Premiership Survival Feature: Wolves & Villa.
In what has proven the most unpredictable season in Premiership history, ten or more teams stumbled into the New Year with relegation a grave concern.
We find ourselves right in the thick of it and when the chips are down it's easy to think we are the only one's suffering.
Vital Editors at our rival clubs have responded to our interview requests and it seems that some are suffering a lot worse than us. The interviews will be published one by one.
In the battle for survival, better the devil you know. I thank all the editors who responded.
First up, Aston Villa.
What were you expectations at the start of the season?
Well, expectations sort of got confused when Martin O`Neill left five days before the start of the season but with the team still in place and our most qualified ever manager coming in, I couldn`t see why we wouldn`t still be fighting for the top six (been 6, 6, 6 the last three seasons) and for a good cup run. We blew the Carling Cup against our local rivals, so that hurt.
Villa have just slipped into the bottom three, what is going wrong?
Lack of professional pride from the players. There are all sorts of rumours of dressing room splits (there were when MON was here as well, it was quoted in one paper report just as he left that he said to the players in training the one day that they looked like they hated him) but no matter how much they hide behind this manager or that manager, some have been nothing short of an embarrassment this season and yes, I do know how harsh that sounds. These are highly paid players, many of them internationals and yet at times they haven`t looked like a team at all and more worryingly, they haven`t looked interested.
I don`t think some of the talk through the press by Houllier has helped but surely these highly paid players are capable of standing up and being counted during games? Man City away was a major worry as we were (as Lawro said) an embarrassment. HOWEVER we did show heart and fight v Chelsea last weekend so maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
That level of support is the manager receiving from the fans?
Well, in fairness no one did cartwheels when he was appointed, so with such an awful season thus far (and the Liverpool incident where he touched the 'This is Anfield` badge, waved to the Liverpool not Villa fans + came out with the awful quote... which he has apologized about and said it was meant in jest... that he didn`t mind losing 3-0 to them as he likes them) he`s hardly had the full force of the claret and blue army behind him. MON was a tough act to follow as well because when he came it was like the arrival of the messiah, I`ve never seen the fans so united on an appointment.
We just needs results, if he doesn`t get them then I guess he won`t get much backing. There are many saying now he is the manager he must be given time but patience does look short.
How many more games should he be given?
No idea, after the Man City away game I did start to think he would need to go and fairly quickly, however we fought back v Chelsea and I don`t think our board/owner are going to do a knee jerk reaction. I feared a tonking v Chelsea, getting a draw buys him a bit of time but not sure how much as we now have Sunderland at home and then Sheffield United in the FA Cup. Then a big game away to Blues, he really won`t want to be losing that one after they beat us in the Carling Cup!
What players would you like to see brought/sold in January?
We have a few players like Nigel Hokey-Cokey and John Carew out of contract at the end of the season, so I would think they will run down their deals and leave on frees. I`d let Carew go now to be fair. He should be our Drogba but he`s 'gone` already in my honest opinion.
We need a play maker (who doesn`t) and a striker (who doesn`t!) but don`t look to me for names, not my job! I wouldn`t be surprised to see us grab a loan or two and then have the major action in the summer. If we need a short term fix, I`d grab Michael Owen on loan,, if fit he will score and if not fit, he can be sent back! We have also been linked to Adebayor on loan, I`m sure he`d find the goal as well.
Many thanks to Jonathan for his detailed response as to the goings on at Villa Park.
One question I forgot to ask him was where Villa will finish- I am sure he will answer this in reply to the article.
Do we think we will finish above Villa? If so where will we both be finishing?
Will two (or more) Midlands team disastrously face relegation? Are we all staying up?
I'll start the ball rolling. This may sound like a classic blunder but I think Villa have got too much to go down. Their form is awful, the manager appears to have lost the fans, and possibly the dressing room, and if he doesn't shape up soon I expect they will ship him out. I think it's going to be close but I think they will just about stay up. I'll say 16th, and 15th for Wolves.
Plenty to ponder, so get those fingers tapping and share your thoughts.
New York City Wolf