Despite our Brummie blues, is this our Carling Cup year? After an easy passage in the two previous rounds, Sunderland face a potentially far stiffer challenge tomorrow night from Aston Villa. But it’s at the Stadium of Light, we’re in form too – or were – and it still offers a great opportunity to move towards a welcome trophy. Jonathan Fear*, who runs the Vital Football network as well as the Aston Villa part of it, has other ideas …
Good start for Villa, with important wins already. Is this going to be a big season for you?
I’m a Villa fan, I don’t make massive predictions, had too many false dawns to start shouting from the roof tops. However, our defence does now appear to be rock solid (I really should not have said that should I?) and we are picking up some great wins without particularly being on top form (Chelsea game aside, which we won with style and deservedly). We have a few players yet to start as they have no form at all – Ashley Young is only doing things in dribs and drabs, John Carew hasn’t turned up to many games etc. That some might say is a negative but to pick up the points whilst not hitting form is nothing but a positive to me as long as at some stage they do turn it on.
So yes, maybe it will be a top season for us, I’ll just not hold my breath, I’m too long in the tooth to get over excited, I’ll just go with the flow!
Birmingham came to the Stadium of Light for the Carling Cup and did no more than go through the motions. Will Villa be up for it?
Villa blinking well better be well up for it! This is a competition we should go hell for leather to win in my opinion, it might not be the holy grail of the FA Cup (last win was 1957 so we are long overdue) but we have a good history in the League Cup and silverware is silverware. Trouble is I’m very mindful that you guys will also be up for it.
Randy Lerner has laid on free transport to fans going to the Stadium of Light, so it seems that MON and the boys are interested and want the support. Should be a good game.
Were you surprised at how bad Sunderland were last season, and/or by Keane’s walkout, and indeed – leaving aside local rivalries – by Bruce’s bright start?
Keane walking out didn’t shock me at all, he is too much of a maverick to be a manager, he just can’t understand why other players can’t do what his former team mates at Man Utd used to be able to do. Sunderland – big club with potential, so yes, surprised to see how poor you were and at one point it looked like you might have joined your ‘neighbours’ Boro and Newcastle United. That would have been a really strange season eh!?
Who for you are the Villa greats, and do any real duds spring to mind?
I’m assuming you mean in the here and now, if you mean in our history, I’d need an hour to type them all out! For now, John Carew on his day is unplayable, trouble is his days are few and far between. Our new boys James Collins (who I knew nothing about before he came from West Ham) and Richard Dunne are looking very good and I like the work rate of James Milner.
Duds? Well, I’m told he is great but I can’t see the use of a striker – Emile Heskey – who doesn’t shoot. Prove me wrong v Sunderland Big man!
Is the money swirling around in English football reassuring, exciting or a serious concern for the future of the game?
It is ruining the game, the league has been divided by the money in the Champions League and further spoilt by Abramovich’s cash injection which now looks to be replicated at Man City. I also hate the debt that some clubs are allowed to get away with, just seems wrong to me. In years gone by you used to aim to win the league, now you look to come fourth (3rd loser) purely because of the £££££. Such a shame.
Name this season’s top four in order, and the Carling Cup winners
Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City, Villa….! Carling Cup, really no idea, cups you can’t predict I don’t think. I’ll say Villa though. Oh and my league prediction, we could just as easily end up 8th, it really does depend on when and if some of our players join the party and put in some effort. So far, apart from the opening day blip v Wigan (awful home performance) and away to Blackburn, we’ve done well.
If Man City were not in your list, why not? And who is going down?
They were, sad to say. Would love to see it fail but they are buying like it is going out of fashion and have some very decent players. Hull are going, Burnley won’t be strong enough then one of either Blues or Wolves.
If there was one change you could make to football – anything from the laws of the game to handling of fans – what would it be?
Pay cap on players wages and a cap on transfer fees. As for the fans, (I know you said one but I’ll take some liberties) free pies for all!
A variation of our customary Club v Country question. Are you excited about the World Cup, blase or interested only if Villa players play a full part?
Will be excited when it kicks off, not going to waste too much thought or energy until. Should be a few Villa players in it so that adds spice but apart from despising friendlies, I do enjoy internationals, would rather see Villa win the league than England the world cup though!
The Eduardo question (which will not be renamed the Beach Ball question): dying seconds of the last game of the season. A win makes you champions. A Villa player dives spectacularly in the box and wins a penalty, Everyone except the ref sees it for what it is but the goal is scored and Villa are champs. You gake it gladly, you take it guiltily or you’re so ashamed you almost wish you’d only drawn and finished second?
I hate winning or losing unfairly. However a season is about more than one goal, so I’d not like the incident but point to it being a marathon not a sprint. Still hate diving though and wish they’d introduce video panels for after games to get some of the main culprits.
The lazy interviewer’s question. Is there something I should have asked but didn’t, and what is your response?
No, I think you’ve taken more than enough of my time!
Will you be at the match? What will be the score?
I don’t think I will be at the game, work comes before long trips and as I’m at the Everton game at the end of the month for a weekend away, my finances aren’t going to stretch to another trip unless I have a quick change of mind.
Not the best draw we could have got, you guys will also be up for it. I’ll take a 1-0 to the Villa, in off the arse of Heskey in the 5th minute of injury time. How is that then!?
Jonathan Fear is 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, photographed with his good friend Dennis Mortimer, a former Villa captain, and another pal, Deano.