and am fascinated by it. Is O’Neill heroic or base? That’s the first question. The second is: will this mean anything to Lerner?