Fan's Eye View: Aston Villa
A C Grayling
A. C. Grayling is an English philosopher and founder of independent undergraduate college, New College of the Humanities. He is the author of several books including The Refutation of Scepticism (1985), The Meaning of Things (2001) and The Good Book (2011).
Wednesday 10 August 2005
But there are so many to choose from...oh, hold on, Villa. We saved our best form for Newcastle last term and as the 3-0 win at St James' Park was slightly overshadowed by the fisticuffs between Messrs Bowyer and Dyer, I'll plump for the 4-2 victory at home earlier in the season.
And the worst?
Take your pick. That Newcastle win followed an insipid 3-0 loss to Charlton, and tame defeats soon became the order of the day. Obviously, having Birmingham City do the double was particularly galling. Not least because of the way the losses came about. Two errors by Thomas Sørenson were bad but the comical mix-up between Olof Mellberg and Martin Laursen was truly heart-stopping. It could not have been more embarrassing if they were wearing baggy trousers, oversized shoes and red noses. Then again, at least that would have provided some disguise.
Who was your best player last season?
Nobby Solano was streets ahead of anybody else and it will be good to see more of him now he's retired from international football. Again. His performance against Southampton was particularly memorable, coming off the bench to almost single-handedly turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win.
Who was the most under-rated?
Despite a lot of criticism, I'd go for Ulises de la Cruz. Does not deserve his handy, if inaccurate, 'Useless' tag, as David O'Leary has said on enough occasions to suggest that he himself is far from convinced.
And the worst player?
A couple of early season games aside, Carlton Cole wins at a canter. If he were a horse, he would have been put out of his misery sometime around November but after a spate of injuries, his blinkered running was to be painfully viewed for much of the season.
What was the most memorable moment?
Villa, right? It has to be Thomas Hitzlsperger's sublime strike against Bolton Wanderers that stole all three points in the last minute of the game. Sam Allardyce's face was a peach - an adjective not usually used in conjunction with the Bolton manager's elephantitis-addled mug.
Funniest moment, If any?
Any of the Birmingham derby goals - before I realised Villa were not playing in blue.
Whose was the best individual performance against you?
The rotund Andy Reid ran rings around us at White Hart Lane, but then, so too did the rest of the Spurs side. Therefore the award has got to go to another diminutive winger, Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Philips who, well, ran rings around us in City's 2-0 win at Eastlands.
Best set of fans, besides your own?
With Spurs in 20th, the remaining 19 will have to fight it out. But I would say Everton for their passion, humour and conformity to lazy stereotypes.
A slight variation but Robbie Fowler's reaction to Everton's 'smackhead' taunts was excellent. Sadly Gerard 'it is a training ground joke where Robbie pretends to be a cow' Houllier was not on hand to provide another dazzling excuse.
Which ground is your favourite to visit and why?
At risk of repetition it has to be Goodison Park. A traditional stadium with good views - if you are not in the Gladys Street end that is - and friendly if vociferous support. Of the modern grounds, the imposing St
James' Park is pretty spectacular too.
What improvements need to be made this season?
I would settle for advances with the goalkeeper, defence, midfield, up front and with the coach. Oh, and the canteen. Shoddy burgers.
Individual with most to prove?
Jlloyd Samuel. An outstanding first season which deservedly earned comparisons to Ashley Cole, was followed up by a year of painful tripe more akin to the footballing prowess of Minder's George Cole.
Which game are you most looking forward to?
Behind Portsmouth? I would be tempted to say Birmingham.
Which of your young players has impressed you?
We have a number of youngsters on the fringes of the side. Peter Whittingham and Luke Moore both excel for the reserves but still look like startled deer for the first XI. Liam Ridgewell had a good run in the first
team last season but failed to grasp the opportunity, although Steven Davis definitely did. After making his debut, he became on of out three best players. Central defender Gary Cahill will hopefully soon emerge from the shadows after impressing for Burnley on loan last season.
If money was no object which player or manager would like to see at your club?
Well, as the saying goes, you can't polish a turd. But if anyone can, it's got to be José Mourinho.
What would you consider to be a good season?
A UEFA Cup spot. We now seem to be concentrating our pre-season work in Scandinavia. A shrewd move - the days of elimination by Helsingborg are surely over. We are ready to roll.
How would you sum up your manager?
By his nicknames. 'David O'Dreary' just about sums up his post-match interviews ("I can't ask the lads more than that. You know, we've got one of the smallest squads in the premierzzzzzhhhip"). Meanwhile, his snub nose and keen dislike for anything local succinctly fit the 'Tubbs' billing.
If you had to put a £1m bet on where your team finishes, where would you say?
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