An Interview With A Villa Fan
How's the reign of Houllier started in the eyes of pessimistic Villa fans?
Dreadfully it appears. We have a noticeable struggle in finding the net, we are prone to conceding especially away from home and the raft of injuries could well be based on the new fitness regime. He inherited a Top 6 side and there already brief rumbles of a relegation battle, especially as we seem to be playing so negatively with regard to formations. Add to that he's going to destroy our Academy by importing cheap, useless French chaps and potential signings in January would come under the same category, albeit not teenagers which would see our exciting crop of youngsters pushed out of favour.
Results will change everything, but Houllier certainly has a reasonable portion of fans to win over, as they are hardly enamoured with the start to his Villa Park career.
And the optimistic bunch?
Quite well, although there are obvious concerns about our ability to kill teams off and secure all 3 points, although a big benefit of the doubt is being given owing to the injuries we currently have. It appears Houllier's ethos to get us playing tactically, slow build up and knocking the ball around well (as opposed to long ball and no other idea but counter attack) is slowly starting to emerge on the pitch, and with a touch more luck we'd already have more points on the board...but once the new training and tactics click, the results will follow. There's a reasonable hope he'll help put in place a more fullsome scouting network, that will not only aide us on the pitch with key talent from abroad, but also help supplement the Academy to give us an even better next generation in a few years time.
Ambitions for the season?
It's again quite split, for some nothing but another Top 6 finish and good Cup runs will be accepted because that finally became the norm for the club, but for others they are happy to see a transition and would be content with finishing 6-8th as Houllier rebuilds us.
I'd be happy with a decent Cup run, and 8th place, especially given the chaos when O'Neill walked, and now the injuries we've sustained and the influx of our youngsters. With everything that has gone wrong with the preparation for this season, I think it would be asking too much for Top 6 again, especially as you've got to allow youngsters to make mistakes as they go.
This season can be a period of transition, next season though we have to push on again and Houllier's rebuild needs to take the best from the O'Neill years, but fix the glaring problems we had that ultimately held us back.
Did Martin O'Neill leave a legacy behind?
In many ways yes. He's left us with a good core squad that has proven itself capable of relative success in the Cups (when we take them seriously) and a steady baseline in the league upon which to build further. Many doubted O'Neill could take us further and had reached his own limit, and whilst that seems certainly true, it shouldn't detract from the core of the squad that he has left us that with some tweaks, and good quality additions should be more than capable of pushing us on to the lofty heights of 4th place, if not further.
The O'Neill legacy though will be forever tainted by the manner of his departure sadly.
Isn't Barry Bannan good, eh?!
There's been high hopes for Bannan, and Albrighton, and Clark and Delfouneso for a long time. Seeing Albrighton and then Bannan come into the squad, look perfectly at home and totally unfazed comes as little shock to those who have known about them for a few years. Bannan certainly seems to have helped dismiss the theory you need to be built like a brick out house and be 6ft to survive in midfield with his Fulham performance, but of course he won't be like that every game and it'll be interesting to see how he copes when he doesn't get as much time on the ball, but that first league start has been a long time coming, it should certainly be the first of many, as the lad is hugely talented - then again you found that out for yourselves during his loan I suspect.
How do you rate the job Ian Holloway's done at the 'Pool?
I just love the bloke fullstop, he was my choice to replace O'Neill if truth be told. He's got a long way to go before he proves himself a top manager, but he seems to have learned from his failures so far and of course he's not doing too badly with yourselves - but he ensures it's a hell of a journey with his interviews.
Very few would have predicted you'd be ahead of us, even at this early stage of the season but the way he has you working for each other, it's certainly going to be no easy game for us when we face you, and I doubt you are any longer the favourite to go down this season. If you can turn a few of your losses into sneaky draws you could well be the surprise promotion package. If Holloway's aim for the season was to simply not be relegated, if you can keep your form up he'll have far surpassed that come next summer.
Surprised by our start?
Yes, would be daft to claim otherwise. It was obvious Holloway would have you set up right and you that you'd battle non stop, but I doubt anybody really thought you would find your feet so quickly. Question now is can you keep it up.
Taylor-Fletcher has looked quite good from the highlights I've seen, but it would be remiss of me to name anybody other than Marlon Harewood. The man has a point to prove, even if the reason for his annoyance is no longer at the club. Hopefully he'll realise being an automatic poll choice over on Vital Villa (regardless of the subject of the poll Marlon Harewood is a regular choice) is a sign of endearment and he won't be your Man of the Match, hit a hattrick or anything else that could leave us crying.
3-1 to us. I think the younguns will have a point to prove after Fulham and whilst it's going to be tight and a good battle, I think we'll take our chances this time round. Least I hope!
With thanks to Mike Field of Vital Villa
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