Villa through and through, Jonathan Fear* is Salut! Sunderland’s second football web guru to preview Saturday’s game at the SoL. He’s the co-owner and a director of Vital Network, which runs www.vitalfootball.co.uk. As many fans will know, Vital splits into sites for the supporters of different teams. In the picture, he’s on the right (or should that be the left? see comments), and photographed with his good friend Dennis Mortimer, a former Villa captain, and another pal, Deano. As for the game, he sees the ball bouncing off a Sunderland backside past Fulop in time added on to bag three away points (a prediction I erroneously attributed, at another site, to our first Villa fan, Stuart Young, though he also reckoned on 1-0 to Villa). They both would say that, though; Villa are on a high, and he gleefully recalls a quote from local radio to the effect that they seem to be winning when they’re good, when they’re OK and when they’re rubbish…
Did you expect such a strong challenge from Villa this season? Can you make to 2nd of 3rd – or would Martin O’Neill suggest you’d been drinking?
I am not sure I expected quite as strong an assault on the top four. I know that is where the powers that be and the manager at Villa want to get us and that we are building, but I didn’t think our summer spending was quite good enough to fire us this far up the league. I think now, depending on whether we bring in at least 2-3 decent quality purchases including at least 1 striker, then we are in with a shout. Fair enough you look at the so called established ‘big’ four (hate that expression) and they are more used to finishing the season and the pressure etc, but then we have a good young team with players that look like they are enjoying themselves. Not only that we have picked up the habit of winning ugly. So even if we aren’t playing well, we are still getting the maximum points which is a great habit to have!
One of our local radio chaps said recently ‘Villa win when they are playing well, win when they are just ok and win when they are poor. That is the sign of a great team forming’.
However despite the highs we experienced in the early 80’s + the two League Cups in the 90’s we are used to disappointment, so I REALLY don’t want to get too carried away, that said, it is always nice to dream and having finished 16th, 11th and last season 6th, it seems pretty obvious that we’ll win the league this year!
As for Martin O’Neill, he’d be right if he suggested I’d been drinking and if he has any sense, so has he. That is one job I could not do for all the tea in China, the pressure must be agony at times.
If you thought about it at all, what did you reckon to Sunderland’s prospects and has Keane’s departure/results altered your view?
I must admit I thought Roy Keane would quit, I think he will never get the respect as a manager that he got as a player and that seems far too individual a character to really get on in management. I think Sunderland can be a big club and you seem to have the money as well as a good Chairman. However attracting the top players to the North can be difficult as your counterparts have at times found. I would think Sunderland aim to be in the mix for the UEFA qualification places and expect decent cup runs, whether they’ll ever break the top six I personally doubt but hey, I’ve been known to be wrong before!
Any thoughts of signings made by the two clubs?
Well you will be in transition since Keane left, I thought some of his buys were pathetic journeymen and they seem to have proved me right. As for Villa, it is who we are about to sign I’m interested in and at the moment apart from the rumours I have no idea. The signings of MON to date have been a bit mixed, Ashley and Luke Young both good buys, Salifou and Routledge not so good and bringing in a striker like Harewood when we have an owner with money seemed to me totally daft and judging by the lack of games the big man has played it seems the manager might now agree it was a mistake!
Last Villa v SAFC match you saw, home or away – and any other memories of games between us?
I am a season ticket holder at Villa Park so always see you guys each season and the best memories are from the fans. I think you have amongst the best away supporters in the land, great fun, passionate and always vocal. A season a few years back (can’t remember the year, I’m awful like that, everything just blurs into one!) when you were on your way down, last day of the season at Villa Park. You guys were all in fancy dress and loads of messing about having a laugh. I watched that more than the game in truth. Anyway, the ball went to an old chap in your crowd and he stuck it up his shirt and refused to give it back. The stewards gave up so the police came over and out of the corner of my eye who could I see running to the guys rescue? Batman and Robin! It was one of my favourite moments in all the years of watching football.
Ever been to the Stadium of Light? Or Roker Park before it?
Never been, work hours and a good few years of illness prevented me in years gone by, but I’ll make the trip one of the years. I remember the famous Roker Roar being talked about though.
What about players/staff we’ve both had. Dwight Yorke, Sorensen and McCann.spring to mind, and are you glad Martin O’Neill’s boyhood infatuation with SAFC didn’t entice him to take our job?
Yes, I’m happy to see what Martin O’Neill can do at Aston Villa thanks very much! I did think it was silly us buying players from a relegated team in order to challenge for Europe. I never felt Sorensen was as bad as some of the Villa fans used to say, but he certainly wasn’t a top keeper I guess! As for McCann, he was steady, I used to call him Mr Ronseal as he did exactly what it said on the tin!
As for Dwight, he was a hero at Villa but left in such a shabby way that he ruined a great deal of the happy memories the fans had of him. I still do remember the great great times with him up front though.
How much do you hate Birmingham City, or are you far too grown up for that?
When we play them, I hate them with a passion but if they aren’t in the pitch in front of the claret and blue, they don’t exist and don’t bother me! The one thing I despise is our fans singing sh*t on the city when we aren’t playing them, why give them a mention? I’d rather we sang FOR our team, not against another, especially when they aren’t even in the same division!
Club vs country. Who wins for you?
Club comes first, second and third.
Will you be there on Saturday? If not, how will you keep tabs,
and what will be the score?
I won’t be there this weekend sadly, I’m trying to see if I can get the money together to go to see us play in Moscow – then again I’m not sure I want to experience the temperatures!!!!!
The score, gulp, tough game and you have a great record against Villa if memory serves me right but I’m hoping our luck holds out and we win, don’t care if it is by a smashing entertaining game or a hit and run. 1-0 off the backside of a Sunderland player in injury time will count just the same as a rout!
Who are you: name, something about Vital Network and what you do
there, and your history as a Villa fan?
* Jonathan Fear on Jonathan Fear:
With a surname like that I really should have been a doctor! I’m a co-majority shareholder and director of Vital Network Ltd that runs www.vitalfootball.co.uk (splits into sites for all the teams). It has been operating just over three years and has become the largest independent football network. Very happy with it because it is genuinely done by the fans for the fans and hasn’t had the big money backing that some other networks have. I’ve been a Villa supporter since a kid, there was no other way as my family was claret and blue and I would have been thrown out the house if I’d not followed. First game was in 1977 and I can still remember the excitement! If you are really interested (which to be fair I doubt!…..nonsense, it’s a good read – Salut! Sunderland) I’ve an interview on my site at this link