The Doc's Diagnosis: Mild depression

I woke up and it all looked good. The sun shining, a contract or two in my back pocket, and not the merest whiff of a hangover. And then I got thinking.

It isn't beyond the realms of possibility that Everton will beat Wigan at Goodison this weekend, or that Villa will lose at Old Trafford. In fact, if you were a betting man, the odds on that double would not exactly make your mouth water. That will leave Everton a point behind Villa.

Now I'm normally a writer with a tendency to irritate readers with my desperate optimism. But even I look at this, expect us to lose at home to the Toffees, accept that we will finish sixth again, look forward with only the most half-hearted anticipation to the UEFA Cup (or the Europa Also-rans League or whatever it's going to be called) and feel like giving up.

You see, Gareth Barry and Ashley Young will leave if we finish sixth. Both have the quality to play Champions League football and to play for top sides here in the EPL or further afield. It wouldn't be disloyalty if they left, it would be lucrative common sense for them, and decent money for Villa. And then Villa would be able to go out and spend that money on lots more Marlon Harewoods and Steve Sidwells, players whom are just about good enough to cement our top six position and put up a decent show in the frankly bloody tiresome Eurovision Mid-table Trophy.

Martin O'Neill will continue to send out well-drilled, hard working sides, based on British players with fire in their belly and a bit of talent to boot. They'll huff and puff their way to 5th or 6th each season, battling hard with Everton and Spurs for the honour of being the nearest challenger to the Big 4. And most of it will be pretty good. We'll take some surprise points off one or two of the big four each season, and we'll have the odd celebrity visit from one of Europe's top sides who, by way of aberration, have slipped and ballsed up their Champions League campaign. Who knows, maybe we'll even turn them over.

The thing that's depressed me is this: I had a bit of a "Sliding Doors" moment.

I reckon if we had shut the door on Stoke, instead of leaving it wide open ... if Gabby had put that chance away for 3-0, like my 7-year-old son would have done, everything would have turned out differently.

Villa would have scraped fourth place, and made it to the full group stages of the Champions League. Barry and Young would have stayed and flourished, joined by a handful of seriously high-quality players lured by Europe's big stage. Randy would have knocked down the North Stand, and built a superb "second Holte End", taking the capacity to 50,000 and filling it every week.

My god, it would have been great.

But we left the door open, didn't we. So it's Heskey and Knight for us, and maybe we can look forward to Latex Lovelace again, or whatever their name is. Great.

I'm off to Blockbuster now. It is called "Sliding Doors", isn't it?