Writer: J P Fear
Date:Thursday December 14 2006
1) So how has your season been so far?
OK but could have been better. We’ve had some great results but went on a little run when we played OK but didn’t get many points. I think we’re over that blip now and we look like we’re starting to motor again. Considering how many points we dropped, to still be in the top 6 at the moment says a lot about the way the league is going this season.
2) Realistically, what do you expect Bolton to achieve this season and into the future?
I think we can challenge for the UEFA Cup each year. We’ve had a taste and we want more. We’re the only team outside the ‘big four’ that has finished in the top 8 in the last three seasons. That means we’ve hit a level of consistency. Given a season when some of the top teams are underperforming then it’s not too far from reality to imagine the fourth Champions League spot being ours. I would say that this season’s target is top 6 and a UEFA Cup place and if we can sneak a CL spot, then we’ll have it.
3) Is Big Sam the man to take you forward and more importantly, do you think he will stick around, some press have suggested he has taken Bolton as far as he can and that he'd like a change.
Where would he go? Outside of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, Bolton can match any side. He has the support of the Chairman (Phil Gartside) and owner (Bolton-born Eddie Davies) and can do basically what he likes within certain financial limits. Unless Steve McClaren makes a hash of the England job (and let’s face it, he might), Sam isn’t going to get his hands on the national side. Let’s not forget that he turned down the Newcastle job the other year because of unfinished business with the Wanderers. He’s in a job for life at Bolton. The purchase of Nicolas Anelka for £8M was an important pointer to the future of the club. There will be money made available but he’ll have to spend it wisely.
Sam is definitely capable of taking Bolton to the next step. The backroom staff at the club is the biggest in England. No stone is left unturned in the search to get an extra 10% out of the players. He has a very scientific approach to preparation. Look at last years’ UEFA Cup run. With a tiny squad, we were never outside of the top 6 while we were still in the cup. Look at this year’s UEFA Cup teams – West Ham, Newcastle, Blackburn and Spurs. Spurs have got huge resources and they’re still only 9th. The other three teams are all near the bottom end of the league.
Unless one of the big four teams come knocking or the England job becomes available again, Sam’s going nowhere.
4) What is your impression of Aston Villa?
Until a couple of years ago, I would have said that Villa were a side trading on past glories. Villa fans always used to suffer from Big Club Syndrome – the feeling that they deserve success because they’ve got a decent fan base and have won trophies in the past. Yet in the last few seasons, reality seems to have hit most of the Villa fans that I know. Under O’Leary, Villa fans seemed resigned to mediocrity. Even the Ellis-Out protests seemed a little half-hearted.
Now there seems to be much more of a buzz about the place. There’s the Lerner millions and you now have a good coach. I don’t think you’ll catch the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea in the near future but you should be more consistent than under O’Leary.
It should be a more optimistic time for all you Villa fans.
5) What do you think of Martin O'Neill?
O’Neil has obviously created a lot of interest and re-ignited interest among the fans. He’s stopped the silly losses and made you harder to beat. I’m just not sure if he can help this present side to start winning games. There are just too many draws at the moment. If he can turn some of those draws into wins, then I can see Villa doing OK. It all depends on Randy Lerner’s expectations. Money isn’t everything is it or Juan Pablo Angel would be a superstar! It depends if the new owner will be happy with UEFA Cup and solid league form. If he wants Champions League football, O’Neil could be in for a rough time. He’s also fairly unproven when it comes to buying expensive players. The next two transfer windows will be key to assessing Martin O’Neil’s true worth as a manager.
On a personal front, he’s obviously as mad as a hatter and gives good entertainment when interviewed. For that, we should be truly grateful.
6) Which Villa player do you fear the most for this weekends game?
Agbonlahor seems to have been playing well. He looks fast and energetic. Big Sam might be tempted to play Ricardo Gardner, who’s only just back from 7 months out, to combat his pace. So I’d say the young lad would be the one player we’d be looking out for.
Other than that I know that Sam is a huge admirer of Gareth Barry and if he had become England manager, Barry would have collected lots more caps.
7) Which Bolton player should Villa fear the most?
Well, the front three of Diouf, Anelka and Davies have been playing well. Dioufy’s suspended for the game on Saturday and he’s been our best player this season. I’d go for Nicolas Anelka. In lots of games this season, he’s worked his socks off playing hard for the team. We haven’t seen him sulking at all – far from it. He seems happy with his football and there was a rumour of a smile on his face against West Ham. The lad can play. He can score tap-ins and superb efforts like the one against Arsenal. It has taken time but I think that the team have worked out how to play with him and he’s worked out how to play with the team.
If we can get the ball to him in his preferred positions, then Anelka can really stretch your backline.
8) Do these pathetic kick off times drive you as mad as they do me?
Normally, yes. But we’ve won all our 5.15 p.m. kick-offs this season so I’m not complaining too much at the moment.
9) What is your prediction for the game?
Bolton – Villa games in recent seasons have mostly produced draws. This will be a very close game. I’ll guess at 1-1 but it might be 1-0 to either side.
With thanks to Geruish From Vital Bolton
Date:Thursday December 14 2006
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