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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

An Interview With A Stoke Fan

Stoke up next for us Villans, so we got the vibe from Vital Stoke and they aren't lacking confidence! Some interesting comments about our future aswell.

With thanks to Lloyd.

1) What are you expecting from the season?

At the start of the season it was definitely survival. We had a poor end to last season and with only a few days to go of the transfer window, we hadn't really strengthened and therefore I thought we were going to struggle but TP pulled it out of the bag once again late in the window with the additions of Nzonzi and Adam. Obviously we still have to aim for survival first and foremost but I think a top 10 finish is within our grasps.

2) Were there any highlights or lowlights from your pre season?

I say our first tour to America was a real highlight of pre season, With our links in America now, I can see this becoming the norm for our pre season and I can see us bringing in more talent from America, especially after the success of Geoff Cameron. Maybe a lowlight was the fact that we didn't get our signings in earlier enough to allow them to adapt in pre season and left them to the last minute again.

3) How do you feel your club did in the transfer window?

Personally thought we did very well in the whole. Obviously TP has made his customary pointless signing in Maurice Edu, who just isn't good enough & also brought him his usual sicknote in the form of Jamie Ness & Michael Owen, but the additions of Michael Kightly, Geoff Cameron, Steven Nzonzi & Charlie Adam have been top notch and have helped us to tweak our style this season.

4) Has anybody left who you think has seriously weakened the team?

Not many people left in the summer, which is a norm at the club, we always have too big of a squad at the club, but club legend Ricardo Fuller left, and well he wasn't at his peak, but you could always guarantee a bit of magic from the Jamaican. He was a game changer, and with Pulis' philosophy we don't have many of them in our squad, so at times we do struggle to create goal scoring opportunities, and Ric could create those on his own with his flair.

5) Who is going to be your main dangerman when we play?

If Peter Crouch isn't fit it could well be Kenwyne Jones. I'm not Kenwyne's biggest fan as I believe he is just far to lazy and just doesn't run the line well enough, but recently we have started to see a bit of the form we saw from him when we first purchased the striker. He is still being lazy but he seems to be having numerous 10 minute spells in games where he just decides that he is unplayable and we look so dangerous with his linking ability. He brings in other players to the game so well, most noticeable the wingers. I just wish we could get a full bloody 90 minutes from him, but if we did that consistently then he wouldn't be wearing a stoke top, he would be in living the high life at one of the big European teams.

Also look out for the calmness and creativity of Steven Nzonzi. That lad is as composed as Beethoven and can spot and make a pass anywhere on the field.

6) What are your weaknesses, any clues for the game will be appreciated :-)

I'd say our weakness is the fact we don't score enough goals, especially away from home, but we have seemed to get away with it a bit this season seeing how strong our defence has been. We don't score enough goals because we don't create enough chances, and this is mostly down to the way we feed Peter Crouch. Yeah he is a 7ft striker, but he loves the ball at his feet and we don't do it enough. Yeah we smack the ball up to him and he will win every header but we don't get anywhere close to being near to him. Charlie Adam has been asked to shadow him through a game but he just isn't mobile enough to play the number 10 role. It will be likely that Walters or Crouch will come in for Adam this weekend anyway with him being suspended. So it could be Crouch & Jones/ Jones & Walters/ Crouch & Walters up top which could work a lot better.

7) Will you have anyone out who would otherwise play?

Marc Wilson is a long term injury whilst Andy Wilkinson will continue to be out I think, he may well make the bench but Ryan Shotton will continue to deputise at Right back with Cameron moving over to the left.

As noted before Charlie Adam is suspended. I expect Cameron Jerome to be fit enough for a place on the bench. It will be touch and go with Crouch and Owen will continue to sit out and grow his moustache.

Now with a slightly more Claret and Blue angle...

8) Are you surprised to see how Villa struggled last season and do you think we will again this time round?


No I wasn't. Soon as your owner made the very odd decision to appoint your arch nemesis' manager, who had just relegated them, I knew you would struggle. The fans clearly didn't want it and found it extremely hard to get behind the manager and the season was always going be long and hard. You were lucky to escape relegation.

I see this season as a transitional season, and you will probably struggle for results, but in the end stay up. This season is more about the development of players and squad than a high PL position.

9) Do you have any thoughts on Paul Lambert?

I've always thought Lambert has been a good manager. He has done it the right way, building himself up from the lower leagues and gaining experience along the way. He did absolute wonders at Norwich with the squad he had, and got the best out of a lot of players whilst at Carrow Road. I think if he is given time at Villa Park, he will do extremely well and once again force Villa up the league and be challenging for European places.

10) What have you made of our youth promotions last/this season, anybody caught the eye for you?

I'm somewhat envious of your youth system at Villa Park, to put it blunt Stoke don't have one that is good enough at the moment to really bring anyone through, but we are working hard off the field to get that sorted and will soon have an amazing complex to nurture our youth through.

I dunno, but maybe you just haven't got the right blend of youth and experience yet, but most of your first team squad are going to go on to big things, and I bet you hope it will be at your club, rather than the 'bigger' boys in the league.

I've always liked the look of Marc Albrighton but he doesn't seem to get much of a game nowadays. I think Baker looks an amazing prospect along with Weimann who scored a pearler against us last season. Barry Bannan looks to be maturing just right and I've always loved the prospect of Crewe's Westwood.

11) Who has stood out most from our recent acquisitions for you?

Christian Benteke. He looks strong and hungry and is starting to find his eye for goal. He will be very dangerous at the weekend but it will be a good test for him to be up against Huth and Shawcross.

12) If you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?

I'd take Darren Bent at a drop of a hat. I don't know what's going on with him, but his scoring record speaks for itself, and goals are what we are lacking at the moment.

13) Who do you see as our main threat in the game?

Always think Gabby Agbonlahor is a nuisance. His pass and direct style of play always makes him a dangerous player. He's a player that can change the direction of the game in an instance.

14) Where would you say our current weaknesses are in terms of how you will approach the match?

I think we will have to attack your inexperience. We are a big physical team and we will probably come and try and bully you. The game is definitely going be a big test for youngsters, and no matter the result, they are definitely going to come out of the game a stronger player.

15) Finally, a prediction please kind person...

We're on a good run of form at the moment, 4 wins out of 5 games, and I would normally go for a score draw at Villa Park but I think we're going snatch it 2-1.

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The Journalist

Writer: Mike Field Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday December 5 2012

Time: 7:17PM

Your Comments

Great sell him Gabby and Bent before they suss they really aren't very good at all
villan57
I think that Stoke City are a much better footballing outit than they are all too often given credit for, and are a team more than capable of leaving Brum B6 on Saturday afternoon three points to the good, unless we show a massive improvement on our previous two performances. Certainly we will have to perform considerably better than we did at Loftus Road last weekend. They (Stoke City) have the personnel to cause us problems all over the pitch, and with our inability to score goals, we could well be in for a tough and ultimately pointless afternoon. Sensible man (Lloyd) in saying that he'd welcome Darren Bent to Stoke at the drop of a hat. That comment alone has restored my faith and belief in the knowledge and expertise of your average everyday footie fan.
glensider
Think you are about right on that Gs,but i think if we sold DB we may get a few good players in,he don't fit the system and although i like what he can do i don't think it is the way Lambert is going to go,no wingers like Ash and Downing to supply so in a way waisted.........we will see eh.
jasevilla
Gabby a nuisance.... I'll agree with that. Sell him if anybody! Good interview again, enjoyed the read
Pride of Lions
Goes without saying Glen they can't perform as they did against QPR. Give us the United performance and I can see a big upset, but still think this has 0-0 written all over it.

Loved the interview, I also like the fact where Lloyd could've took the proverbial a bit given our recent state, that he, like others, do see what Lambert's trying to do - makes me realise I'm not the only one PMSL
mike_field
Oh I'm very much pro-Lambert Mike. He's the guy I wanted to fill the hot-seat when a fond farewell was sent to Alex, and even should the very worse scenario come to pass next May, I would want him to remain at the helm to oversee our promotion push in 2013-14. Not happy with everything PL related though, but I've been that way with every manager since Gentleman Joe Mercer back in the early sixties, and I've certainly been far from happy with some of the performances served up this season to date, and QPR was one such performance. I do fully appreciate and understand what PL is attempting to achieve, and he has my full backing and support, for what that's worth.
glensider
Good interview. Villa 2-1
AdzVilla11
Like the fact he has spotted Baker and Weimann. I concur, two very very good prospects for us.
The Fear
I think most of us see what he is trying (and hopefully will) do Fieldy. For me I'm dissatisfied with the constant jam tomorrow now, season after season. He should have prepared for the here and now, as well as building for the future. WBA should never be above us in the league, ever... EVER. Fact!
The Fear
Intelligent and interesting interview knows his stuff to be able pick out Baker and Wiemann cant argue with their experiance would expect Stoke to try and bully our youngsters, but I believe Stoke are capable of better than that their football has improved they no longer need to rough teams up to win games. And most Villa fans will know Crouchy has always been better with his feet than his head,from when we had him. Stoke survived their first couple of seasons thanks to their amazing fans turning their ground into a fortress,would expect a comfortable mid table for them this season.
Merlin128777
Agreed Glen, in the return interview I had to acknowledge the more stranger decisions he had made since joining, even though being perfectly happy with the appointment.

Can't argue with that either JF, we've both talked about a better balance with some experience coming in to help the youngsters adjust, and hopefully that'll be addressed in January to give them the best possible chance. Just such a shame we didn't make this sort of move directly after O'Neill so the transitions had already been made.
mike_field
Mike, absolutely spot-on. That's when the problems and decline got seriously underway. Immediately post O'Neill. We are now paying for failings that took place, immediately O'Neill up and walked. I'm not saying that in hindsight, I said it at the time. Bad decisions were made, hence the current poor state of all things AVFC.
glensider
Yup, this could've all been put in place back then and of course had it been done we'd have had the benefit of Ash for a season more (we all knew he was off after that) and even though I still say Ash wasn't as useful for us compared to how he had been, it would've made us that touch more comfortable I think - but of course that's easy to say as those youngsters from our Academy that we are relying on now were far less experienced at the point. What matters now is getting it right, and that's what we all hope for!
mike_field
Mike and Glensider i am not having a go and its not that i don't believe you when you state that the above sentiments are not hindsight but just your opinion all along. I take you at your word I have nothing to disprove it. but....i have to swallow an indigestible lump of frustration at us villa fans when i think of the season when O neill left. Houllier was vilified by Villans ... i had many a debate with other villa fans at the time. but i think those that had written off Houllier by December and had their Houllier out banners on display at the home games have learned a harsh lesson in patience and instant gratification. you stated above ..."this could've all been put in place back then and of course had it been done we'd have had the benefit of Ash for a season more ....." but we did try back then and because it didn’t work in under 5 months the fans rejected it. Some how under the misguided sense of entitlement that we as villa fans deserve it more somehow? (more than newcastle or Tottenham fans say as they took our spot more or less in the following seasons) -we thought that modern economics do not factor into football or that the strength and depth of our competitors has no bearing on our success. I cannot help but think, -Did we not appoint a manager that played progressive possession based football on the ground? -did we not see he continued to give our youth players a chance? and start the re-building phase? yes the results were poor until bent came along, who do you think singled him out to be signed, Randy?,faulkner?, Kevin?, Gary mcCallister? Were we not playing attractive attacking football and in great form by the end of the season? Was the team not really clicking then with a mix of signings and youth players who had taken their chance all overseen by Houllier? no we had our banners out, and i realise that Houllier's illness put paid to any idea of him staying regardless of results or anything else for that matter. but those banners were out in force long before he became ill. We couldn't see it .... or a large contingent of us couldn't.... Now you could argue we could be 2-3 years from challenging for anything resembling a European spot. You might understand why i find it frustrating to see comments like: “we should of been doing this 2 seasons ago, “ although I have no clue whether you were holding those banners or embarrassed to be seen near one .. that's why this is not aimed at you specifically but merely at the sentiments you posted. I am just venting about a particular frustration i have as a villa Fan .. more than anything else. on to the present day. I do like Lambert and yes he is making mistakes just like Houllier made some howlers too but look at all the top managers .. they all make them and continue to .. (Bebe for Ferguson?) Santos and glaring blind spot for a plan b or anything resembling a back bone for a team for Wenger? We may struggle and indeed just cling on by the skin of our teeth this season .. we may even go down .. but patience is the key and not knee jerk reactions and bitter i told you so’s (Glensider and mike that is not about you .. just a recurring tone I see in the forums) I believe i have already seen enough of this team and this manager to believe that he could bring us back to a European spot in the future ... I have no idea if he will but with the tactical and football flexibility on the field, the willingness to give youth a go and to spot talented youth players from an unfashionable lower division. His determination to stick to his beliefs regardless of player reputation or cost (i am 50/50 on the bent saga, no clue if its a horrible mistake or masterstroke looking back in 6 months) I have seen enough in the 15 games or so of the new players that have played as well the existing ones improvement or effort compared to last season to believe the potential is there for this squad to develop further and become a very good team. i think us Villa fans have to stop blaming this or that .. this guy or that guy ...if its not 3 pointsevery saturday its the manager, the chairmen the CEO (funnily enough I will give 20 quid to anyone who can prove any football decision, team selection, player purchase or tactical style he was solely responsible for in the last 3 years.. any .. ) or finally and least often the players, the actual professionals who 60+% of all Villa’s revenue(our jerseys and match day tickets etc) goes to and whom actually are the professionals playing poorly or otherwise. Rant over .. lol just i get frustrated when i those sentiments posted again and again... VTiD ...
Colonius81
FFS that is a post Colonius! You put my ramblings to shame dude, well done, I think lol

Bottom line is mate a lot of us were pointing out O'Neill's problems from season 3. We were shouted down because 6 place (blowing 4th place) was some kind of achievement? We saw the cracks, we saw the same mistakes being made and we saw O'Neill's lack of learning season on season. Hindsight gives us the opportunity to really say what we'd have done differently. We didn't have that at the point, we were just saying something needs to change. We pointed out O'Neill talked about the squad, promised rotation and then lookee next game same old knackered players, guffing and giving their all and the answer was......Heskey 77 minutes. My case is rested.

Houllier shot himself by his constant man love for Liverpool. We are a proud breed as you know. You don't say we aren't as good as Liverpool, you don't call us a mid table club when historically we are the 7th most successful in the league, you don't make the PR gaffs he made and then expect the fans to warm to you. Would you walk into the Man U job expressing your love for Liverpool? Why are Chelsea fans up in arms about the waiter? Because of his comments about the fans when he was failing at Liverpool. However......

I agree, what we are doing now is exactly what Houllier was trying to achieve as well. Rid us of the old guard, rid us of the troublesome underperforming elements. I'm entirely with you here mate, and I've already said a certain 'clique' within the dressing room made his life hell and stunted his efforts in what he was trying to do. As above, Houllier was old guard, Lambert is nextgen yeah. If we could've got a Lambert, a Clough somebody who will grow with the club they'd have benefited from the players who remained in a way Lambert can't now in terms of experience, but Lambert will build a better future than Houllier could've because Houllier was still to a degree a chequebook job as shown by Bent. But we didn't vilify him, he vilified himself with his behaviour and I say that fully in the knowledge that some of our first team under him should've potentially been sacked for gross misconduct.

I have never protested against a manager to answer your question but I wanted Houllier gone because he ruined himself his relationship with us. He also inevitably cowed to the very players we needed rid of in order to progress. I make no apology for that. He made his bed, and his health issues made everything clearer for everyone. He brought our youth through for necessity not as replacements for those who needed a butt kicking. So on that score whilst he tried to do what we are doing now, he didn't really do it for whatever reason. I won't hindsight praise to him that he doesn't deserve...but I will say he had the right idea but not the right application.

This is why I say we should've been doing this the second O'Neill walked, a young, hungry, arrogant, ambitious manager who is capable of learning and not stuck in his ways. We have that now, we didn't have that under Houllier, but I will be forever thankful for his insight, knowledge and impetus into our scouting system. It wasn't a dead loss.

As for the told you so, no slight taken dude, rant on matey, it's what I normally do so it's nice to see somebody else just stream of consciousness as their passion gets the better of them! You'll fit in well mate, even if we don't always agree :-)

I'll also make that 40 quid if anybody can prove our board picks the team lol Welcome to the site dude, I like you, heart on sleeve, and head screwed on! Even if, as above, you are slightly wrong lol
mike_field
The day Houllier was appointed I said thats it we are going down. Like another Liverpool manager (Benitez) had his day and was out of touch. We didnt get relegated many will say thanks to Bents goals I say thanks to Mcallisters efforts and the fact that we had enough experiance to provide Bent with the chances he needed. Sorry for me Houllier like Mcloser was a poor appoitment Now we have a decent manager but instead of being in the healthy position MON was he is clearing out the crap left by the last three managers and trying to buy a squad on the cheap and at the same time keep us in the prem. no easy task.
Merlin128777
They were my immediate sentients too Merlin128777, as anyone who was around on Vital at the time will well know, so great minds very clearly do indeed think alike. I know that it's now all water under the bridge, but we should have beat the bushes to ensure that the right appointment was made back in August/September of 2010, both to build upon the strengths that the MON era had brought us, and also to begin work immediately on strengthening the weak points and rectifying the obvious failings. Instead we opted to mark time, to stand still, and the stagnation and decline began to really take a hold. Good read Colonious81. A well thought out and sensible response to my utterings, providing much food for thought.
glensider
Thanks lads, but its more of a rant than anything. I would agree that I wasn't overly delighted to see Houllier when it was announced but i thought he was as good a fit as we could find at the time. remember we had a caretaker for a few weeks while the initial search was carried out. and then to allow notice for the FFF. who i have no particular love for. That said, who else would have come to villa at the time? I am not so sure that we had the Mourinho's of this world all that interested. also they gave Houllier a 2 year contract I beleive( correct me if I am wrong) that is unusual. If I am mistaken then so be it I stand corrected but even outside that I go the Vibe of more than just a short term manager, it had more than a hint of atransitional and structural appointment and seems to suggest to me that he was never designed to be the long term solution but change the way club played football and bring in a more continental set up to the club. something we were all crying out for in the last days of Mon. Let us not forget that Cabaye openly admitted that he was en route to villa because of Houllier but pulled out when he left. His scouting and continental influence would not have hurt us. All in all its not much more than speculation on my part at this stage. But with the shortened contract /strategic nature of his appointment. I think that given time he would have moved upstairs to a DOF or head of scouting role eventually paving the way for a younger or more hands on manager alongside. That was just my impression. regardless, I feel we didn't give Houllier's reign enough time as evidenced by the better football and results that were being produced by season’s end. that is what annoys me. In the end even if houllier had not made those bizarre Liverpool comments and strange, irritating mid table assertions about Villa His health gave out. end of story. I still learnt a lot about our fans impatience through the whole ordeal and I can't help but feel so did other potential managers and players that we desperately needed to attract when he left. It may be some part of the reason the pickings were so slim when McLeish was appointed( still wrong though- no dispute there) anyways .. time to put this to bed, its old news. onward and sideways ! 15th! the vertigo is affecting me ...
Colonius81
 

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