Aston Villa’s Andy Dufresne moment: Alex McLeish finally gone

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One of the most cataclysmically moronic managerial decisions ever has been corrected. Finally. Less than one year after Randy Lerner looked at the relegation of Aston Villa’s arch rival and decided to pay for their manager, Alex McLeish is out at Villa Park.

No word of an official apology from the owner’s office, which is fine. AVFC’s supporters deserve much more, though it’s difficult to figure out exactly how much.

At the risk of going over old ground, it bares reminding how idiotic this move was. Birmingham City won the League Cup, but they also played the most soul-crushing brand of soccer in the Premier League. The style McLeish infused in the Blues embodied every trite cliché soccer haters spew while extolling the virtues of some of our indefensibly mind-numbing pastimes. It was 11 players trying to collide with the other guy’s 11, and if one of his team’s fear-driven long balls happened to generate a goal, so be it.

Imagine being an Aston Villa fan and having to get with that dross. Whereas at one time Martin O’Neill had Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor exploding into counter attacks, McLeish was using Emile Heskey as a midfielder. The results:

  • 37 goals, fewest in the Premier League;
  • 17 draws, five more than any other club;
  • a -16 goal difference;
  • 16th place;
  • a 10-match winless streak to close the season, with only one win in Villa’s last 17 games;
  • Villa’s worst league finish in six years;
  • the club’s lowest point total in 42 years;
  • an intimate relationship with eternal ennui.

The collateral damage: Premier League fans were treated to 38 more games of horrible, horrible soccer.

Randy Lerner and Villa’s board got what they bought. Unfortunately, they had to bring their supporters into their self-induced nightmare. I can’t remember a fan base as morose as this year’s Villans, and who can blame them? It’s as if Dad came, told you he’s marrying the teacher that clearly hates you, and oh by the way, they already had a new baby that they love so much more than you.

Thankfully, bad Mom is gone, and she that crying brat with her. Villa fans may have had to crawl through 500 yards of foulness we can’t even imagine, but today, they got their Andy Dufresne moment:

(warning, one S-bomb in the following video, so it’s debatably NSFW-y)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SheaMMd8H5g]

Report: Man City, Guardiola to discuss new contract this summer

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Manchester City does not want to let Pep Guardiola start the third year with the club without signing on for longer term.

Guardiola enters the third and final year of his deal in August, and the BBC reports that Man City plans to negotiate a new deal with the Catalan wizard this summer.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given City’s outstanding sophomore season under Guardiola.

Unbeaten City has an 11-point lead on the Premier League table after 18 weeks, with one draw and a PL record 16-straight wins. They have 56 goals scored, conceding just 12.

They’ve won five of six UEFA Champions League matches, only losing a match their opposition needed and they did not, 2-1 to Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. City faces Basel next, and visits Leicester City in the League Cup quarterfinals Wednesday.

Lanzini charged by FA for fooling ref with dive

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Manuel Lanzini dove to earn a penalty in West Ham’s 3-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday at the bet365 Stadium, and he may pay for it.

Lanzini, who also posted an assist in an influential performance, drew the penalty converted by Mark Noble when he hit the deck under minimal contact from Erik Pieters.

[ MORE: Making sense of the PL table ]

He could miss two matches for “successful deception of a match official,” the same penalty given to Everton’s Oumar Niasse for a similar offense.

West Ham pulled out of the drop zone with the win, but has three bottom-half battles coming up over the festive fixtures: Saturday versus Newcastle, Dec. 26 at Bournemouth, and Jan. 2 versus West Brom.

Griezmann backtracks over ‘insensitive’ blackface tweet

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MADRID (AP) Soccer star Antoine Griezmann has apologized for any offense caused after posting an image of himself on social media in blackface as part of an NBA party costume on Sunday.

Griezmann, who is white, was also wearing a wig and holding a basketball in the photo which had “NBA 69 ALLSTARS” on the jersey.

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The photo on his official Twitter account was accompanied by the message “80’s Party” followed by basketball and laughing emojis.

One response called the photo a “bad idea” with others urging the France forward to delete the tweet.

Griezmann at first reacted to the criticism by tweeting: “Calm down friends, I’m a fan of the Harlem Globetrotters and of this great era… It’s a tribute.”

He later tweeted an apology to those he had offended.

“I recognize that’s it’s insensitive on my part. If I offended some people I’m sorry,” he wrote.

The 26-year-old Griezmann plays for Spanish team Atletico Madrid but has been linked to a move to Barcelona.

Alex Morgan named CONCACAF Female POY, Navas wins Male POY

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CONCACAF awarded some of its finest players and coaches on Sunday night, and two familiar faces took home the evening’s most notable awards.

[ MORE: Making sense of table in Man City’s world ]

U.S. Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride) and Keylor Navas of Costa Rica and Real Madrid each earned Female and Male Player of the Year honors, after boasting tremendous 2017 seasons.

Morgan who primarily plays for Orlando in the NWSL, was also a member of Lyon, who went on to win the Women’s Champions League this past season.

Navas, on the other hand, played a key role in Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League run, as well as Los Blancos’ La Liga title.

For Morgan, the award is her third since CONCACAF began handing out its annual awards in 2013. Meanwhile, Navas has now won Male Player of the Year on two occasions.