Fans Half-Term Report: Aston Villa

Three managers, several hidings and the signing of a one-legged Robert Pires. Things are messy down Aston way but, thanks to the kids, it's not all doom and gloom.
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What's going right?

The emergence of the best crop of youngsters in the country. Barry Bannan is a buzzing, running around, passing and getting into everything midfield dynamo of the type we thought Scotland didn’t send down any more. Ciaran Clarke shows composure and a knack for goalscoring, whether he’s in midfield, central defence or recently at left-back. Then there’s Marc Albrighton, Eric Lichaj, Nathan Delfouneso, Fabian Delph. It’s easy to eulogise about our kids, particularly as....

What's not?

Just about everything else. Martin O’Neill walking out five days before the start of the season got things off to a bad start and they’ve gone on from there. More casualties than Isandlwana, dressing room splits, supposed arguments between owner, manager and players, performances that ranged from bad to worse. Getting battered 6-0 at Newcastle under manager number two. Losing 3-0 at Liverpool on officially the coldest night in which football has ever been played anywhere, with Villa manager Gerard Houllier (just in case he’d forgotten) regarding the game as his own personal testimonial. Losing 4-0 at Manchester City, a display Mark ‘Lawro’ Lawrenson called the worst he’d seen all season. Oh yes, it’s been a traumatic few months. But we just got a draw at Stamford Bridge so the corner’s been turned, everything’s fine and we’re on the march with Gerard’s army. Fickle? Naah.

Got the right manager?

Strange as it may sound in view of the above diatribe, I think we have. Randy Lerner spent four years financing O’Neill’s bid to buy us into the Champions League and in fairness the Irish charmer almost got us there. Now the goalposts have moved, Plan A isn’t available, so it’s time to give Plan B a chance. Build up a worldwide scouting network and see what that brings us. Gerard Houllier has made more than a few PR gaffes, but he might also be the man to put this into operation. Whether he’ll be manager, or whether he will have another title by then, is another matter.

Star player?

Stewart Downing has probably been the only senior player who can say more often than not at the end of the match that he’s given his all.

Oh yes, it’s been a traumatic few months. But we just got a draw at Stamford Bridge so the corner’s been turned, everything’s fine and we’re on the march with Gerard’s army. Fickle? Naah.

Who would you like to sell in January?

John Carew, Stephen Ireland and Steve Sidwell will do for starters.

Who do you want to sign?

Anyone who can score goals, or stop them for that matter.  Chris Samba will be a good start. Charles N’Zogbia can split the petrol down with him.

Best chant so far?

Much as I hate repeating songs, the one about Emile Heskey; “He used to be shite, but now he’s alright” shows an artistically world-weary, post-ironic humour usually lacking in modern lyrics.

Best opposition player/team you've seen?

Arsenal, first half. “Arsenal first half” is invariably the answer to ‘best opposition’ every season. If they played all their home games at Villa they’d win the Champions League.

Biggest **** of the season so far?

It’s difficult when you inhabit the same planet as Stephen Ireland, but Martin O’Neill has to win this one. There are some things you do not do, and leaving a job, any job, at such short notice is high on the list.

Any other news?

Did I mention the youngsters?

End of season prediction?

Tenth. Not brilliant, but just about acceptable in the circumstances. And it’s our year for the FA Cup (You have to be a Villa supporter to understand).

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