Monday, 3 October 2011

The Resurgence of Gabby Agbonlahor

Whatever you say about this season, it is certainly not without positives. We’ve seen young Barry Bannan really take his chance in the first team with a string of good performances. We’ve seen Dunne return to the level we saw from him 2 years ago, again with a series of committed and driven performances. We’ve seen Shay Given excel between the sticks with some excellent goalkeeping. But the biggest positive this season has been the resurgence of one Gabriel Imuetinyan Agbonlahor.

Gabby starting to silence critics

To say Gabby had a poor season last year is underestimating it somewhat. Just 3 league goals in the campaign, for a striker that’s poor, especially a striker of Gabby’s qualities. Admittedly being on the wing and being expected to provide for the other players isn’t quite to Gabby’s strength but even so. He knows as well as we do that that is his worst season with us. Although he still managed to score some vital goals, such as the winner at West Ham which effectively eased Villa's relegation fears.
Gabby celebrates the winner at West Ham

Many people have told me, and other Villa fans how poor Gabby is as a player, how overrated he is, how he has little or no technical ability whatsoever, and how calls for him to be in the England squad are ludicrous. I disagree. On all four.

Firstly he isn’t a poor player. Poor players do not fight through a PL teams academy, establish themselves in the first team there, and then become the clubs current longest servant by dint of being poor. Especially not at an established Premier League club like Aston Villa. Another remarkable feat he is close to achieving is the mark of 61 Premier League goals, which is 1 more than one of the best strikers to ever be at Villa, Dwight Yorke, achieved. Gabby is currently on 53 league goals, and at this rate, Yorke’s record will be broken soon. He’s not a goalscoring phenom, but he is a good goalscorer, and if he is a poor player, I’m sorry, there’s not much hope for a lot of other players.

Secondly, the issue over him being overrated – in my opinion, he is completely the opposite. Very underrated. Players seem to feat playing him more than fans do. And understandably so, even after bulking up he is frighteningly fast. John Terry, for all I do not like him, summed it up for me. “He’s a nightmare to play against” said the Chelsea captain. And I agree, I can see why Terry thinks that, the last thing a central defender wants is a lightning-fast striker running at him. Nemanja Vidic can also attest to this, with a series of performances against Gabby where he has been lucky to stay on the field, most notably in the 2010 League Cup final. If not for the (in many frustrated Villa fans eyes) amount of extra protection Vidic seems to get from officials against us, he would be sent off a good amount. Similar to when Torres was at Liverpool, Vidic always seemed to vastly struggle and would end up being dismissed. Also considering how many say Gabby is poor, how does that make him overrated? Surely that would be if the general consensus was that he was a cracking player and he wasn’t? Cracking player, maybe not. Overrated, not. Dangerous player, certainly.

Vidic struggles to come to terms with Gabby

No technical ability – this is one I particularly take issue with. Let me just establish, Gabby is not a flair player. His strength his running and causing chaos between the defenders. He likes to get his head down and hare through the opposition half. Gabby, in the general opinion of Villa fans, is a lovable, but slightly dim person. He’s a great bloke for us, but not massively intelligent. (not that he is expected to be – he’s a footballer) He’s not Messi, he’s not Di Maria, he’s not Young, he’s not Silva, he’s not x, y or z player either. His technical aspect of his game isn’t his main strength. But he is certainly not lacking greatly in it, as anyone to visit Villa Park for our league wins will corroborate. His goal against Blackburn was a work of art but it generally was ignored by the media. (which we expect, we aren’t a big club) He tied Michel Salgado in knots before cutting inside and curling an absolute pearl around Robinson and in from out wide. The fact it was his 50th league goal of his Villa career just made it that bit sweeter. Against Wigan he generally ran the game (aided and abetted by Bannan) and constantly tore Wigan “a new one” with clever running and lovely angled shots, which would surely have been a hat-trick and then some had Al-Habsi not had a tremendous game in goal. One of my favourites was when he was at a very sharp angle to the goal almost at the byline, swivelling and sending in a shot which Al-Habsi just about kept out. He has ability in those feet. Not a silly amount, but he’s got enough.

Gabby celebrates his landmark 50th goal vs. Blackburn

Lastly I disagree with the opinions of those who state he is not good enough for England. I’m sorry, but if Andy Carroll (who recently scored his first league goal for 12 hours, and has not impressed for Liverpool in his time there) is worthy of a call up, then Gabby is more than worthy. In my opinion, the four fit, on-form England strikers would consist of Rooney, Gabby, Andy Johnson and Daniel Sturridge, all of whom are showing excellent levels of confidence in front of goal. It’s quite simple, if you’re good enough, you’re good enough. Also considering the amount of players that get into the England squad on their club quality such as Phil Jones and Cleverley, who talented as they are, were picked clearly on the fact they play for United, as for United they hadn’t yet shown a good level of consistency and performance over a good amount of time. Also the likes of Smalling (a centre back) picked to play ahead of Micah Richards (a right back – and IMO the best England have at the minute)  merely accentuate the point. Gabby is certainly deserving of an England call-up, and his inclusion (and subsequent self-imposed exclusion from) in the squad is merited.

I don’t think there is a single Villa player at the club who is as consistently valued and cherished as Gabby by the fans – his scoring record in the Second City Derby may boost this, as well as being a local lad – but at this moment in time, he’s our most important player. He scores, he assists, and he busts a gut for Villa.

And as we’ve seen, he’s not just a man worthy of respect on the pitch, he is as well off it. To add to his lack of drinking (he’s teetotal) and his non-existent appearance in tabloid headlines for “nights out” (unlike some other England players) he also helps out with charity events when he can and recently donated out of his own pocket. I can’t help feeling he wants to help give back to the community, and fair play to him for doing so. And doing so quietly, he doesn’t really like to talk about donating. I think it’s fair to say you can tell the high esteem I hold Gabby in.
Gabby visiting Acorns with Albrighton, Bent, Cuellar and Delph

But even after all that is said and done, can Gabby maintain this form on the pitch? I think he can. His confidence is high, his speed to physicality ratio is as balanced as it’s ever been, and he’s got Bannan feeding him delicious passes down the wing and through the centre. If only Villa could get the wings working again for Bent’s benefit! If that happens and the current supply is also maintained (or improved) Villa could have one of the most frightening frontlines outside the top 4. A striker who is the king of poaching and the demon of speed with a penchant for having a shot. Whatever you think about Villa’s future, to say it is without any hope, is wrong.



Friday, 30 September 2011

Things I like.... a few in detail.

I did a blog post a while back saying things I love, to counter this utterly outrageous view others have of me that I’m some sort of permanently angry anti-social person with a severely limited emotional capacity and a penchant for making other people miserable.  Firstly I’m not permanently angry, I didn’t realise being angry 85% of the time counted as all these days, (no wonder GCSE Maths is a joke.) and secondly there is not one mention in that of my hilarious jokes, rapier sharp wit, charm and good looks. Disgraceful.

As with most of the introductions to my blog posts, I digress. What this blog post is about is to further expand on things I love and that make me happy when I see/eat/drink/do/play/whatever them, before someone in my life hacks me off. Again.
This is a bloody unpopular one. It is an activity many hate, as it involves physical effort. Yet a load of people seem happy enough to go to the gym and say “Yeah. I did about 10 miles and repped x kgs in the gym! RIPPED!” or “Ow, my legs hurt from the gym” (Which also annoys me, why go to the gym voluntarily and moan about it!? But anyway.) Yet one mention of hiking and it’s “Why would you want to do that!?” “You’re mad son” “Hiking’s gay” “Too much effort” “Teenagers hike!?” et cetera.
Nothing better than donning my recognisable mountain green Berghaus walking coat, my prized Berghaus Explorer GTX’s and my Bridgedale walking socks (I included the Bridgedales in case I was accused of plugging Berghaus. No way would I, they don’t pay enough.) and going on a bloody good ramble. Being alone is optional, but always good to have someone to talk to whilst walking, to consult maps with, and of course (in, I stress, extreme circumstances) to eat.

If it wasn’t for mildly dodgy ankle, I would probably do it every month. Sadly, the occasions don’t rise (wahey!) to the fore enough.

If you’re not a fan of hiking, or aren’t sure about it, man up and do it. No matter the physical pain you encounter, there are answers for that. Pain is temporary, glory is forever. Pain is weakness leaving the body. Hiking develops your body and soul. Embrace the pain. Go too slow and feed the crows. These are just a few of the slogans I would be shouting at you should you attempt hiking with me and you started to complain about it. If you love to hike, you I will probably like.

Another one people hate. Because of Marmite. Twiglets are generally demonised in the media, by the public and by tourists. You’d think they’d actually killed someone the amount people hate them. Personally I love them. I could eat nothing but them all day. In fact on a few days off work, I actually have. They’re delicious, and get nowhere near the level of love they deserve. A nickname at school I had that wasn’t Postman Twat (on account of blue trousers I wore in once) or Falcon (a version of my surname) was Twiglet, on account of my slim, tall physique and my love of the Marmite coated wheaty sticks I ate.

Now, I’m not a man who wears a hat a lot. In fact I seldom wear a hat. I don’t really suit most hats. I look even more of a moron than normal in hats. However there is an exception to most rules, and this exception is in the form of a rather nice suede leather South African bush hat I happen to own and indeed wear in the great outdoors. In my head I look like an intrepid South African gamekeeper wielding a Kalashnikov and smoking a pipe. In reality I look like a grinning idiot wearing a hat. But for once, I don’t care. And its an amazing hat. Everyone should have one.

Sounds a strange one, considering the hideous costs driving generally incurs. Fuel literally costs and arm and a leg, you sometimes even have to prostitute yourself to fill your tank. (So to speak.) Hell, MOT, road tax, insurance you could rob a few banks and struggle to pay! It’s an expensive way of life. However. When you’ve got an open road ahead of you, and a CD you love in the disk player, the windows rolled down and the system up, on the way to something you are looking forward to, there are few better feelings than that.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

We're Trying Without Wings

Ok, firstly apologies for the title/memories of appalling music - I had to find a snappy title. Secondly for the literary inaccuracy... we aren't literally ( (c) J. Redknapp) without wing(er)s, but sometimes it feels like we're playing with dead weights on the wing... anyway I digress.

Now, it’s not been an amazing start to the season… we could have done a lot better, but we could have done a lot worse. That discussion is not for this day. The key issue at the club right now, for me, is the lack of impact from the wing.

Last season was very promising for Albrighton, and with the departures of the entire (bar him) wing contingent, now was the season for him to really come to the fore and establish his place in the team – and unfortunately for him, and for us, he hasn’t.

 In fact whilst it looked last season like Barry Bannan’s Villa career may be slipping away and Albrighton’s taking off, there has been a dramatic reversal. All of a sudden, Barry is the magic man, and Albrighton’s introductions (as heard by myself against Newcastle and QPR, as well as 20 minutes into the game v Bolton) are being greeted with groans. And their respective performances on the pitch this season reflect this, with QPR for example, Albrighton’s contributions were giving away a silly free-kick, not squaring a ball across to the advancing Weimann for a good attempt on goal (Instead going for personal glory, failing spectacularly at that), and getting Armand Traore sent off.  Although to be fair he ddn’t have that many minutes on the pitch. Bannan’s was a sprightly performance with delightful passing, the touch of a magician at times, confidence on the ball, testing the keeper, and naturally, netting the penalty which gave Villa the lead.
Albrighton needs to snap out of the slump he’s in – it’s counter-productive for the club and for him. This is a task for Albrighton, McLeish, the staff and his teammates. Albrighton must be flowing with confidence again, like he was when he burst in last season. It is the worst possible timing for both wingers to be so short of form and confidence when Villa desperately need them to replace Young and Downing. This has also reflected on Bent, who  although has had a groin strain and not been 100%, he has had limited supply from said wingers, as well as not being up to standard this season. So Charles, Marc, please snap out of it. Get into training early every week and just practice practice practice. Get yourselves into the right frame of mind, get smiles on faces, and for McGrath’s sake repay some of the fans who placed their faith in you with some very good, positive play (and maybe a few goals/assists) vs. Wigan. Should you both play.
On that note, Barry Bannan has been declared Villa’s Player of the Month, and richly deserved. Gabby Agbonlahor and Shay Given are the only two players for me who have been better than Bannan this season. Maybe Dunne as well.

Certainly things are not doom and gloom, but three points really really really is necessary this weekend, so PLEASE you Villa boys – go out there, put in a tremendous performance, win by a comfortable margin, and above all, give yourselves confidence before we head off to the Etihad Stadium/Eastlands/City of Manchester Stadium/whatever the hell it’s called, because we’re going to need to show our teeth when we play Man City. I want passion in that game. I want no fear from us whatsoever. I want the Man City players glancing uncomfortably at our players. I want Sergio AgΓΌero saying “Richard Dunne!? FUCK THAT! I’m not going on the pitch! You can’t make me Roberto! What!? No! Look at him! I’m not going! Raarrgh!”. Above all, I don’t want a repeat of the shambles last year up there.
Anyway, Wigan first. Let’s break the habit of a lifetime and actually beat the mothers at home. Come on you lions! UTV.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Bella Italia

Well, it’s certainly been a while since I posted on here. I’m sure you’ve all missed the cutting edge insight on the aspects of my utterly thrilling life, including such highlights as “Why I hate shoes” “”Why Chinese food is vile” and who can forget the smash hit “My mother thinks I’ll be the subject of a court appearance”.

Still, beggars can’t be choosers, however choosers can be beggars, as no doubt you’ll be begging for some sane ramblings after you’ve chosen to read this.

But I digress. Onto the subject. I visited Italy on holiday. Surprisingly this was my first visit to the beautiful country, but I assure you, I endeavour with all my heart and soul not to make it my last also. That’s “It was well good and I wanna go back” for those not reading in hyperbole.

We set off from Heston Travelodge (recommended, I might add, not a bad place for a Travelodge)  at a reasonable hour…. If you’re a miner. On the night shift. It was 4 bloody AM and I’d had about 3 hours sleep tops. I was grumpy even by my standards, tired, hungry, and ready to explode at any moment. But we got to Terminal 5, they didn’t lose our bags, I hobbled through the scanners holding up the jeans I was wearing (in my haste to pack the night before last I had put my father’s second pair of jeans in my night bag instead of my own, meaning I needed a belt to stop them collapsing. (My waist is 8 inches less than that of my father.) Luckily I managed to get the belt back on pronto so a disturbance was prevented and the tiny shreds of dignity I do have were preserved.

The flight was uneventful and even more boring than my normal life, although to my credit I did manage to get one of my sisters and my brother humming “Ride of the Valkyries” whenever we banked.

We landed at Fiumicino (Leonardo Da Vinci) Airport and I decided to try out my Italian phrases to the passport control. However “I tuoi occhi sono bellissimi” (You have such beautiful eyes) was met with a balefully icy glare and a very impatient “get out of the way Englishman and let me do my job” wave. We then waited by the baggage carousel for exactly 50 minutes as the Italians spectacularly failed to do their job competently. We made it out of the airport eventually, and got a taxi to our residence. As soon as we stepped into the Roman air I immediately felt my skin burning, it was 36 degrees Celsius. Up where we were staying, by Lake Albano, it was less hot, a mere 34 degrees. I got some stunning pics of the Lake, truly a jewel in the Italian countryside. We ate. Later we ate again. We enjoyed the sunshine and generally dossed about.


The adventures of the week.

Me and my middle sister decided to go against the usual grain of “laze around near the pool” and actually go on a nice walk, all the way around the lake to Castel Gandolfo (better known as the Pope’s summer residence. The big man wasn’t in, but we had a poke around the town and generally just ate ice cream (gelati)  whilst a few locals pointed and jabbered at us. To my sister’s surprise I replied in a flawless Italian accent. Reading phrasebooks does do you some good, even if they are useful mainly for compliments and chat-up lines. We had a death stare from a Swiss guard, a sub-machine gun waved menacingly at us by the carabinieri, and a fist shaken at us by an irate cyclist in horribly tight lycra. Apart from that, it was pretty dull. And very pretty. My father and eldest sister attempted this walk, but got lost on the way there, and had to get a taxi back, but they weren’t threatened with being shot.

We decided to visit the big city, Roma, the Eternal City, the former crux of the known world, all roads lead to Rome and what. We sadly didn’t get to see as much as we liked, but we saw some cracking views, from the Cupola in the Vatican City, the Fontana di Trevi, and the Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti though. That’s the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps to you. Beautiful, beautiful landmarks, one of the best pieces of architecture my limited experience has yielded. I threw a coin in the fountain (naturally) and then dived back in to retrieve it to buy an ice cream. I’m kidding of course, I wouldn’t do that. I mugged a tourist and used his money instead.

Two highlights to the day, both provided by my father. Trying to get a picture of me and my eldest sister, he ran forward, stumbled on the steps, pheasant-ran up 3 before losing his balance, but not before a spectacular barrel roll onto his back before he hit the floor (to protect his camera). The second one was on the Metro, my youngest sister, thick as she is, managed to get on the wrong train. The doors were almost closed before my dad sprinted to the train and slowly ripped the doors open (hulk-style-esque) grabbed my sister, leapt off the train and sprinted off to get the right train, with us ahead and laughing our socks off. To a passenger on the train, they had appeared to see a crazy Scottish man wrench open the doors of an underground train, and steal a child before making off. It was quite a sight. We had to go back to the house anyway, it worked out great. Luckily my dad wasn’t pinned to the pavement facefirst by the jackboot of an angry Italian policeman, as there were none around. We got the train and left. 38C out there as well, in the shade, madness!

Then eventually a couple of days later we had to leave. (Not before I got horribly drunk in an Italian bar/lounge type thingy…. I drank a lot of Baffa D’Oro and somehow got home, and made sure my sisters were okay as well.

Then, sadly, we had to leave. And leave we did (via a 90 minute delay) but we left meaning to come back and see more of Roma, and to hopefully see my father arrested at some point for a perfectly innocent act of parenthood. Well, for me anyway, because I find stuff like that funny. He doesn’t.
Anyway, that was my holiday. Boring? To you maybe, but for me it was a valuable cultural experience and a real eye-opener to the Italian culture. And I got pissed a few times.
Arriverderci Italia. In a bit.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

50 Things I Like

Just for @alyxpleaden on Twitter, a list of 50 things I like to show I’m not dead on the inside, as she occasionally thinks. Not completely dead in there, I am very grumpy, but you knew that anyway.
    1.       Football
    2.       Beer
    3.       Cricket
    4.       Cider
    5.       Hiking
    6.       Winding people up
    7.       Classical Music
    8.       Playing guitar
    9.       Reading
    10.   Led Zeppelin
    11.   Thunderstorms
    12.   Science
    13.   Geography (like capitals, mountains, rivers etc.)
    14.   Peregrine falcons (Hence the Twitter name)
    15.   Coffee
    16.   Rugby Union
    17.   The Metropolitan Borough of Solihull
    18.   Carlos Cuellar
    19.   Tennis
    20.   My laptop
    21.   Proper Ale
    22.   Blackadder
    23.   Monopoly
    24.   Camping
    25.  Jazz Festivals
    26.   Rain
    27.   Mild sunshine
    28.   Good company
    29.   Jokes and poor puns
    30.   My BlackBerry
    31.   My orange-laced shoes
    32.   Driving
    33.   Burgers
    34.   Playing cards
    35.   My beloved Berghaus coat and walking boots
    36.   My beloved Karrimoor tent/bag/etc
    37.   My shooting stick
    38.   The Ford Fiesta I call mine
    39.   Marmite
    40.   Bovril
    41.   Imitating accents to annoy people
    42.   A simple, plain t-shirt.
    43.   Jeans
    44.   Wearing glasses
    45.   Being tall
    46.   Wearing a proper hat
    47.   Listening to music after a long day
    48.   Skype
    49.   Blogging
    50.   And of course, Twitter and the people who’s inane chatter, rambling and general arguments make my day.

    51. Alyx...

Monday, 4 July 2011

50 Things I Hate

I am a person well-known for their dislike of just about everything. So as recommended by @wbavicki on Twitter, here is a list of 50 things I hate, which you may or may not agree with.

1. Hugs
2. Petnames
3. Sunburn
4. When people misuse "their" "there and "they're"
5. 2D and 3D computer software modelling.
6. Electronics
7. Beaches
8. Wine
9. Swimming
10. Ian Holloway
11. Horses
12. Bananas
13. Chinese food
14. Shoes, or rather the obscene amount women possess
15. People who never moan
16. Taxes
17. The cost of running car
18. Pop music
19. Trashy TV
20. The North-Eastern accent...because I can't imitate it
21. Polo mints
22. Astroturf
23. Ignorant people
24. People who can give it out but can't take it back.
25. Siblings, at times
26. BMWs
27. People who succeed at life
28. People who ask for RTs becuase "their dog is taking a spelling test".
29. Golf
30. My inability to converse properly
31. Dancing
32. Karaoke
33. Car parks/car parking
34. People who drive at around 40mph constantly, in any speed limit
35. Chavs
36. Apple products (as in the company)
37. Cooked fruits, like pineapple on pizza
38. Diet Cokes
39. Salad
40. Marzipan
41. Fish
42. People who are over-soft
43. Diving
44. Beansprouts
45. Brussels Sprouts
46. Pork
47. Sausages
48. Ginger as a foodstuff
49. Bad punctuality
50. FIFA/ProEvo

Monday, 20 June 2011

Interview 92 - Birmingham City FC

Birmingham City, Birmingham, West Midlands
Arch-Rivals: Aston Villa

Nickname: The Blues
Founded: 1875

Birmingham City
The quickfire interview was done with Kati, @filanbcfc on Twitter. Follow her now.

Q1.What do you think of the exit of Alex McLeish to Villa and your new manager, who do you want/expect?

I still don't really know how to feel about it to be honest. I was hoping we would get a new manager in for the new season, so I’m obviously happy about that. But on the other hand, I think it’ll feel strange seeing a manager who I saw as a legend for winning the cup, at our biggest rivals. I think, and hope, we’ll get Hughton in as manager.

Q2. What expectations do you have of your club this year?

Automatic promotion. All depends on who leaves/comes in, but I expect us to challenge for the top two. Don’t expect much from our Europa League campaign though, especially if key players leave.

Q3. Which match defined your team last season?

I’d have to say the Carling Cup final. It summed up what our team was about, the passion and team spirit which played a huge part in our successful 09/10 season. As great as some of our players were, there’s no argument that Arsenal are by far a more superior team, but on the day our determination and belief saw us become champions.

Q4. Who do you tip for promotion and relegation from your league?

The Championship is always so unpredictable, so it’s hard to answer! I think for promotion, it’ll be West Ham, Blues and Forest, expect Leicester and Reading to be in the mix as well. Then with relegation, well, that’s even harder to predict. Haven’t really seen much of the three promoted teams to know how they’ll do next season. I’m gonna go for Peterborough, Doncaster and Barnsley.

Q5. Which player would you realistically like to sign?

Would love Bothroyd or Mackail-Smith at St. Andrews, but sadly can’t see either turning down the Premier League if they get offers.

Q6. Which of your players will have a point to prove this season?

It depends who stays really, hard to know at the moment. Marlon King hasn’t been the most popular of signings, so I think he’ll want to score a handful of goals to try and get the Blues fans on his side.

Q7. Who are you most looking forward to playing?

The first fixture I usually look for when they come out are the matches against Villa and Wolves, so this season there isn’t really any team who I’m looking forward to playing most. The draw for the Europa League hasn’t been done yet, but no doubt I’ll be most excited about playing whichever team we get drawn against.

Q8. What team do you hate playing?

Wigan. The games between us always seem to be important ones, and we always struggle to get a result against them.

Q9. What ground do you look forward to playing at most. (Away league games only!)

Nothing to do with the actual ground, but apart from last season’s visit, I’ve always enjoyed our trips to Mollineux!

Q10. Do you look out for any other teams in the league? If so, which one(s)?

I have some Spurs family, so always like to see them do well. Probably explains my loathing of Arsenal too!

Q11. Do you have any match superstitions?

I go through phases where a certain shirt is lucky! Last season in the most important matches I would offer up a forfeit on Twitter if Birmingham were to win said game. My forfeit for winning the Carling Cup was a display photo of me kissing the Villa badge for a month!

Q12. Sum up Birmingham City FC in three words.

Joys and sorrows.

Q13. Favourite Blues player of all time?

I have so many favourite Blues players, it’s hard to choose! Was always a huge fan of Stan Lazaridis, though I think Seb Larsson just beats him!

Q14. How will you fare in the cup competitions?

14. After winning the cup last season, I can’t see domestic cups being a priority for us. Think whoever comes in will concentrate on getting us back up to the Premier League straight away.

Q15. Name three things you could improve to do with Blues. (Money excluded!)

Would say that one of the things I’d most like to change at Blues is the style of football. Hopefully with McLeish gone we can get in an attack minded manager to start playing some positive football!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Interview 92 - Aston Villa FC

Aston Villa, Birmingham, West MidlandsArch-Rivals: Birmingham City
Nickname: The Villans
Founded: 1874

Aston Villa

The quickfire interview was done with Ryan, @ryann_walsmley on Twitter. Follow him.

Q1.What do you think of the seemingly impending appointment of Alex McLeish?
1. F***ing underwhelmed to say the least. 

Q2. What expectations do you have of your club this year?

2. Not much in all honesty, but it depends on who the manager is. Somewhere between 8th and 11th is my guess, hopefully with an appearance at Wembley thrown in there.

Q3. Which match defined your team last season? 

3. I'd say the Chelsea away game was close to it, but when we beat Man City at home with Bent scoring the only goal on his debut was massive. The pure relief felt around the ground after that game was so evident. After that, we really started to push on. 

Q4. Who do you tip for relegation from your league? 

4. The obvious choices perhaps but Swansea, Norwich and QPR. 
I don't think that Swansea have enough fire power upfront despite signing Danny Graham, their away record in the Championship was hardly great nor do I think they have the defensive steel in their side unlike Norwich and QPR. 
Judging by Norwich's signings so far, they just seem to be making sure that they are ready for life in the Championship at the start of next season, but under Lambert, who knows. 
Under the stewardship of Neil Warnock, I think QPR will be a very tough side to break down, but the question remains if their owners are prepared to back the manager, without it though, I can't see them playing Premier League football for two consecutive years.

Q5. Which player would you realistically like to sign?

5. I'd love to see Milner back, but you said realistic, so I'll go with Kyle Walker, a player that really excites me. 

Q6. Which of your players will have a point to prove this season?

6. Dunne and Collins, if they're still here that is. And maybe Makoun.

Q7. Who are you most looking forward to playing?

7. I've never seen us play them before so I'll say Swansea.

Q8. What team do you hate playing? 

8. Was going to say Blues, but as it happens, we won't be playing them next season! I'll go with Stoke. Don't get me started on them.

Q9. What ground do you look forward to playing at most. (Away league games only!)

9. Soulless stadium but the DW. Been there 4 times now, and we've won on every occasion.

Q10. Do you look out for any other teams in the league? If so, which one(s)?

10. West Brom and Wolves, which is quite strange, seeing as the feeling is most definitely not mutual. I'll put it down to jealousy, haha.

Q11. Do you have any match superstitions?

11. Nah, not that type of person!

Q12. Sum up Aston Villa FC in three words.

12. At the moment? Sack of s***. (Inconsistent yet encapturing being the politer version.)

Q13. Favourite Villa player of all time?

13. Ian Taylor. Absolute hero. 

Q14. How will you fare in the cup competitions?

14. Dependant on the manager and where we are situated in the league. I reckon we'll be solidly mid-table, so a cup run could be on the cards, I hope.

Q15. Name three things you could improve to do with Villa. (Money excluded!)

15. Knock down the eyesore that is the North Stand, make the chips and curry sauce cheaper and a better atmosphere, it was like being in a morgue at some games last season.

Interview 92 - Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers, Bolton, Greater ManchesterArch-Rivals: Blackburn Rovers
Nickname: The Trotters
Founded: 1874

Bolton Wanderers
The quickfire interview was done with Ian, @IanChadbond1958 on Twitter

Q1.What do you think of Owen Coyle, from his time managing you?

Owen Coyle brought relief to thousands of fans by taking over from Gary Megson. He instilled a sense of belief within the club and went on to prove his football coaching skills could equal the best by remodelling, reshaping and respecting the players he had inherited from Megson. A testament to this was not only the first half of the season but the introduction of loan players such as Jack Wilshere, Daniel Sturridge and Vladimir Weiss. Wilshere has since gone onto England fame and no doubt Sturridge will too. Coyle’s positive attitude and love for the game has found many a Trotters fan defensive whenever a managerial post becomes available. It is sad to say that the season petered out after the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Stoke. Although, I don’t think anybody had had the stuffing knocked out of them more than Mr Owen Coyle. It’s, “Work in progress”. 8/10

 Q2. What expectations do you have of your club this year?

8th or 9th in the League, that’s all.

 Q3. Which match defined your team last season?

West Ham United away from home early in the season – it reinforced belief in the team’s new found freedom in 
their passing game whilst still understanding that there needs to be both a plan A and plan B.

 Q4. Who do you tip for relegation from your league?

Blackburn, Swansea & Wolves

 Q5. Which player would you realistically like to sign?

 Zoltan Gera (on a free)

Q6. Which of your players will have a point to prove this season?

 Petrov – great skills but needs to be more of a team player and lose the perceived attitude.

Q7. Who are you most looking forward to playing?

 Wolverhampton Wanderers

Q8. What team do you hate playing?

 Birmingham City at St Andrews. This goes back to the old 3rd Division when it became a so-called bogie-ground.

Q9. What ground do you look forward to playing at most. (Away league games only!)


Q10. Do you look out for any other teams in the league? If so, which one(s)?
Any team at the bottom of the Premier League, Rochdale, Preston & strangely enough Cowdenbeath!

 Q11. Do you have any match superstitions?

 I always clear the driveway of any cigarette stubs at least an hour before kick off.

Q12. Sum up Bolton Wanderers FC in three words.

 “Sir” Nat Lofthouse

Q13. Favourite Bolton player of all time?

 Super John McGinlay

Q14. How will you fare in the cup competitions?

 League Cup 3rd Rnd, FA Cup 4th Rnd

Q15. Name three things you could improve to do with Bolton. (Money excluded!)

  1. Move the Reebok Stadium into Bolton.
  2. Change the club badge back to the Red Rose of Lancashire with the town’s emblem – the Elephant & Castle.
  3. Go back to using black shorts instead of navy blue.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Interview 92 - Sunderland AFC

Sunderland AFC, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear
Arch-Rivals: Newcastle United
Nickname: The Black Cats
Founded: 1879


The quickfire interview was done with Matty, @MJWsafc on Twitter. Follow his blog

Q1.What do you think of the loss of Henderson?  

Sad to see the lad go as he was a major asset to us, however he's worked hard for a big move and who are we to stand in his way - he deserves it. It's good money too, especially for a player that may not be as big of a success as the early signs suggest. He gets the very best of luck from me and the majority of other Sunderland fans; he's moved because he's an ambitious lad that wants to win things, that's the correct attitude in football.

Q2. What expectations do you have of your club this year? 

Realistically I think another top 10 would be a good season, as I still don't think we're ready to launch a real challenge for Europe, our squad doesn't have enough quality, despite our team probably being capable. I'm not sure Bruce is the right man to take us there either, but you never know, we'll have to wait and see.

Q3. Which match defined your team last season?

There are a few, however Aston Villa away stands out for me. Meyler and Welbeck were both stretchered off, and this would typify our season, being plagued with injuries. However despite that we won the match 0-1, which symbolises our top 10 finish - grit and determination got us there in the end.  

Q4. Who do you tip for relegation from your league?  

Tough one, I can't see Wigan staying up again, I also think Swansea will fall short of the mark required in the Premier League. Not too sure on the other team, I'm going to say Blackburn though - I really don't think Steve Kean is the right man for the job and they were still involved in a battle up until the last couple of games of last season. They've also lost Chris Samba and Phil Jones to Arsenal and Man United respectively, a lot depends on how well he replaces them two.

Q5. Which player would you realistically like to sign?  

We need about 10! If I had to say one though, I'd say Charles N'Zogbia. I know we need 3 strikers, but I'm not sure on who specifically I'd like us to sign in that area. We've been after Zog for a while, and I think he's exactly what we're missing from the midfield - somebody that can run and beat his man and then whipping a good, quality cross in. He chips in with a goal or two, too.

Q6. Which of your players will have a point to prove this season? 

Asamoah Gyan needs to prove his price tag after a just above average season last season, Phil Bardsley needs to prove that his outstanding season last season wasn't just a fluke, Gordon needs to earn a new contract, Meyler needs to win his place back in the squad after injury, as does Fraizer Campbell. Obviously any new signing will need to prove their worth too. 

Q7. Who are you most looking forward to playing? 

Newcastle, after the thrashing at Sid. James' last season and the poor result at the SoL last season, we'll be well and truly out for revenge next time around. 

Q8. What team do you hate playing?  

Newcastle! Love and hate derbies at the same time, they can be the best days in the world, but on the flip side, they can be the absolute worst too. 

Q9. What ground do you look forward to playing at most. (Away league games only!)  

I'm quite looking forward to Swansea, I've never been to The Liberty Stadium - we've not played them in my life time.

Q10. Do you look out for any other teams in the league? If so, which one(s)? 

In the Premier League I look out for Wolves. I follow Athletic Bilbao, Forfar Athletic and Celtic in other leagues, too.

Q11. Do you have any match superstitions? 

Alcohol consumption!

Q12. Sum up Sunderland AFC in three words. 

Frustrating. Addictive. Frustrating.

Q13. Favourite Sunderland player of all time?  

It has to be Super Kev. Nobody really comes close, to be honest. There doesn't really need to be an explanation - 113 goals in 208 games. He's my favourite player, although I love Niall Quinn too - admittedly though that's more to do with him saving us later on! 

Q14. How will you fare in the cup competitions? 

We'll not get past the first stage, we never do. We'll lose away to Kettering Town or summit.

Q15. Name three things you could improve to do with Sunderland. (Money excluded!) 

Hmmm....Not so much an improvement as sorts, but I would like us to have a decent cup run. The last time we did anything of note in the cup was 2005 when we lost to Milwall in the Semi Final of the FA Cup. The FA Cup is a magical trophy that is losing it's appeal, sadly. I'd like us and every other team to take it as serious as it once was. On a lighter but equally as serious note, I'd like us to get the contract for Pukka Pies back. The meat:pastry ratio on the current ones is not acceptable in my book. Sort it out Quinny! The third improvement I'd like to see in the next few years is an extension of the upper tier - at the moment it only goes round half of the ground and looks a bit unfinished. Thing is, it would be quite unnecessary, but it would look better.