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Hats Off to Wembley

Posted by Kirsten

I damn near walked away.

It was half-time and we were down 2-0 to Reading. I had found myself in a pub of people supporting Reading (not Reading supporters, but those just cheering the underdog) and it seemed easier to simply leave than to watch Villa continue to humiliate themselves.

But my non-football-loving friends still had nearly full pints, so instead I took a brisk walk around Spitalfields market. As I paced, I reminded myself that this is just a sporting curse--not the curse of March, but the curse of the teams I support. At times, they completely forget how to play the game at which they are supposedly professionals. In the case of the 2008 Seattle Mariners, half the time I watched just to see how many times they could fall down (this even occurred when they were standing still).

The problem with fandom is that you can't just walk away. Those annoying little gits work their way under your skin and form some sort of tumor. Or quite possibly a rash, which you can stop thinking about for a few minutes if you're distracted by something else, but then the itching comes back and you can't stop yourself from scratching. The point is, I couldn't abandon my Villans, even if their play in the first half was absolutely atrocious. It wasn't the scoreline that bothered me, it was the fact that we looked like we were the lower-league team out there. Perhaps even non-league, considering the number of balls we managed to send over the touchline, or the passes that were sent to no one.

I returned to the pub having convinced myself that I was going nowhere--that I was going to stay and watch these boys flail about the pitch, and accept the fact that MON can't find a win in March. My friends greeted me with, "They scored!' yet of course couldn't tell me who had put the ball in the net. I looked up at the big screen and watched Carew head in a Downing cross. I assumed it was a replay until the scoreline changed--we were level! Seven minutes in and it seemed possible that Villa had killed and buried whichever players they'd sent out for the first half. Suddenly we had speed, we could cross, we could use our heads.

Clearly there'd been no voodoo performed inside the dressing room, because Heskey still couldn't finish the simplest of chances, but even he was in the game, creating space and showing a few spots of decent footwork. The glory belongs to hat-trick Carew, of course, but perhaps my co-author wants to write a love post to him so I'll leave the adulation to Aaron. I was just happy our midfield showed up and remembered how to cross. The defense still wound me up, what with Reading appearing to set up camp in our end for the last thirty minutes (or maybe that's only how it seemed as I dug my fingernails into my palms hard enough to leave welts) but I also have the greatest of expectations for them and when they commit silly errors I find it hard to forgive.

So now it's on to face Chelsea and my hope is that the defense remembers the way we played before our last Wembley trip. Drogba is dangerous but if Hilario's still sitting in goal and with Cole's brokenness, we'll certainly have a chance if we can re-tighten through the back.

UTV! We're going to Wembley! Again!