Saturday, 24 January 2015

Rival Lines: Cherry Chimes talks to A Villa Fan

Rival Lines
FA Cup Preview
4th Round
Aston Villa v AFCB
Blogger Interview: A Villa Fan

I think every AFCB fan is looking forward to the match against Aston Villa and the chance to visit one of the country's most famous football grounds. I had the good fortune to have a quick chat with Stuart Young last week who is an ardent Villa fan and author of the A Villa Fan Blog. As it is a special cup match I asked quite a few more questions that usual so a big thanks to Stuart for answering them all.

CC: We see Villa have signed Carles Gil from Valencia to add a bit more creativity, but is it too little to late spent by Randy Lerner this season?

AVF: Randy Lerner has always promised his managers £20m plus anymore bought in from sales for his managers from day 1. I personally believe that Lambert has had around that every season except this season. However, had he spent the estimated £8m on Tom Cleverley in the summer like he wanted to then Lambert would of been close to that £20M mark yet again. Seven of the 11 players that started against Leicester the other week were Lambert's signings - only he can be blamed for the poor quality he has bought in.

CC: Mid-table in the Premier League, why is the glass always half empty at Villa rather than half full for supporters - what is the style of football like at the moment?

AVF: The glass isn't half empty, its more of a case of being realistic. We have just played 9 games over Christmas with 8 of them being side who were below us or in and around us and we have picked up just 10 points from a possible 27. We now have 3 games coming up against top sides and sit just 5 points above the bottom three. If people are realistic they will see that we could be bottom three by the end of January. That isn't a glass half empty - it's a very realistic change that for the third year under Paul Lambert we are under-performing.

CC: What can Paul Lambert do differently to get more fans on his side or do you feel there is nothing that will win over many of the fans even if Villa made top six?

AVF: The majority have had enough of Paul Lambert and I would be amazed if a good 90% didn't want him gone. The only thing he could do is completely turn us around by playing exciting, attractive football and pushing right up the league but I don't think that will happen now. If you asked him after two and a half years what his strongest XI was I bet he still couldn't tell you.

CC: The home form has been poor and the goals are not really flowing, but have you had the personnel to score goals or have Villa been hampered by injuries?

AVF: The players are there, but the front three offer our midfield nothing. I am not going to say we have a midfield who are capable of creating chance after chance, but when you have forward players who don't ever want the ball, you will struggle. People keep saying that we will be lucky to keep hold of Benteke - unless he re-finds his form he will be at Villa Park for a few years yet.

CC: Is Joe Cole still a big influence in midfield?

AVF: He has been hampered with injuries since we have signed him so we haven't really see the best of him - or if he is even capable of being a big influence anymore.

CC: Have Agbonlahor and Benteke been missing many chances or are the team simply not creating chances for their strikers?

AVF: I did some research a few weeks back and the average conversion rate in the Premiership is around the 15% mark. We don't have one player higher than 10%. On top of that, as I said before - I think we have had less shots than any other side in the league which doesn't help. Agbonlahor for me makes a bigger impact on the wing - it can't be easy for him being swapped from pillow to post in terms of positions.

CC: You have great keepers at Villa in Guzan and Given, but how good are the back four as you have to go up as far as Man Utd to find a team that has let in fewer goals in the Premier League?

AVF: Defensively we have massively improved this season compared to previous seasons. I think we bought in a new defensive coach in the summer who seems to of done a real good job with players like Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker who let us down massively in previous seasons. Guzan has actually been below par this year so had he not made the few mistakes he has, then maybe we would of been better off defensively and points wise.

CC: What can visiting fans look forward to seeing at Villa park if it is their first time - I imagine it is a good view from the Doug Ellis and Upper North stands?

AVF: There are no restricted views at Aston Villa and I highly recommend you take a walk up to the Holte End if you arrive at the ground early. Many have said it is the best looking stand in English football and as someone who is well travelled in football terms - (biased I know) but I have to agree.

Away from Villa Park you have one of the biggest shopping centres in Europe in the Bullring as well as many other features.

CC: Have you been surprised that Fabian Delph has forced his way into the England team? I see he has not scored yet this season.

AVF: Fabian Delph has and will never be a goalscorer. He likes to run with the ball and he's pretty good with a pass, but he tackles like Paul Scholes used to. On top of that he has had injury and suspension problems this season so has been a bit of a miss for us. I would expect him to feature against yourselves and if he plays the way he is capable then you will see why Villa fans are not surprised by his England call up.

CC: Villa lost to Sheffield Utd at home in the Third Round last season, so are Villa fans desperate for a good cup run this year?

AVF: Ha! Aston Villa fans have been desperate for a good cup run for a long time. Under Paul Lambert it doesn't come as a surprise when we lose to a lower league side anymore. We have lost to Millwall, Bradford and Sheffield United in recent years and I really wouldn't be surprised to see your side do the same.

CC: Many teams have ended up playing AFCB with 10 men this season and I see Villa have a poor discipline record with three reds, but why is it that your forwards are frequently getting sent off?

AVF: There is clearly a disciplinary issue at Aston Villa regardless of how much Paul Lambert denies it. I am unsure why because we aren't a dirty side - I have seen other sides get away with the same issues this season. I guess we are a unfashionable side? I'm really not sure!

CC: You have Liverpool and Arsenal games either side of this FA Cup tie, so do you expect a similar team to the one that was selected for the last round against Blackpool?

AVF: With the pressure being piled on the manager at the moment I would expect the strongest side available to him so no, I can't see it being the same as the one that faced Blackpool.

CC: Knowing that Birmingham and WBA have lost to AFCB this season what did you think when Bournemouth came out of the hat against Villa?

AVF: I am a big follower of the football league so I am no stranger to both Eddie Howe and the job he is doing on the South Coast. I speak to a Villa fan who lives in Poole and we actually joked that I would stay at his when we got Bournemouth away. We ended up with you at home instead which most of us would of preferred the away trip but it wont be easy. I would even make you early favourites!

CC: You have been drawing a lot of games at home so how highly do you rate the possibility of a draw and a visit to the Goldsands stadium this February?

AVF: It all depends on you really. We are unpredictable so I couldn't be confident of going into the game and scoring - but equally we have the players who can score so if they put their arses into gear, we might just score! Defensively we are pretty solid so if you fail to break us down - there could well be a replay.

CC: This next question I have left in because I think it is important to understand what has been happening at Aston Villa even if things did not turn out quite as everybody thought  it might last eeekend.

CC: Finally, I hear that there is to be a protest at the Liverpool home match the week before our game when fans don't take to their seats until after the 8th minute, could you let us know how well you think it went or if it was a waste of time?

AVF: As I am writing this before the game I honestly don't know how well it will go down but we are winners in one way. The national media has finally stood up and took a look at the biggest club in the Midlands so along with the fans the pressure is being piled on all those at the club.

As a season ticket holder of over 15 years its been hard since we Lost Martin O'Neill - we have paid for the boards mistakes which is unfair and although I am a big believer of supporting the side from start to finish - I feel that something has to be done.

CC: In the event it seems the Holt End protest was a bit of a non-event from reports I heard after the game and I hope the Villa fans are prepared for whatever happens against AFCB and that the game is seen as a good advert for the FA Cup whatever the result.

It was really pleasing to hear from Stuart who raises some very good points to explain Villa's form of late and I am most intrigued by his thoughts on what side will play the Cherries. It looks like AFCB may be playing pretty much a first choice Villa team. You can read more about the Villa and what Stuart has been writing about in the run up to the game by visiting A Villa Fan. A big thank you again to Stuart because I really asked him a lot of questions and he was happy to answer them all - top man! I'm sounding like Marc Pugh more and more each day.

Rantie Watch
last night South Africa played their second group game in the Africa Cup of Nations against Senegal. Rantie had a quiet first half but in the second half he was involved in the build up to South Africa's goal holding on to possession and spreading play wide to the right before it came back across to the left side and Oupa Manyisa's low drilled finish on 47 minutes.Senegal equalised from a strong header by Kara Mbodji from a set piece on the hour. Rantie almost got through on 74 minutes, but was just tackled in time inside the box. He had another chance in the 91 minute but fired uncomfortably wide, so the game ended 1-1.

All Departments
Later this morning my good friend Michael Dunne is releasing a special podcast interviewing the AFCB and Aston Villa legend - Shaun Teale. Listen in on the All Departments' website and I'll post it on Cherry Chimes as well later today.

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