Of course, the Aston Villa manager could be just kidding himself when he hints at the talismanic quality of his profligate striker, who has taken the old maxim about having to miss 'em to score 'em to absurd lengths. While there is an obvious need to sustain the player's reputation - as a quality player that is - for selling purposes, there is some truth in the nice things that Little frequently finds necessary to say in defence of his pounds 3.5m signing.
His ability to retain possession when the ball is played up to him is indeed a handy asset and his excellent technique was there for all to see when he dissected the Southampton defence with a pass of great precision and perception in the build-up to Andy Townsend's winning goal. Also, with a curling left-footer from 25 yards he induced the save of the match from Dave Beasant, who was displaying an invincibility we have not seen since his Wimbledon days. But the fact remains that a striker is not doing his job if he does not score goals. Villa's next six games, somewhat dauntingly, are against their six closest rivals and one felt that Little had Milosevic principally in mind when he remarked: "Then we'll find out how good we are."
As for Southampton, they are a lot better than their five consecutive League defeats would indicate. Since hitting Manchester United for six in October they seem to have lost the knack, though their movement going forwards is often still fluent and incisive. If Milosevic thinks he has got problems he should spare a thought for poor Gordon Watson, the Southampton striker suffering the ignominy of being substituted by a central defender when his side were still chasing the game.
His failure to finish off two excellent chances in the opening six minutes left Graeme Souness to reflect: "We still lack a little bit of streetwise. That's something we've got to get - and quickly. We need aggression and to show some teeth, especially at home."
Souness confidently predicted the arrival of two new players at The Dell in the near future - one forward, one defender - and though he declined to say where from, whispered discussions in the corridor before kick-off with an Italian-sounding gentleman could be a clue. One thing is for sure, with Souness's budget they will not be from the upper echelons of Serie A - nor Yugoslavia if he has any sense.
Goal: Townsend (34) 0-1.
Southampton (3-5-2): Beasant; Van Gobbel, Maddison (Magilton, 57), Dryden; Oakley, Dodd, Potter (Slater, 50), Lundekvam, Berkovitch; Ostenstad, Watson (Monkou, 76). Substitutes not used: Basham, Moss (gk).
Aston Villa (3-5-2): Oakes; Ehiogu, Staunton, Scimeca; Nelson, Taylor, Draper, Townsend, Wright; Milosevic, Yorke (Joachim, 76). Substitutes not used: Hendrie, Tiler, Curcic, Brock (gk).
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley). Bookings: Southampton: Van Gobbel. Villa: Taylor, Staunton, Milosevic, Draper.
Man of the match: Beasant. Attendance: 15,232.Reuse content