The international break has come to a close and league action will return this weekend. As Aston Villa fans, we’ve always got a focus on that return - rarely caring for international action for the most-part when there’s a lot at stake in the league. However, football (and more!) still happened and we should pay some attention to that.
So, here we are - an international round-up for Villa fans with two eyes focused firmly on the return to Championship football this weekend. What went down in the absence of the Villa, and what was worth paying attention to?
And yes - we’re going to start with a team that didn’t feature a Villa player.
England put five goals past the Czech Republic and Montenegro entirely without the help of Jack Grealish, who remains without a cap at senior level for
Ireland England. Raheem Sterling stole the show in both games and effectively responded to racism from the English press and fans of opposition English clubs the home support in Montenegro by cupping his ears and raising hell.
As for Grealish, apparently it’s going to be a hard ask for Gareth Southgate to call him up to the England team when he’s playing in the lowly EFL Championship, which of course this is quite unlike England midfielder Mason Mount (on loan at the Championship’s Derby County). This brings up arguments and it all results in whataboutery from capital L Lads with cropped
dead haircuts on Twitter (all cloned, I believe, from a single source) spouting the name of any random English midfielder in response to anyone questioning England’s avoidance of a Grealish call-up. It’s all been covered - and honestly Jack Grealish can offer something to England. That’s the bottom line.
In the mean-time, it looks like Southgate’s feel-good revolution will continue. Speaking of feeling good...
Republic of Ireland
Conor Hourihane is at it again. Doing the damn thing (free kicks) again. Scoring from that position again. Hourihane’s wand-foot grabbed the headlines (even in the thick of an Irish protest against FAI Chief-Exec John Delaney) and the win as Ireland faced Georgia.
You’ve probably already seen his goal - but here it is again for good measure.
The thing that always seems to surprise me about a Conor Hourihane free-kick goal is the ease with which they seem to find the net. I always think to myself that the goalkeeper should be stopping it, but how can they? Could Bruce Willis single-handedly stop the meteor in Armageddon if didn’t get tooled up by NASA? No. Sometimes humans can’t do things, and that list of things is a long list that now includes ‘stopping a Conor Hourihane free-kick’.
This one? It’s Hourihane’s first for Ireland and it’s so good and so pure. Someone has ground this goal up and snorted it off the top of a banked toilet cistern.
Lovre Kalinic has endured a 2019 to forget so far. After arriving at Aston Villa as the chosen one, the goalkeeper who would rectify all of our goalkeeping issues, he now looks like he has buttered spanners for hands and is often unfairly caught out. There are now a number of situations where he’s just been done by a cross or a shot, and can do nothing more than hold his head in his hands. It’s been rough.
And it’s not getting better. Kalinic took the brunt of the criticism as Croatia were slapped by Hungary. Adam Szalai snuck a shot past Kalinic and Mate Patkai took advantage when the keeper got lost during a routine corner.
The worst thing for Kalinic is that he has lost his position at Villa, and until Jed Steer drops the ball, he’s going to be second choice.
John McGinn joins the list of woes as his club form completely bottomed out at international level, with the midfielder coming in for a hunk of stick as Scotland fell to Kazakhstan and failed to impress against San Marino.
Scotland fans pointed fingers at McGinn - and couldn’t quite believe the reports coming in from Villa fans; while Villa fans couldn’t believe the reports coming from Scotland fans.
However, it’s not just McGinn - Scotland aren’t looking great at all. Right now, it’s pretty grim for Scotland - with the spirit of the Scottish game looking for hope in the bottom of a bottle of Buckfast while the approaching spectre of David Moyes is looking more and more attractive within the gaze of woozy booze-soaked eyes. Is that the high bar?