Away Day Finish!
Vital Villa suggests that promotion, and relegation are somewhat of an irrelevant feature of the final day of the Premier League season. The race for 5th place, between the mighty Claret & Blues and Evertonian Blue Scousers reaches its conclusions.
Everton’s neighbours and city rivals have been up to no good, as a “he says she says” argument between Martin O’Neill, and the North-West’s #1 Tom Jones look-a-like, Spaniard Rafa Benetez rumbles on over the suggestion that Rafa the gaffer may look to sign a player that hasn’t come from mainland Europe.
Villa meanwhile take two ex-hammers to Upton Park looking for 3 points (and a result elsewhere) that will take them into the UEFA Cup, or at the very least an inter-toto trip in pre-season to somewhere unpronounceable, or Belfast.
It’s goodbye to Mellberg, don’t mention the Barry, goad the Hare and he will score, Fear’s in London, it’s the end of the season, what do we do next weekend? I’m not that sure myself, I may start watching cricket, that said our transfers should be interesting, or perhaps not if Stearman is the height of our signings? Perhaps I should take up gardening, or stamp collecting? Anyway I think this has rambled on enough, it’s the preview from Vital Villa!
Starting with the comedy argument between Liverpool and Aston Villa, Martin O’Neill has been in tremendous form as “phonecall-gate” goes on.
“Rafa said he was going to respect my wishes. I am not sure he respects anything.'
“He said he knew my idea and I knew his idea. What idea did I have other than getting off the phone after telling him the player wasn't available?”
“I'm absolutely astonished at this story: 'Rafa Exposes O'Neill',”
“I've never denied speaking to Rafa Benitez so how can you be exposed for something you haven't denied?
“I think Rafa is being very clever here. He gives the impression that there's been constant dialogue. That's simply and utterly untrue.
“He made a phone call to me - I did not initiate the phone call. He asked about Gareth Barry and I said: 'Well he's got a testimonial and two years left to run and he's our best player.' So what would the reaction be?”
Moving on, it’s time to talk about the Sweden and Aston Villa legend Olof Mellberg, who will be making his final appearance in an Aston Villa shirt as he moves on in the summer to chase trophies in Serie A with the now recovered-Juventus.
Mellberg told avfc.co.uk:
“This is a big game for me, my last one and, who knows, it could be big for Villa too. We are still in it for that fifth spot. It's a big game in that aspect.
“We would probably have taken sixth at the start of the season, knowing how tough the Premiership has been the last few years.”
“I've said before that I haven't really been obsessed with playing in Europe, but I would really like to have taken Villa there.”
Goodbye Olof, thanks for the memories!
The Barclays Premier League player of the month, Ashley Young has told of his delight at picking up the award, following on from his team-mate Gabby Agbonlahor doing the same last November.
Speaking to avfc.co.uk Ashley said:
“I'm extremely happy to win this award. I had a good month and this rounds it off perfectly. The amount of goals we scored throughout the month was terrific. The boys were brilliant and those wins and goals got us back in the race for fifth place.
“We had some great results but the stand out has got to be the win against Birmingham. It was a great day for the players and the fans and the way we went about our job was exceptional.
“In a way this award is for the whole team. Without the other boys on the pitch this wouldn't have happened. We've worked hard together throughout the season.
“Gabby won this award in November, so this is the second for Villa this season. That just shows how well we've been doing.”
West Ham boss Alan Curbishley has praised former Hammers captain Nigel Reo-Coker who made a £7.5million transfer to Villa Park following a troublesome time at Upton Park, taking a lot of the blame for the London club’s dismal form that year.
”I walked into something when I joined. There was a lot of feeling around the club,” said Curbishley.
“We were third-from-bottom and there was a lot of flak flying around and he was getting singled out for some of it.
“We had a chat about it and I told him the only way he could deal with it was to get on with it.
“Obviously he wasn't happy about it but I told him to get through to the end of the season because the club is more important than anything else.”
He added the praise later on by saying:
“I thought in the second half of the season, from the Manchester United game where he got the winner, his performances in the run-in were up there with the contributions the others made.”
The former 50-year old Villan will now be facing a Doug Ellis style cut back on transfers, although unlike Villa managers of the past, the cheque book is being put away at Upton Park due to a whopping overspend that saw wages go close to £50million, mostly on players who are regularly injured.
“Mr Gudmundsson is used to looking at long-term factors and knows you don't judge a manager in any business after 18 months, the oh-so mysterious source said.
“Now is a time to stabilise, because we are convinced that success comes through stability. The ratio between wages and turnover is too high at the moment.
“We have probably the biggest first-team squad in the Premiership and our transfer strategy has to be carefully planned going forward.
“West Ham have a first-team squad of 40, so there is considerable room for manoeuvre. The last thing you should do when you have a problem is to throw money at it.”
West Ham Team News:
Anton Ferdinand and Matthew Upson look set to miss out after failing to recover from injuries (or perhaps, starting their summer holidays early?)
Lucas Neill will continue to play alongside youngster James Tomkins, who is no doubt going to have a great time as he looks set to come across John Carew all day!
Player to watch: DEEEAAANNNOOOO (Ashton)
Scored a stunning overhead kick, and I still think, despite his injuries that he would be the perfect striker for Aston Villa. Come to the light Deano, you know you want to!
Aston Villa Team News:
Olof Mellberg says goodbye to Aston Villa.
It is likely to be “as you were” as Craig Gardner has failed to overcome his long-term injury.
Patrik Berger will not feature after his comments in the Barry-gate saga.
Player to watch: Olof Mellberg
Goodbye Olof, and thanks for everything you have done for Aston Villa.
Match Facts & Stats
We finish off this season’s pre-match previews with another classic piece of music.
Allegedly the band Ocean Colour Scene are Villa fans. So, as I’ve been feeling somewhat unimaginative today we have their song “Hundred Mile High City.”
Sunday sees the last game for Olof Mellberg in a Villa shirt, if you hadn’t noticed already.
West Ham striker Dean Ashton has committed the most fouls in the Premier League this season, without being booked. He is also the Hammers’ top goalscorer.
If Martin Laursen starts, he will have started every single Premier League game this season, a tremendous achievement for a player whose career looked threatened by a number of ligament injuries. Bouma has been ever-present as well.
If the Hare gets on, he will be playing against his old club as well as Reo-Coker. Harewood’s hat-trick in September 2005 helped the Hammers to a 4-0 victory over Villa at Upton Park. They haven’t been able to defeat the Villans on their home turf since.
Barack Obama is a West Ham fan.
Thankfully Hillary Clinton isn’t a Villa fan.
The London Borough of Newham, in which Upton Park is situated, is considered the 4th worst place to live in the UK (according to a Channel 4 program) and had the highest number of street robberies in 2007.
If you’re travelling to the game Villans, I’d keep your wallet somewhere safe!
Thanks to everyone who has read and commented to these previews and hopefully they shall be back next season! Anyway, we aren’t quite finished so now we move onto the ref
The referee for the final game of the season is Mr Mike Dean.
Mr Dean signs off with 144 yellow and 10 red cards in his 42 games.
His last Villa game was way back in October, the thrilling 4-4 away draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
3-1 Villa and EUROPE HERE WE COME!
Could we be in the Inter-Toto, the UEFA early stages, or on a simple pre-season tour somewhere? Regardless of who, what, where and when, Vital Villa Previews will be back in action for the 2008/09 season!