Like many other Villa fans, I am currently engrossed in the World Cup. I have barely missed a kick so far and, apart from England losing to Italy, it has been superb.
Wearing my Aston Villa hat, the highlight of the first round was the colossal performance of our club captain Ron Vlaar for the Netherlands in the 5-1 thumping of World Cup holders Spain. It sounds strange to be praising a defender in a 5-1 victory but those of you who watched the game will know that Vlaar really was at his imposing best. ‘Concrete Ron’ made three very impressive tackles in the first half and it was fantastic to see one of our own shining on the world stage. Let’s just hope that Louis Van Gaal has his eyes on other defenders to take with him to Manchester United or that he had his eyes closed throughout the game!
Yesterday, I tuned in to the Belgium game, looking forward to seeing the tournament’s dark horses in action. Belgium boast an array of Premier League players but there was something missing from the game and I couldn’t quite enjoy it. That wasn’t because it was a poor game but due to Christian Benteke not being involved. Belgium certainly missed his presence until Fellaini came into the game and I was missing him as well.
There are many top players not taking part in this year’s World Cup due to injury. Reus, Ribery and Strootman are all big losses but, for me, nothing is worse than Benteke not playing a part. I would have loved to see him going up against the best defences in the world and I really think he would have shone. If he had done well, we may well have lost him this summer but if he’d proved himself against the best I wouldn’t have held it against him. Even if it meant losing him, I wanted him to be there doing well for the Belgians. He would have been representing his country but he would also have been representing Aston Villa Football Club. Luckily for Benteke, he should have other World Cups in front of him. I hope that in four years’ time I am watching him as an Aston Villa player in Russia but, even if he’s no longer a Villan, I will be behind him. I just hope the England players don’t face him.
I love to see our own playing in the World Cup. Over the years, I have enjoyed seeing the likes of Olof Mellberg, Darius Vassell and even Alpay take to the world stage. In 1994, I remember marvelling at the fact that we had Staunton, McGrath, Townsend and Houghton playing for Ireland against Italy. I was only nine years old and had never really seen any Aston Villa players playing for their countries, let alone playing in the USA against Italy. To top it off, Ray Houghton even scored.
Twenty years later, I still want to root for our players on the world stage. I was dying for a glimpse of Senderos for Switzerland the other day and, as much as I like Tim Howard, I can’t help wishing he had retired from international football as I want to see Brad Guzan between the sticks for his country.
During the World Cup, I even enjoy watching our old players in action. In 2006, I was questioning why Hitzlsperger didn’t get more minutes for Germany. I enjoy the fact that while he’s playing for England I can support James Milner again. Although he featured only briefly for Villa, I thought I might get to see Jean II Makoun in action for Cameroon against Mexico on day two so that another Villa connection could be ticked off my World Cup checklist.
Aston Villa never really leaves me: the club even influences the World Cup for me in a way. I support England but, when it doesn’t affect the three lions, I am supporting Aston Villa players past and present, willing them to do well.
Is anyone else like me? Do Villa players enter your thoughts during the World Cup? Feel free to comment below.