1. Hello, I Think I Remember You
Eagle eyed readers will note that the H List has been updated much less frequently of late. The non observant types will hardly have seen any discernible difference to the normal output, as we have been producing articles with Halleys Comet like regularity since the turn of the year.
There are two reasons for our lethargy. Firstly, The Boleyn Beluga has been celebrating his 30th birthday. I use the past tense as the big day was actually in March. He has therefore been "celebrating" like a Roman Emperor with a month long parade of orgies, games and grapes.
Secondly, Mrs Shark delivered Miss Shark Junior Mk III a week ago. In the lead up to this momentous event she did what all expectant mothers do - she had me dig up and relay our back lawn. She was even kind enough to lay on 10 cubic metres of soil for me to shovel and wheelbarrow from the front of my house to the back. All of which took a piffling four days.
Why am I telling you this, you ask? Mostly because I need to explain to you why there was no report for the 90 minute shitefest that was our performance at tottenham. And there you have it - I was shovelling dirt. And it was better than watching the game.
Short version - this will be a truncated H List.
2. When Finishing 7th Was Suddenly Like Winning
Due to the strange machinations of the English league and Cup system, we could finish 7th this year and qualify for the newly created Europa League. This will replace the much maligned UEFA Cup, although not in any way that could be considered "good". It has more games, no prize money and exists solely to add comfort to those clubs who bow out of the Champions League early in the piece. (I swear to God that I write stuff like this and wonder why on earth we accept the ridiculous structure of European football, simply so that we can maintain the status quo for the odious G14. There is a revolution coming my friends...).
Anyway, we have been clinging on grimly to 7th spot for a while, although our mounting injury list is making this a task of great difficulty. There has been quite some debate around whether our pursuit of a European adventure is even a worthwhile activity given that we are now operating with a squad of 8 plus the children of the coaching staff, and are therefore unlikely to be able to muster any kind of European run without seriously compromising our league position. A sound example of this would be Villa themselves who sacrificed the UEFA Cup in pursuit of the Champions League this year, only to find themselves shunted aside by the bigger boys at the end of the season. Still, if you will concede goals to Diego Tristan you can't complain too much.
3. Diego Tristan Sighting!
With only a few minutes remaining of this match Kieron Dyer attempted a volley from the edge of the box. Perhaps stunned by the sight of a non incubated Dyer, the Villa defence didn't mark the remains of Diego Tristan who was able to cleverly redirect the shot into the net using just his head and a Faustian pact.
I have no doubt that prolonged exposure to Diego Tristan is likely to be curtains for my respiratory system, and the death knell for our European ambitions, but I suppose that in the context of our current injury crisis he's doing a fairly passable job in the circumstances. That said, I'm still pretty sure that he only exists to make me think that David di Michele isn't that bad.
4. Formation Blues
I see we're still persisting with the notion of playing all of our players totally out of position. Intriguingly, I would say that Lucas Neill turned in his best performance of the year here, combining a barnstorming captains display with a prolonged bout of kicking the odious Ashley Young as well. He did all of this from central midfield, although he was switched to right back when Collins hobbled off. As far as central midfielders go Lucas Neill makes a decent full back but anyway - Bravo!
5. Them Kids
Good to see Junior Stanislas burst straight through the middle of Villa's defence early on. Less good to see him channel the spirit of Franz Carr and blaze it wide when all Newtonian Laws seemed to suggest that was fairly impossible. I like the look of Stanislas - with some seasoning and a bit more bulk I can see him as an impactful sort.
Elsewhere James Tomkins denied John Carew late in the game by scooping the ball away with his hands. My immediate thought is that the beginning of that action had to have been accidental because, frankly, what professional footballer sees a striker run through and thinks to himself "I'll just grab the ball with my hands". ? No matter how partisan you are, that would have to be a strange thought process.
Still - he definitely handled and it certainly should have been a penalty. Hurray for brazenness and poor refereeing sightlines, and don't do it again.
6. The Case For The Defence
I'd love to be able to dissect for you the Aston Villa goal, but frankly I cannot comment on a defensive alignment that I have never seen before. Namely - a set up that allowed Heskey to meander unmolested through our penalty area to score from all of 5 yards out. We resembled less a professional football team and more a random collection of electrons at that point.
Kudos to Robert Green for a marvellous save from Heskey in the second half. Of course, he might very well be of the same opinion as me, which is that if you allow Emile Heskey to score twice past you in the same game then you should kill yourself. So he would have had strong motivation.
7. I See Your Smoke, But Where Are The Mirrors?
Really and truly, what more is left to say about our management team that hasn't already been articulated elsewhere? Consider the paper thin nature of this team, and yet by the end of the game I was disappointed that we hadn't won. And this against a Villa side who have been excellent, if lucky, for much of the season.
I see that strike force and wonder how on earth we ever score a goal, I see the midfield and wonder how we don't get prosecuted under the Trades Description Act, and I look at the defence and frequently think "You're going to be busy today chaps". And yet there we are in 7th.
Look, it's not even one full season, and it's easy to be suckered in by a good start (see Roeder, G) but I can't help but admire Zola's persistence in his belief about the way we should play, and I love the discipline that is so evident in our game since Clarke's arrival. Sure, they might disappear off to Chelsea in a couple of years, but in order to get there they will have to achieve success here first. One cannot happen without the other, so I suggest ditching the petty refusal to accept Zola, and instead savour a West Ham side playing attractive football. It's been quite some time folks ...