Will our escape from humiliation in the Carling Cup against Northampton soon feel like nothing worse than a bad dream? Villa Park is a tough old place to go and show ourselves once more to be a decent Premier League side. What’s more, leaving aside an unexpected exit from the same competition against the cash-fuelled, embryonic nastiness of QPR, Villa are currently super-confident. Give them the sniff of success and their fans suddenly play hard to get. Last season, we had them coming out of our ears to write previews…this year it was a close run thing whether we’d get even one. At one point, it seemed Salut! Sunderland might have to invent something on behalf of the Villa support. Then Tom Vickers, the editor of the AstonVilla-MAD.co.uk website stepped in. First came the answers to our questions, then – in the nick of time – some bullish introductory thoughts about his team’s great start to the season, plus downbeat verdicts on Tommy Sorensen and Gavin McCann and a qualified prediction that Villa will avenge last season’s defeat (a crucial win for us, of course). It remains to be seen whether he’ll now supply the third chunk: a potted history of his Villa support and a photograph – but come what may, his preview is appreciated and is now returning to the top of the site for a while (we’ve had our rant, they’re probably having theirs as I type and I’ve just watched a heartening re-run of the Mags v Spurs)…
Villa will be sensing the sweet taste of revenge as they take on Sunderland at Villa Park on Saturday.
The Mackems defeated the Claret and Blue by a solitary Michael Chopra goal in the corresponding fixture last season and the home fans expect a better outcome this time round.
Villa are in fine form coming into the game after winning 2-1 at both West Brom and Spurs in the space of one victorious week.
The winning feeling is circulating the Pride of the Midlands and Roy Keane and Co must beware.
Having said that, it would be typical Villa to do the hard work on the road and become wasteful on their own turf.
Defeats against Wigan and Sunderland during the last campaign illustrated that point and at times it gets particularly frustrating.
But, after ending a long home hoodoo against Man City on the opening day and performing impressively against Liverpool, Villa will be confident of creating a fortress at Villa Park.
Dwight Yorke will again be welcomed back to the Midlands and his return will undoubtedly add fire to the fixture.
Villa will be aware of recent Sunderland signings Steed Malbranque and Djibril Cisse as they look to close the counter attacking door on the away side.
A win is expected but personally I never write off any side in the Premiership as it’s very much dog eat dog.
Now for your questions…
I thought that this would be a season of consolidation for us, hopefuly with a memorable cup run thrown into the mix. We aimed to keep Gareth Barry and managed it so I honestly believed that we could make the top six considering the strength of our main competition. Only Man City and Spurs have really strengthened, meaning I was confident about the ability of our squad in comparison. I have no reason to change my view as yet.
On Sunderland, I honestly thought they might struggle but with Roy Keane involved I didn’t think they would go down without a fight. They added technique to the squad and I am now confident they can survive.
When did you last see SAFC v Villa home or away, and what happened? Any other memorable games between us?
I last saw the fixture last season when we lost to you 1-0 at Villa Park. We were on a bit of a bad run at the time and it showed.
Memorable games? Probably the victory for us at Villa Park a few years ago when Marcus Allback scored the winner. We really needed the points to secure survival.
How did we manage to beat you at Villa Park last season? Us being better than you expected or you playing so badly?
All credit to your boys but we were in a bad run of form at the time as I mentioned before. It was a case of huffing and puffing on our part but we couldn’t really create much and wasted what we opportunities came our way. Marlon Harewood was the main offender on that occasion
Have you been to the Stadium of Light. If so what did you make of it? What do you think of Sunderland itself? What memories, if any, do you have of Roker Park?
I have never been there before but fancy a trip to the Stadium at some point. Just a bit too far for my liking.
What about the signings each club have made?
We have done what we needed to and I am impressed with who we hav signed. Carlos Cuellar should be a good buy considering the reaction of the Rangers fans. James Milner could also be crucial as we now have a great balance on both wings.
For Sunderland, Steed Malbranque looks a good buy as does Pascal Chimbonda. The others buys may take time to prove themselves but Keane could get the best out of them.
Do you regard Birmingham City much as we regard Newcastle? Or are you more grown-up about such things?
Most definitely. We are very contemptuous towards them for want of a better word. The games between the two sides are often fierce and trouble outside of the ground is not unheard of. I prefer a friendly rivalry personally but some people don’t realise how much passion there is in the Second City.
Memories of players and/or management linked to both clubs? Tommy Sorensen, Gavin McCann, Kevin Phillips are obvious recent ones (and there was Darius Kubizcki before that) but you may well think of others. And I almost forgot – though you won’t – Dwight Yorke
Tommy Sorensen was somewhat a one season wonder as for the following two he made a number of high profile errors. McCann was a steady player but not one who would put the club where they wanted to be. Kevin Phillips was a lethal finisher and a bit of a folk hero after scoring the winner against Birmingham in an away fixture.
As for Dwight Yorke, he was once a Villa legend but after a highly criticised move to Man Utd the esteem he was held in by Villa fans diminished.
Cheeky question, but how much did you pay Steve Bennett for the game at our place last season? Or did he have some serious evening out to do in your favour?
I didn’t see that fixture but heard that his decisions were questionable. But I don’t mind because we got a point from a tough away fixture.
What do you make of the big takeovers, such as Man City and, before them, Chelsea, Man Utd, Fulham and QPR? Would you have liked the Abu Dhabi deal for Villa?
Our takeover by Randy Lerner was profitable to say the least. He is the pinnacle to which foreign owners should aspire. On the whole there has been a lot of trouble at West Ham and Liverpool for example but then again the same can happen with English owners just look at Mike Ashley.
I’m not sure about the Man City deal it’s like fantasy football but if they’re successful the fans won’t be complaining.
Club vs country. Who wins for you, in football but also in the other sports you follow?
Club wins for me because they play much more and you get more attached. But I still enjoy England internationals – most of the time.
Who will win? Score? Will you be there?
We should claim the three points no disrespect to Sunderland but as the game last seaosn shows you never know. We will have played some tricky games in the build up to the match meaning we could be a little jaded but I hope we get the win.
I should be there as I’m a season ticket holder.