Ahead of tomorrow evening’s Premier League tie at Villa Park versus Aston Villa, which will be refereed by Jarred Gillett, I spoke to one of their supporters. Thank you to Jonathan from Vital Villa for answering the questions!
How long have you supported Aston Villa?
I was born claret and blue…! In fact, in my family, there really wouldn’t be a choice. My first match was 1977. I had never experienced anything like that before, I fell in love with it that day and the love (or is it madness?) has never left me.
What were and now are your hopes and expectations for the 2023/24 season?
I was hoping we could push on from our impressive 7th-place finish last season. We are a club of the sort of size that should never have allowed ourselves to languish in the lower half of the league and indeed, the Championship. The tens of millions we have spent, and the rotation of inexperienced or wrong managers has been shocking. We have finally got that key appointment right. But I didn’t realise it would be quite so ‘right’! I now have no idea what could happen this season, especially after totally outplaying Manchester City on Wednesday. I thought we would push the top six, maybe now we can push the top four, but you can never get carried away, can you? So we will wait and see.
What are your views on your manager?
Unai Emery Total League Record:
Won 26 – Lost 9 – Drawn 5
I am not sure anything else has to be said. The upward trajectory of Villa, since the novice Gerrard was replaced by Unai, has been nothing short of incredible. There isn’t a single player he hasn’t improved and some, who I thought were perhaps not up to the level of the Premier League, now look top six players. Just shows what good managers can do!
Style of play and tactics – direct/passing/hybrid?
We play a high line, which did play on the nerves of fans whilst the players learned the style, but it is clearly working. We are patient in keeping the ball, passing it around, and have no problem going right back to the keeper, inviting the opposition on, then moving quickly forward on the break. It is, at last (after years of some very average football) an absolute pleasure to watch. The great thing about Unai though, is he can change during a match, something a lot of managers don’t seem able to do, he isn’t afraid to change formation or bring players off if they aren’t doing exactly what he has asked for.
One(s) to watch now and in the future?
Jacob Ramsey continues to blossom, he missed some of this season with injury, but as a ‘product’ of our academy, he is one of our own, and could become a great midfielder for Villa. Douglas Luiz is a stunning player. Martinez is for sure one of the best keepers in the world… I could go on. The one that interests me is Jhon Durán, he is raw, when we got him was highly rated, and I have the feeling once he fully settles, and develops, he could be a stunning player. Time will tell!
Random fact about your Club?
We founded the league…If that was a London club or one of the Manchester clubs, the press/Sky would never stop going on about it. We keep these things low-key! We have a unique name in the world of football. The future king supports Villa!
Which were your favourite and least favourite matches involving Aston Villa?
The European final in 1982 wasn’t bad! The season we went down, every game was dispiriting as the players looked lost and the club appeared to be without direction.
Which sides do you think will finish in the top four and which do you think will finish in the bottom three?
Same old, same old, I would think, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, and then…… well. There are a few clubs knocking on the door and at the moment, that includes the mighty claret and blue.
What are your thoughts on Arsenal?
Hated the old school Arsenal, ‘boring boring Arsenal’ under George Graham, but admired how effective they were. The team that went unbeaten throughout the season, were a pleasure to watch back in the day. Arsenal do seem to have a great style and aren’t arrogant like the other ‘big’ boys in the league, or some of the pretenders to the throne. Wasn’t so keen on them when they beat us in the FA Cup final a few years back though!!
If you could steal one Arsenal player for your own team, who would it be and why?
Ha, according to the press, it is more like which players would you like to steal, with Watkins and Luiz linked. No chance, they won’t be moving. Which of your players would I have? Undoubted quality, but hey, I’ll not second guess our current manager!! Bukayo Saka does seem top class though.
What is your prediction for this match?
God knows. Seriously. It should be a cracking game. We battered Manchester City, never seen a performance like that against the £odern version of that club, can we repeat that? Don’t know. I can guarantee the atmosphere will be electric and we all know both teams will be giving their all, the points are invaluable and at last, Aston Villa is back competing where we should be, at the top of the league.