Date: 8th February 2011 at 10:54pm
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Mike from Vital Villa talks to us about the game on Saturday. Definitely well worth a read!

[size=1] by Guardian Chalkboards

Bit of an interview for you all ahead of the match against Aston Villa on Saturday.

Mike from Vital Villa was kind enough to answer some questions for us, and it’s well worth a read!

So Mike, this season has been a strange one at Villa Park, what have you made of it so far?

To be honest I’ve done my best to try and forget most of it. A fair few of us thought this season would turn out to be a disappointment before O’Neill upped and walked, the passion had gone it seemed from both the manager and players and behind the scenes clearly things had reached a head with some players.

But even then, I certainly never expected it to be this bad both in terms of results but also in performances. Kevin MacDonald despite the players crowing they loved him, didn’t get a honeymoon period and the players were all talk and very little walk when it came to them supporting him, and then Gerard Houllier hardly inspired a honeymoon period either.

We’ve picked up lately, with the injured returning, and are digging in and battling better but it still doesn’t appear we are completely united behind the scenes, and I’m not sure Houllier is having much more success with the players than he is the fans when it comes to continually playing people out of position when there is no longer a real need to.

Benty is scoring almost every other chance at the moment, and we seem to be doing our level best to make sure he only gets one chance per game.

The season is improving simply because we are picking up a few more points and no longer seem stuck near the bottom, but over half way through the season I’m still not sure on what to make of it, because it seems with every improvement, there is an equal ‘WTF’ moment.

I suppose at least it’s a change from previous seasons and has been eventful?

What’s the best and worst you could hope for now?

Best is definitely a late run for 6th place. In previous years we’ve started brilliantly and died in the second half of the season, I’m not sure if it’s optimism or desperation that I’m hoping this season we’ve started like a bunch of amatuers just so we can have a brilliant end of season run.

Worst is obviously that we could still be dragged into a relegation fight because the table is still so close. Nobody yet has really lost the fight and drifted at the bottom and guaranteed themselves a place that we couldn’t fill, a run of 3 games with back to back wins would fire us up the table, however 3 back to back losses with other results going against us and we could be holding the table up again.

I thought Randy Lerner ran a tight ship, but was the Martin O’Neill bust-up leading to his departure avoidable?

Completely, both parties could’ve done things differently but the crux is Lerner gave O’Neill what he wanted in effect, so when the time came to ship out the deadwood, those he’d fallen out with, and those who were never really going to get on the pitch again it seems O’Neill couldn’t shift them quick enough, and having spent big previously Lerner was no longer willing to spend and wait for the wage bill to be trimmed…he wanted it trimmed before he’d sanction any further spending.

Both parties could’ve maybe met in the middle a little more, but when you see the list of players we have and the transfer fees and their wages, it’s hard not to side with Lerner – at least for me, others certainly disagree. But there’s little point moaning about a small squad and wanting extra players when you won’t use the ones you’ve brought yourself sadly.

It seemed people were on the same page though until that single day at Bodymoor, I doubt anything drastic had changed as the manager, CEO and Chairman had met plenty of times to discuss the coming season but it seemed 5 days before kick off, O’Neill had had enough and the rest is history.

What happened to Kevin McDonald? He was never seriously in the running for the job, was he?

It was his job to lose ultimately, but he spent that long weighing up his options and trying to decide whether he did want the top job, the opportunity had passed.

As said above, the players didn’t really help as they hardly supported him on the pitch despite him being well liked in the background, but he was offered the chance and he was probably the favourite for quite a while but you have to jump at opportunities as they come and he dithered for too long.

Has Houllier done anything to win over early doubters?

Yeah he’s done loads, sadly for him outside of the Bent signing, he’s only helped grow the number of doubters at the end of the day though.
Even those willing to give him time, sort out the camp issues from the previous manager, stamp his authority on the club and so on are very quickly running out of patience because of his strange selections, tactics and substitutions.

We are still waiting for him to take the best of the previous manager’s set up (tight defence, would really dig in and battle) and then improve on our obvious failings. At the moment there are flashes he is making it happen, but they are few and far between and again it certainly doesn’t help when we go negative 451 in effect at home.

How has Barry Bannan performed in the middle of midfield?

The Bananaman has been one of the highlights of the season for me. He’s been very highly rated for a long time as he’s progressed through our ranks, and he’s one of few positive that has come as a result of our horrific injury list.

He’s still young and learning, so making mistakes at points but he has a sweet left foot and really adds some passion and urgency to what is a slow central midfield. You’ll be hard pushed to find many Villans who don’t groan when he’s not in the starting line up and then who moan when he isn’t even on the bench.

I’d certainly start him ahead of Petrov, and just take him out for rests at points – but I think plenty of our younger players should be starting ahead of their ‘professional seniors’ given application and effort this season.

The signing of Darren Bent was a signal of intent by the club – is he now considered a relative bargain after the ridiculous prices paid on deadline day?

He has to be considered a bargain given the fees Carroll and Torres went for, especially when you consider goals to game ratios and the like. He’s most certainly a striker we have been crying out for for longer than I can remember, and the daft thing is we could’ve had him all those years ago for roughly the same price we paid for Heskey and Harewood!

On the other hand trying to justify £18 million as a bargain for somebody who kicks a ball around remains difficult.

Onto the mighty Seasiders now…

Without any clichés of ‘breath of fresh air’ etc, what have you made to Blackpool’s start to Premiership life?

How can I not use the cliches? You exploded into the Premiership and took everyone by surprise, and then by the next game most thought sanity had returned but you’ve kept picking up points and racking up some decent wins as you’ve gone. Your aim obviously was simply to stay out of the bottom 3 come the end of the season, but Holloway ‘can’ be a delight to listen to, and he’s got you playing some really good stuff even when results don’t quite go your way.

It’s difficult not to root for you at points.

Thoughts on Charlie Adam…?

Honest appraisal is he looks a tidy player who is certainly capable of picking out a pass, but I genuinly rate Bannan as the better player and I’d much rather see him get more pitch time, so I couldn’t understand quite why we wanted Adam.

I certainly wasn’t that disappointed to miss out on him and I’d be very surprised if we bothered going back. It’s not difficult to look like a big fish in a small pond, and I think Charlie’s biggest test will be can he still look good when he’s alongside similar quality.

Few players can.

And is the hatred passion towards Ian Holloway still burning?

It’d be nice to fake a little indignation here but I find it more comical than anything. The main ire is over the ‘half arsed’ club comment which he actually said generally and never once qualified it by naming a club – in fact in that interview the only club he did name was Liverpool in saying they wouldn’t have enough money for Adam. But that gets mixed in with other interviews and spun and fans lap it up and the press have done their job.

The real comical element though for me was Holloway moaning about managers talking about other clubs players in interviews and conducting negotiations in public (chiefly I think as a response to Houllier commenting Adam was a player he liked but at least not from memory saying we had any real interest) as Holloway was the first to comment a bid had been turned down, and then he proceeded to talk about one of his targets and where things stood there. The irony wasn’t lost on me.

Do you understand his comments to the media about the Adam saga?

Depends which comments specifically, as at points I don’t actually think Holloway has done himself or Blackpool justice with some of his rantings and he might be wise to wind it in a bit before he truly becomes a ‘rent a quote’ for the press, who we’ve already seen have no problems with spinning the context, because anything valid he does have to say about the state of the game will soon be lost by the sheer number of reactionary comments he makes.

For Adam specifically, the press conference where he suggested that your Chairman might decide he doesn’t want any money for Adam, and he might find himself out of form and out of the team if he plays up weren’t exactly wise, certainly it’s not something that should be aired publicly, but otherwise he simply did what most managers do, talk up the player, talk up the club, and protect what is ultimately a monetary asset in the hope of maximising profits.

Any players bar Charlie you’re worried about come Saturday?

Beattie could be quite a handful, but I always worry more about players returning and I doubt we’ve seen the last of the Hare yet.

And finally, a prediction please…

I concur with you that it’s going to be an absolute cracker. I think it’s going to be quite open but I’m hoping our senior players have something to prove following our earlier game, so I’m going 3-1 to the Lions.