Harty - Villa: When the Premier League dream can go wrong

After the international break, the Albion return to Championship action with the much-anticipated visit of Aston Villa to the Amex.

Albion's Gaetan Bong in action earlier this season. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Albion's Gaetan Bong in action earlier this season. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Due to live TV coverage, the game has been moved to Friday night although, at the time of going to press, the Albion’s excellent current league form and the box office attraction of former European champions Villa, the game looks like it could be watched by the biggest Amex crowd of the season (not quite a total sell-out, so the ticket office is still open).

Villa’s current situation typifies when the Premier League ‘dream’ can go wrong.

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Foreign owners who perhaps have a misconception of British sport, i.e; unlike America there is the prospect of relegation, a history of bad managerial appointments and the resulting player recruitment that follows, the club now finds itself in a position many other ‘sleeping giants’ have found themselves in before.

On a positive note, while Roberto Di Matteo was probably unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time, Villa have made a great appointment in Steve Bruce and Friday also sees the welcome return of former Albion favourite Tommy Elphick to the Amex.

Tommy’s one of those players who the overwhelming majority of Albion fans wished had never left the club. Unfortunately, it is a game of opinions and at the time it was Gus Poyet’s option that he was surplus to requirements.

Clearly his tenure in the Premier League with Bournemouth is testament to the fact that Poyet wasn’t the first manager to get it wrong. Obviously, Tommy has strong local connections with brother Gary the joint manager at Worthing, and he himself is involved with the Centre of Excellence at Woodside Road.

I can remember him very kindly coming to Worthing Pavilion, some ten years ago, along with then Albion team-mate Tommy Fraser, to be the guests at the annual Worthing Dynamos presentation evening.

Back then he was a top young man, nothing’s changed apart from the colour of the shirt and hopefully there’s still time for that to be blue and white again before his career finishes.

But unfortunately that’s where the pleasantries end as I’m hoping that Tommy’s return will not bear fruit and the Albion will come away with all three points.

n On my visit to Miami last week I was looking forward to taking in some sightseeing, specifically visiting the legendary 5th Street Boxing Gym where Angelo Dundee trained Muhammad Ali throughout his career.

While the Yanks are big on their history, sadly on this occasion it was not the case.

The sight of Dundee’s gym, where the Beatles were famously pictured with Ali in 1964, is now a CVS drug store.

There is a small plaque outside depicting Ali in all his glory but I have to say I was certainly disappointed one of the most iconic boxing buildings in the world hasn’t been preserved as a sporting monument or sporting attraction.

Founded by the Dundee family in 1950, it was torn down in 1992, 11 years after Ali’s career had finished – but arguably by then, he was rightly looked upon as one of the greatest sportsmen the world has seen. Clearly, 24 years ago, money won the day over history.

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