A "Good Going Rover" with Vital Villa
Yes, it's Villa again in the cup! We have always had a good relationship with our friends over at Vital Villa and ahead of our 5,476th clash in the last two seasons we decided to sit Vital Villa's Mike Field down for a chat to see what he thinks ahead of the big cup clash tomorrow afternoon.
Eight questions, two Mike's, we certainly do spoil you sometimes.
1) So, we meet again... Do you like playing Rovers all the time or is it starting to get a tad boring now?
On the one hand we have had some damn good battles recently and I always look forward to matches that will be pleasing on the eye, either by total dominance (dosen't happen often!) or a good classic Cup battle where you are on the edge of your seat...the other hand however wishes we could draw somebody different as variety is apparently the spice of life and recently I've had enough of the edge of my seat/heart pounding games to last me a lifetime.
I suppose the good thing really is whilst the Cup draw may entice 'eye rolling' and groans of 'typical' or 'not again', the matches themselves are anything but.
2) Villa have been somewhat underwhelming so far this season (on the whole anyway), is there a reason for this or is this unfair?
There are many reasons and it would take up way too much time to go through them one by one in order to apportion blame appropriately and giving each side the credit where it's due. It's a mix of the type of player and football O'Neill preferred, those types of playing simply being able to motivate much self pride to begin with, and Houllier expecting a different type of response and behaviour from players and no doubt possibly underestimating the feeling within the camp and the complacency that had set in. By the same token Houllier has failed so far (although there are signs that is changing) to motivate the players in the way O'Neill managed and develop that siege mentality that saw us good through previous seasons until our effective March meltdown, and the players themselves haven't been flexible enough in the main to adjust to a new manager and things he wants to implement.
It speaks volumes to many fans that our best and most consistent performers this season as a whole so far have been the bloodied youngsters. The experienced professionals just weren't turning up until recently.
3) Has there been a stand out player for the Villains this season? If so who?
It would be impossible not to select Marc Albrighton here. He has been a true shining light when the floodlights have failed. Effort, determination, and his delivery should have had a number of Internationals hanging their heads in shame. I can't find the stats to hand sadly, but 4 goals this season makes him a joint 2nd place leading scorer, and he has assists coming out of his youthful ears. He obviously hasn't been phenomenal in every game, but the suggestions that he'll be receiving a full England call up before the end of the season are not without their merit.
Special mention also has to go to Ciaran Clark simply because if Albie hadn't made the impact many of us thought he would, Clark would be the shoe in for this question.
4) Where do you expect to end up in the league and can the cup be considered a priority or a distraction?
Now we seem to be finding some form, taking our chances and showing some fighting spirit I wouldn't be surprised to see us finish 7/8th come the end of the season and I'd be very happy indeed with that given how we started. Maybe if we put a run together of 6 unbeaten from here on in, with 3-4 wins I'll start thinking about sneaking 6th place given how tight the league is. But at this moment in time I'll take 8th and a good assault on the FA Cup - maybe it's the traditionalist in me but I don't like seeing Villa view any competition as a distraction.
5) Is there anyone from the Rovers that you admire from a far? Maybe someone that you wouldn't mind in the Villa line up?
Robinson is the obvious, Friedel has been good for us far more often than not but I'd have happily taken the former England No1. Kalinic would be my other favourite, ok he seems hot and cold to an outsider and doesn't bag enough, but there's just something about him that I think will click in the years ahead and when it does click I'd dearly love him to be playing for us as opposed to against us.
6) From an outsiders point of view, what have you made of the Rover takeover saga?
It's been slightly surreal really. Makes me wonder if this is what the Villa takeover looked like to others with stories of dropping an American Football helmet on the meeting table,and stories of Cisneros who never quite managed to land his plane, right down to the group involving a Judge! The press certainly had a fun time with poultry puns though.
To me (although I have to be honest my knowledge of other clubs is usually headline based - and we all know how headlines often don't reflect the reality) the takeover seemed to go without much of a hitch and be quite happy overall - but there did seem some strange 'first refusal' claims and counter offers going on when it came to the press. But what shocked me, and I'm no real Sam Allardyce fan, was how it seemed to go from sweet and light one minute, to surprised sacking the next even though results weren't that bad.
In takeovers managers always seem to be surplus to requirements, but it looked like Sam was safe given the passage of time - ok it was only really a month or so, but if a manager survives that long they normally get until the end of the season at least.
The most obvious thing to come from it all is your new owners have a vision and a direction for the club and they are following that through. Time will tell if it's right or not but you aren't doing too badly at the moment as a result of it.
7) And who do you see as the main threat to Villa this weekend?
I'm seeing people rave about Junior Hoillet lately, and being sensible I think I'd have to pick him. Collins and Dunne will know about Kalinic and Santa Cruz, which could leave the unknown quality taking his runs at either Clark or Baker playing out of position on the left, or Cuellar or Walker on the right. It should certainly be an interesting match up. I usually prefer picking dangermen that I know what to expect from, unknown quantities leave me a little worried because I don't know enough about him to know whether his style of play would play into our defences strengths!
8) Finally... Its prediction time sir...
I've got a funny feeling that given the high we should be on we'll sneak it 3-2. Whoever comes in to replace the cup-tied Bent should be more than motivated to make an impact, and of course Gabby and Ash are returning to form and both should be boosted by the Wigan showing, so I don't think we'll have problems taking our chances... the issue will be how tight we can keep it at the back.
Thank you to Mike Field for taking the time to talk to us!