When I was growing up, I was a pretty easy child to handle. I read a lot of books, would watch the nightly news with my grandparents every night, and followed the rules. And in school, I always worked to be near the top of my class. The way I saw it, I didn't have much choice. I wanted to go to college, and I was going to need to be good in school to get there. It was pretty simple.
But I wasn't perfect. I wasn't a 4.0 student or anything like that. Occasionally, I brought home a report card that had an A- or a B on it. That didn't happen all the time, but often enough for my parents to get upset. I would tell them that "Hey, an A- (or a B) is above average still! I'm still doing better than most, and my GPA is still over 3.5. Why are you complaining?"
And their usual response was, "But we know you can get the 4.0, or the A. We've watched you, and you were just not putting enough effort into your classes." You know what? They were probably right, but I never really understood their side of the argument. That is until I watched this Aston Villa team.
If you haven't heard already, England beat Wales 2-0 in Euro 2012 qualifying this weekend. You can find a recap here. But I'm not really concerned with the match as a whole. It'd be great if some of Aston Villa's players got European playing time, but at this point, England is pretty much guaranteed entry into the competition (barring some unforeseen collapse).
No, what I'm more interested in is the second goal. The Guardian actually does a nice job of breaking it down here, and you can watch video of it here. If you click on neither of those, to put it succinctly, Ashley Young got free up the right side ran with a ball into the box, and sent a lovely little cross to Darren Bent who hammered it home for the goal. It was an absolutely gorgeous bit of play, and it shows that despite losing Rooney for their June match, England are just fine on the attack.
But from a Villa fan's perspective it was agonizing to watch. Go look at that video again. In it you will see Ashley Young moving around freely (and intelligently!) in space and giving a crisp pass to Bent who finishes cleanly. It wasn't the first time the duo have looked brilliant while playing for the England either. If they can do it for the three lions, why can't they do it for the prepared lion?
If you combine these flashes with what we've seen from the team in league play (Manchester United, rd. 1 and Manchester City, rd. 2 among others) you know that Aston Villa are capable of playing good soccer. If the team were bad and we knew it, we'd all probably be in a much happier place. I doubt there'd be calls for Houllier's head, or such great despair. When you've resigned yourself to something bad, the good is just a nice treat. When you know that the good is what the team is capable of, the bad is agonizing.
So that's what we have with Aston Villa. They're a team capable of pulling straight A's. They may not be 4.0 material, but they're really close. Unfortunately, they aren't doing it, and they're not doing it with B's either. Nope, this is a team who seems more than happy to bring home a report card with a D. And that lost potential, more than any other reason, is why this team is so endlessly frustrating.