By now, we’ve read all the takes on Saturday’s 1-0 win at the Riverside—“defensive masterclass” seems the most common, and it’s hard to argue with the hyperbole. Just as it’s hard to argue that Alan Hutton, once a regular target of supporters’ ire, has become Villa’s best fullback. He did a fine job combining to stifle Adama Traore and it really is time that we stop talking about him once being out of favor. He’s always been a warrior, if somewhat unbridled and often suspect in the past. Credit to Bruce & Co. for getting the best out of him.

Overall, it was that commitment to boxing in Traore that was the difference in the first leg. Two and three players were often employed, which is about what it takes to blunt his considerable talent. You can almost bet he’s going to beat the first man, and perhaps the second, often as not. The key is to expect that and have someone in position to get at the ball as he’s moved around that first man. You see teams playing similarly in regard to Grealish: as he typically likes to drift in toward the center from the left channel, defenders will follow along and step up in the center to take away shots and clog the passing lane(s) into the box. Because they cheat left, the pass to Adomah, name-your-full back, or Hourihane is often on. Fortunately, Traore tries to do more on his own than does our Jack.

Since the job’s only halfway done, the business at hand Tuesday night will be all about whether Boro can or will shuffle things around. Or whether you can negate Traore twice in four days using the same tactics. In other words, how will Adama and Tony Pulis react? And can Villa conjure up a repeat performance?

While the game generally felt relatively comfortable after Mile Jedinak’s breakthrough on 15 minutes, Boro did have chances and Britt Assombalonga will be ruing a couple of squandered opportunities. In other words, Pulis might feel that with a little more luck and application, they can get what they need by doing what they do. Stewart Downing had a relatively quiet game, and I’d imagine they’d like to get him more involved.

On the flip side, it’s whether Bruce needs to change anything. Obviously there’s recovery to consider, though it seemed to me Boro did a lot more running than Villa, especially in the second while we sat back. And while we all cringed a bit about how far back we were sitting in the second, it is, as Bruce remarked, part of human nature. I also wonder to what extent players were considering saving something for Tuesday. To be fair, it was when Villa were more open that Boro were able to find long outlets into wide spaces and putting their pace up front to best use. Once we were packed in it was more about whether something unfortunate was going to happen. And it almost did. While Bjarnason was relegated to minor cameo, his deflection of Fabio’s shot may well have preserved the one-goal advantage.

Coming into tonight, another big question will be Boro’s situation at the back. When Fabio came on to replace Ayala, Boro lost a set-piece threat and their preferred CB pairing. However, though Shotton was getting upfield when he was at RB, it was Fabio that presented much more attacking threat. Whether Pulis looked at Fabio’s impact and decides to give him a start is an unknown. Obviously will depend on whether Ayala’s fit. If I were Tony, I’d think about that. I might think about it even harder with Ahmed Elmohamady’s status uncertain at the moment, and that it may well be James Bree needing to come in if Bruce doesn’t ask Bjarnason to deputize. If it is Bree, he will have to be adaptable, and we just haven’t seen enough of him to know whether he has that in his locker. We’ve also seen that Bjarnason is a better midfielder than fullback.

I also want to acknowledge the wonderful irony of Jedinak being a game-winner rather than a liability (in terms of pace, recovery speed, etc.). Given the way Boro play, I figured that if he were starting then it was certainly going to be for height and experience. Me, I thought more pace and energy would be required to smother Traore. But as I’ve said, Bruce and the staff obviously got that one right on the day.

What didn’t go so well was Kodjia’s introduction. We all know what he’s capable of, but it’s not happening yet for him. He’s still looking a bit off the pace and rusty, and was never a hold-up man, which is largely what we were asking him to be. Now Hogan is even less a hold-up man than Kodjia, but he will run around more and leave us looking less like we’re playing with 10.

I’ve seen some folks saying that perhaps Kodjia should start. Can’t see the point of that. Bruce also apparently felt bad for Whelan, but it was the right call, and I don’t think he should come in as a sympathy gesture. If Jedinak’s leggy, it has be Bjarnason. Which means it’ll be Whelan, and he’ll score the match-winner. I don’t necessarily agree with swapping out Hourihane for Bjarnason. Hourihane is a bit of a mystery, but what he does is keep things ticking over. That might remind us of a certain Ashley Westwood, but Hourihane scores and just fits.

Anyway, all told very happy with Saturday. Really nice to see the side keep a clean sheet and get a win on the road in a play-off game. Excellent achievement, and everyone played a part. One more half like that and we’ll be looking forward to all new levels of anxiety. Especially since the Cottagers dispatched the Rams. That was not the match-up I was hoping for. But. We still have to get there to worry about that one. And on our day, we can do the business.  So let’s do the business tonight, and look toward the likes of John Terry to give the rest of the lads a bit of spine.

Over to you.

Comments 143

  1. Thanks JC
    I’m feeling more apprehensive after the match last night, not that I think that we can’t beat Boro, but more the standard & effectiveness of our attacking play in the final third.
    We won’t defend our way to promotion, especially if we’re fortunate enough to get to the final.
    But at least it’s a much bigger pitch than Craven Cottage, which we’re used to.
    Any counter attacking tends to be nullified to a large extent by inflexibility & our habit of playing too deep then being stuck.
    We need a much higher tempo than that to free up the mental shackles..

  2. IanG,

    I live in hope of seeing a repeat of the performance against Liverpool in the cup.

    There are two somewhat contradictory pearls of wisdom: 1) Defense wins championships, and 2) offense is the best form of defense. Go figure.

  3. Thank John – says it all. IanG – I too am apprehensive but remind myself that we are one up after having only around 35% of possession. It’s not how much you have the ball it’s what you do with it and let’s face it even more to do with what you do without it!!

    If we win this one we face an equally demanding task against a very good footballing side but every good side has an off day and we hope it will be Fulham’s if we get to play them.

    Anyway, let’s not count chickens until after tonight’s game. I shall watch it at 0530 tomorrow Thai time as if I stay up to watch it I will get no sleep whatever the outcome and I have a long drive tomorrow morning 550 kms

  4. Right then Villa. The battle is upon us. Every man is expected to do his duty. A rocking VP packed to the rafters will drive you on. The bugles will be sounding, the sirens will be wailing and the cannons blazing. Lay siege on the opposition and go for the jugular. I would much rather see us attack them all evening than try to defend a single goal.

  5. thanks jc, I hope we don’t obsess about traore tonight I have a feeling we will need a couple of goals. I would be tempted to play Hogan and I have a feeling Boro’s finishing line up will start especially Bamford and Fabio. So I would rather see us go at them. As for Fulham? they haven’t played our strongest side with Jack involved so we might just have an edge there if we make it.

  6. Thanks again, JC. Like the others, I take nothing for granted these days when it comes to Villa. Well done to Brucie and the lads for getting this far.
    550kms is a fair portion of Thailand. What’s that trip about?

  7. JG
    At least he hasn’t tinkered.
    Plus Hogans also on the bench, because I agree with Mark that he is perfect to stretch them when they’re tired, & codger doesn’t seem fit

  8. Paul Merson said Villa are playing a dangerous game…how dare he criticise such a perfect performance.

    Fulham must be licking their lips at the prospect of playing either of these garbage in the final

  9. Absoloute defensive masterclass.

    Not seen a villa team so well drilled, working hard, professional, and dedicated.

    And after the shambles and lack of caring over the previous years its a joy to watch.

  10. God damn it….wembley play off final. Its a first for me…..jesus its going to be horrible!!!

    Not as worried about fulham as some though…..even though they are a good team.

    Defensively they can be got at…..must target there mid, they dont offer any protection to there defense. And also they aint at the cottage where there most dangerous.

  11. JG…Dunno if I can watch, tbh.

    That said, 180 minutes of holding a team scoreless. Something to be said for that. We created enough good chances, a great tackle, couple good saves…

    Have to say, didn’t adjust all that well to Traore moving more central. That almost undid us.

    Thought for sure we were going to score, then thought we were going to give up a late equalizer. Whew.

  12. John

    Its also the tactics and plan which we had which bruce will probably get no credit for.

    Complained for years saying what on earth do they do on the training ground but hell they all knew there job. The covering and positiong along with the experience was great. I know watching it live at the same is tough but when watching it back it really was a superb , clever 2 legs. Properly set up with a plan.

  13. Hi folks
    I’ve had a bit of a bad month.
    So we’re off to Wembley. Remember the last time jack played there? A week to get ready. I’ve got a good feeling

  14. Andrew,

    I will give him credit. I know it’s cautious, and at times it’s been some turgid football, but being able to do what they did showed discipline and a confidence in the approach. I’d wondered whether it was going to pay off in the play-offs, and it has over two games.

    It may well have looked like we were playing for 0-0, but the chances suggest we were looking for a goal or two. We just weren’t going to go mad trying to get one if we felt like we were going to be able to hold them.

  15. Ian,

    He has indeed. And I do think some of it has to do with mismatched parts. I mean, it’s not an ideal back four, I like Mile, all the rest, but it’s not all as complementary as it could be, and while there’s obviously an argument to be made that what he’s done has worked, one wonders whether we could have a better side if certain players had been given more of a chance.

    For example, I totally get experience, leadership, all the rest. But if you have Boro switching Traore into the middle, how is Whelan really going to do anything about that? I know it was just a few minutes and we got through it, but that’s almost like having me out there trying to stop him. If I’m Bjarnason, I’m feeling a little slighted.

    I’d get opting for what Jedi brings as a physical presence, etc., and these are some of the better performances I’ve seen from him in a while. But I’d never really understand being brought on after Whelan when I could run rings around him, never mind Traore being by far the most explosive player on the pitch.

    And if I’m Pulis, I’m sitting at home having my sixth or seventh drink and wondering why I didn’t move Traore into the middle earlier.

  16. When adama went in the middle jedi had him on toast.

    Jedi snoddy were proper outstanding.

    If adama had an ounce of a football brain like jack or snoddy he would be unstoppable but huttons just shown him up for whst he is.

  17. more huffin and puffin from Boro but a controlled performance from Villa, not something to excite Villans in terms of attacking intent but cleverness in our ability to nullify Boro.

    Onwards to Villa’s first ever play-off final. I’m with Merson on his assessment, same controlled play and defensive work rate from front to back but a bit more upfront against Fulham to really cause them problems.

    The final partially clashes with one of my daughter’s shows so i’ll be watching via text towards the end.


  18. A nervy evening. I agree with your comments JC. All of them. Relieved we made it to the final but I was pretty much like a rag doll at the end. I can’t for the life of me see this kind of performance prevailing against Fulham. Soooo defensive. There was a baying, raucous crowd and a goal would have detonated the ground. But we didn’t want to take any risks.

    This morning Spud will be purring that Johnstone had 1 save to make in 180 minutes of football. Just how he likes it. Fortunately Pulis is of the same ilk and the Boro fans know this. Probably why they had about 2,000 unsold seats in their corner.

  19. Mike Dean is a poor referee with whom we have previous. So I watched the game with some trepidation waiting for the moment. When it came, it was in our favour. Johnstone should have seen red and be out of the final. He’s a very lucky boy. Caused entirely by his own indecisive play. Sarkic for instance plays a brilliant sweeper role for the U23’s. Johnstone has much to learn.

  20. Thank you Pulis for not exposing us to Fabio for more than 8 minutes. Same in the first leg. Instead you played Shotton at RB. Thank you again.

    Thank you Pulis for not moving Traore inside until late in the game. For long periods of both matches he’s been in Huttons pocket. But he looked much more dangerous when he was moved inside.

    Thank you Pulis for keeping 1 up front until the last 15 minutes. No wonder Johnstone had a quiet night.

    Thank you Downing for not spotting that Johnstone left three quarters of his goal open for your free kick on the edge of the box. Incredibly you chose the side where Johnstone was standing. Many thanks.

  21. Spud went with Gabban up front. But the ball spent a lot of time in the air. Given those circumstances, I think Davies would have been a better bet up top. Can’t recall us winning a header all night.

  22. Some great defensive performances and effort and we really should of won. What’s happened to grabbans lethal Goal habit? Also how annoying is Snodgrass and his one leg? We must have attacked 10 times down his side and it ended up back with Johnson. Brew made some great runs on his outside and was ignored. Agree with Jc’s points and Tbh it’s more like a typical Bruce performance than tactical genius, thank god for jedinak. Jt ended up on his arse whenever out of our area. Don’t know what Fulham will make of us but I think jack will give them mucho problemo

  23. Andrew- I dunno he’s had a fair few good chances you would expect him to bury for quite a few games now, the only one he’s buried was from a yard out. Thought last night it reminds me of hogans form .

  24. ah mark

    don’t ever ever ever ever ever ever knock snoddy. he may be onw footed but what a foot! ive never known a loan player to care so much or work so hard. its like he has been at villa for years and its the club he supports! marvellous player and worked so hard yesterday. the set pieces and assists/goals he has made for us are of the highest standard.

    sign him up

    holte ends song for him (david bowie – starman)

    theres a Snodgrass, running down the right
    he hasn’t got a right foot
    but his left is dynamite…….la la la

  25. moyes has actually done a very very good job at west ham.

    clubs a mess and divided. had to put up with a lot of cr*p.

    got arnie firing and settled it all down.

    good luck to the next manager under those clowns. wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole

  26. There’s still talk of the boring/turgid/ defensive style of play under Steve Bruce.
    We scored more goals than 21 of the other 23 teams in the division.

    We used to be criticised for relying on one goal scorer . . . last season it was Kodjia. This year there have been goals from all over the park from 18 . . . yes eighteen different players.

    I smell myths which people accept as reality just because they’ve been repeated so many times.

    Ok, it’s the championship, but I’ve found it far far from boring this year.

  27. robbo

    bang on. I think a lot of people in the twitter world seem to be more happy.

    Personally I am at the stage after the randy years and watching a team every other week be so lethargic, cr*p, unfit, unprofessional that I stopped going as they clearly didn’t care so why should I. none of them would even compete for a challenge or 50-50 header. That I am completely loving watching an aston villa team care, play as a team and put a bloody shift in! and like you say the footy has not been anything as bad a the bruce haters say. we have scored some goals…and some cracking goals! and dismantled some teams on the way.

  28. interesting article from red nev about the utd fans unhappy over jose.

    like he says there was a lot of years under fergie when they was not that good but you tend to look back and remember just the good play or results.

    I think a lot has to do with media/so much coverage nowdays. theres so much talk of sexy footy and being seduced by foreign names.

    I find it refreshing that sean dyche proven theres another way! tight at the back, nick a goal and work hard!

  29. Robbo and Andrew- oh dear boys, these two things at the front of my head called eyes say there has been some horrendous football played this season and at times little effort on show either. Why didn’t we play like this against the mighty Bolton, QPR ,Norwich, Hull etc? If we can’t win don’t lose? where were the players that love the club then? Lets see what happens in the final lads, there shouldn’t be a team anywhere that can’t get themselves up for a final and a big fat potential pay raise 🙂

    Seen to many good teams and football played to think we are anything but average myself, we have some likeable characters in the side but hate to think what would have happened if Jack had not turned up this season, I don’t think we would of made top 6 in all honesty. There’s potential in there but as JC said earlier there is something missing. Best player we have outside Jack is Chester.

    I have to say this is an awful way to end the season, that £100m prize takes all the fun out of the game doesn’t it or is it me? If it was just a cup final I’d be looking forward to it, ah well hope I am on the day and I hope Bruce gets the plaudits and not the fall out, then I hope Villa can move on from recent times to better days.

  30. First of all let me congratulate Steve Bruce and the team on doing the almost impossible and getting us to Wembley, and perhaps Tony Pullis is right, that the play off final is between 3rd and 4th. I just hope that it does not carry on to the conclusion that Fulham should therefore win the final.

    Last night was a great night to be at Villa Park with 40,501 dedicated football fans and be part of the atmosphere that prevailed, with everyone stood for the whole of the game…..who needs safe standing…just a full house!!

    Everyone played there part and the Jedi, Chester, Hutton and Hourihane were outstanding, closely followed by Jack, Snoddy and young Bree. Sad that we wasted so many set pieces, where we were very lucky that Johnstone managed to deal with some very excellent ones from Boro’.

    On to Wembley now…!!! Tickets on sale already..!!

  31. JG
    Yes a great night, everyone put a 110% shift in.
    No that final against the arses was more than a defeat, it was a meek surrender.
    Not particularly impressed with the joyriders at the end of last night though.

  32. We needed to use more experienced players against Arsenal, at least to start with, some were like rabbits caught in the headlights, especially Jack Grealish. This should have been realised by Sherwood on such a huge occasion for the team.

    Certainly Bruce will not be making that mistake.

  33. PP- he certainly won’t they are nearly all old 😉 Luckily Fulham have a bunch of youngsters average age of 26, useless 🙂 At least some of ours will know where the dressing rooms are.

  34. Mark,
    you must have had those two things in the front of your head closed during the McLeish and Lambert years.
    There was a short-lived interlude of hope under Sherwood and both you and I were optimistic for Garde (but he wasn’t supported) and I will leave RDM out of the discussion.
    i judge how exciting the football has been by my emotion at games. I remember regularly questioning myself as to why I was driving 450 miles to go and sit through the dire football we were playing under previous managers.
    As Andrew says, players without purpose or passion left you wondering why you bothered when they appeared not to.

    It isn’t like that now . . . . it just isn’t!

    We’ve scored more goals than almost all the other teams in the division

    We’ve played some lovely football.

    Have we done it every game? No
    Would we all have liked more consistency?
    Of course, but what team apart from Man City, performs at the top of their game every week?. . . none

    Surely if you cast your mind back over recent seasons you must have felt some of these different, emotions at Villa Park as I have?

  35. Paul
    You have your tickets!
    Lucky bugger
    Gave up our season tickets when we moved hundreds of miles away. . . too many championship games are midweek to make it a sensible option.
    Means we have to wait till Sunday before we get a chance though!!

  36. Robbo- not really mate call it what you will but we are rarely convincing if I thought so I’d say so. Take out grealish and we have no effective way of attacking from our often deep position other than the hoof.

    Things really should be better though shouldn’t they we are in the champs? A massive club in a smaller league.

  37. IanG – hope you are ok and your week has turned out better …….

    Don’t agree with this comment of yours “Things really should be better though shouldn’t they we are in the champs? A massive club in a smaller league.”

    We aren’t a massive club any more. That was destroyed in the Lerner years and is only now being rectified. We are a big club in name but that is all, we don’t have any divine right to walk the Championship just because we are Aston Villa.
    At the start of the season I thought the absolute best we could wish for would be top 6. That would show improvement over last season which, to me, was progress and acceptable after the years of total dismantling of everything good at AVFC.
    You may remember that on this and other blogs, some were saying that we would be lucky to avoid relegation. Plus the usual Bruce out, Round out, Wyness out, Hutton is rubbish, why have we bought all these awful old players (we are one of the top teams for not conceding in the final 15 minutes – so that says that the old legs are still pretty good legs?). I’m sure we would all agree that we would like to see pretty football but maybe there is a plan that was stuck to and to date it appears to be working, whether we agree with it or not. Surely the management are better qualified than us to manage the club how they see fit as part of their short, medium and long term planning?

    And to see the togetherness of this team plus SB and what he has put up with personally is something, as Andrew says, that has been missing for a long time. And to see the good Dr celebrating at the final whistle spoke volumes.

    So I guess all I am saying is we are where we are. We have to battle like all the other teams and have our good and bad spells during the season. To date we have obviously battled harder and more successfully than most in the Championship and a week on Saturday there will be a game that we can win if we are at the top of our game.

    As long as the Villa do their best and give it their all, then that’s all we can ask for …… not sure how I will manage my nerves on the day but I’m sending the wife on an intensive first aid course in case of problems 😉


  38. I’ll join the discussion on what might reasonably be expected from the team this season.

    Everything is controlled for us by the parachute payments. Villa got 41m for the first season down and will get 33m for this season. If we are still in the Champs next season we will receive the final payment of 15m. If promoted, that final payment is lost.

    Dr Xia has attempted to haul Villa up in 2 seasons maximum before the big drop in the final parachute payment. Gibson at Boro wanted to do it in 1 season but now can’t better 2 seasons.

    If top 6 was the aim for this season then the team would need to be rebuilt on a younger model because the play offs are a lottery. We would need to put the building blocks in place for future years, foreseeing the reduced income. Like what Fulham have done.

    Spud has gone the experienced route. Which tells me that his remit was to get promotion this season latest before the funds vanished. He’s giving it his best shot, which may yet get us there. So if promotion this season was his remit, he’s missed the prize and is now drinking in the last chance saloon.

    Could he have got the prize with this squad? This is where fans differ in their thoughts. Some think the squad is progressing nicely. Some think he has a squad good enough to do it but has come up short in various areas discussed at length previously in these pages. You need a crystal ball to see what will happen at Wembley but what happens afterwards is a little easier to predict.

  39. Side note: Will be traveling for my daughter’s graduation from university this weekend. Will look to get a fresh page up at some point here in the next couple days.

    In the meantime, keep up the good work, all.

  40. OV
    It was the other Ian [Gibson?], but I appreciate the sentiments.
    We certainly need to raise our game for the final.

  41. Some good comments, as JC has pointed out from OV and Plug.

    I am pleased that Bruce has got us this far, but like many, feel that he could have cemented us in 2nd place when he eventually got us there. He failed, and we managed to get over it, so now it is down to our big day out at Wembley, and whether we can shut up shop against Fulham, as effectively as we did against ‘Boro, and nick the odd goal, with a bit of genius from JG, Snoddy and Uncle Albert. I do not see him changing the team for the final, apart from maybe Grabban, but I doubt that he will .

    Each one of the team has now nailed on his place, although El Mohamady may replace Bree.

  42. Hi chaps, i have been monitoring the site for the last three months, no body had driven me away with differing views or anything like that. As i said in February, i was going on disability for a few weeks to get my right knee replaced. JL informed me its a walk in the park, his wife has had both done. Not so lucky me, after three weeks and dong really well in physio i started to get weeping from three of the suture scars. They put me on two rounds of antibiotics which did absolutely nowt, so i had to go back in hospital over Easter and have the knee cut back open and flushed out, with the plastic part getting replaced as they could not guarantee getting that part sterile. I couldn’t even try to spell the name of the infection they gave me in OR, but it was serious enough for them to keep me in a week on antibiotic IV, and then i was released with a PICC, which is an IV catheter in the upper arm going in 40cm to my heart cavity, to prevent the infection spreading to my organs. I’m good now though, other than the extra pain from the knee as i’m now having to stretch both new and old scar tissue, the old scar tissue doesn’t like to give, so i might not ever get that one back to normal. however, i can kick the ball around in the back yard with my grand kids now, which after all was the reason i had the knee replacement in the first place. As i needed lots of fiber in my diet while on all those drugs, MK will be glad to here I found a fondness for Blue Berries, and I now have a good hand full on my cereal every day.
    I’m glad to be back among the fold, and looking forward to the 26th, just hope one of the Canadian Networks picks up the game, as they dropped the championship this season so i have scrambled to find any feeds for the games this year. Here’s to a good day at Wembley, and hopefully we’ll be back with the big boys in August.

  43. damn right I like JT. In the summer he was being written off as past it, wont care enough, only here for the money etc, General view a bad signing.

    He has been magnificent. You only have to look at how Jack looks up to him too….JT may well have saved his carreer really. jack was off the rails thanks to his idol gabby.

    Thank god he has a new one now!

  44. JC
    Congratulations on your daughter’s graduation. You must be proud.
    There are some good comments. I back Villa to win the final. They’ll have to be at their very best, though, and must go in hungry.
    Canadian Villa-all the best on a good recovery. That infection sounds horrible. Good to see, you’re getting quality time with the mokos (grand kids).

  45. OV- Sorry haven’t replied earlier got stuck on a badly planned job in StAlbans absolute Pain in the arris. It depends what you mean by Massive mate, we spent the most any team has ever spent in the champs, paid ex Prem players big wages, waisted £30 mil on strikers, Bought the leagues best performing players in January, have the best home crowd and stadium and apparently we had to get experienced prem players in because the players we bought couldn’t handle it at a big Club, not to mention every team wants our Scalp. We are a big club in all but position compared to the teams in this league on the whole. Take away everything else and just run on gate money we would still be the biggest. Doesn’t mean the champs isn’t hard just means we should have an advantage if done properly, Wolves showed us how this season.

    Canadian Villan- My knee op went bad and had the week in hospital on a drip like you mate, not fun. The surgeon said I was unlucky they only have 4 happen each year!? I said why didn’t you call me when you’d done the 4th? all the best mate hope your smashing them in the net soon 🙂

    PP- it was a bit Galling after all Bruces speeches about the business end of the season and how the fans were worrying to much that he should Feck it up 🙂

  46. As I said earlier Mark – “We aren’t a massive club any more. That was destroyed in the Lerner years and is only now being rectified. We are a big club in name but that is all, we don’t have any divine right to walk the Championship just because we are Aston Villa.”

    We are a Championship club that had completely lost its way from top to bottom. That had to be rebuilt both on and off the pitch. We are the biggest club in name only because we have a great (massive) history, unlike the likes of many of the Championship clubs.
    And having a big name doesn’t win you games.

    And as you may have noticed – we have done better than the vast majority of the other clubs and are in the play-off final. So at the moment we are on track even though it would have been less hassle to get an auto spot, we are where we are and should be happy with that …….. until the result next Saturday of course when hopefully we will be even happier……….

    Hope you week improves. Glad I don’t work any more …….

  47. Oldvilla

    When you look at our current 11 on the pitch under bruce they cost next to nothing. Our mistske was going gung ho straight away under rdm. Half his expensive signings habe been bombed!

  48. Johnson loan
    Terry free
    Elmo 2 mill?
    Chester 12?
    Jedi 3 mill
    Jack free
    Hourihan 2.5
    Adomah straight swap
    Snoddy loan
    Gabb loan

    Our starting 11 costs about 20mill!


  49. I agree too we are just a big team in name.

    There isnt many clubs that was run into the ground like ours. Would of double dropped with randy.

    And even though we made mistskes strsight awawy under the dr we put them right. Got round and keith in thrn bruce. Its pretty on the field at times granted but thats like People moaning the eifel tower isnt lit up when the thing aint built yet. Seeing as we are starting from ground zero im happy the clubs being built solidly now.

    They have employed some very good people behind the scenes.

  50. There is one of the best villa pics i have ever seen doing the rounds.

    Think is downings fk and our wall is terry jack snoddy jedi kodjer

    The balls just been struck and the look of sheer determination, will and grit on each ones faces is incredible. Never seen a wall like it. Sums up the villa we now have.

  51. Andrew – ” but thats like People moaning the eifel tower isnt lit up when the thing aint built yet.”

    One of the best comments ever on here!!! 🙂


  52. Andrew- I think you need to take a lie down 😉 two promoted teams and the two in the final all billionaire owned. As for RDM Jedinak, Kodjia, Chester, Adomah, yeah terrible players. The only reason Bruce has not spent big this season is FFP, doesn’t mean his picks haven’t cost an arm and a leg in wages and only came about because his Jan window didn’t pay off. Do you seriously think JT is here for pocket money? do you think he would of come to the champs for any other team? not many that would pay him £55K at his age, his wage cost as almost as much as Huddersfield spent on 15 players to go up last season, now thats an eye for as player.

    Now lads what exactly have we built? behind the scenes yes we have started to change or so we are told (still in big financial trouble via our wage bill). On the pitch? our team is ancient and full of loan players, no guarantee most will be here next season and if the worst happens then they definitely won’t, we can’t even sign Hutton for gawd sake. So No we haven’t built a product that will see us through next season let alone start a dynasty, it might just get us up and save our bacon but its a big gamble. Going on last season when we played Spurs reserves and lost easily? at the moment its a castle built on sand and Jack Grealish.

  53. Mark – JT is worth so much for his work both on and off the pitch with players. As an investment to try and get us promoted, I would say £55k pw is not too bad considering how much the club will make if we get promotion.

    When you say that we are in big financial trouble with our wage bill – how exactly?

    We weren’t talking about building a ‘product’ that will see us through next season – it has always been said that if we do get promoted then a new team will be required – although I would definitely take about 5 of the current team as first teamers next season, others would form part of the the squad, add in the youth that have proved themselves and a few new signings and that should be something to build on and also survive in the Premier.

    And last season when we played Spurs was exactly that – last season, which is somewhat different to our team this season. Don’t understand why the comparison between two completely different teams and circumstances.

    Other than that, carry on …….

  54. OV- I agree JT’s worth appears to be more than his playing ability which in my mind hasn’t had the on field impact some think and tends to keep the team from pushing up the field as a unit imo but if Wagner can find 15 players for £3.5m last season and get up why not us? those players are worth much more as a consequence. Doing things the way we have means our teams worth and longevity is pretty low and we will have to splash out more in this next phase to compensate for that fact.

    If we go up we will have FFP restrictions as our losses are still high and we owe lerner £25m on promotion. Our wage Bill is about £60m and our income £73m, The doc pumped in £50m to buy players and we spent £88m on players last season total. this season we made £19m trying to offload players and going for loans but still have a lot of deadwood, that tells you we are right on the edge with FFP.

    Put all that together and the building a team to survive in the prem will be no easy task with the money available. Average prem player is now on £50k so building a team of cheaper finds and youth would of given us much more wiggle room financially. Other teams have done exactly that.
    That said many of the champs clubs are in dept but their wage bills much lower.

    I believe the plan was really to bounce straight back not go a second year on peanuts but we are where we are. A plan of building three teams is just common sense, its what teams do anyway, evolve. Where I think we could of done better is be smarter in our build and not gone the obvious route.

    We will see in good time.

  55. oh and the spurs game was because we put out a strong side without this seasons loanees etc who
    are just as likely to be not here long and got beat by a reserve side, just shows the depth we have without them.

  56. jt could of gone elsewhere for seriously a lot more cash.

    we have bit a professional, hard working team who care about the badge and play for the shirt.

    its a good start.

    I was just pointing out how much the usual starting 11 is worth….people do seem to think its worth zillions but it aint.

  57. Andrew- where? America or China as he didn’t want to play against Chelsea? what top side in Europe would of took him or champs team afford him? not many, funnily enough he’s now prepared to play if we go up but not if we stay down (we can’t afford him I’d guess).

    I’d say they play for each other mate, playing for the badge after one season together? think your asking a bit much there. Snodgrass seems the biggest change in the dressing room for me.

    One thing I found weird was keeping Gabby and Richards in the squad, if the team had a poisonous atmosphere who was causing It? I’d heard that cliques had developed but players like Delaet and Elphick just got on with it. RMC was obviously ticked off but who else, most had gone.
    I must say if a group of professional players needed JT to show them how to be professional what was Bruce doing? can understand Jack needing a role model but most are all nearly 30.

  58. I have to agree with Andrew and Old Villa, that although the skill factor and style of play may not be where we’d all love to see it, there’s no denying under Brucie that the passion to have a go is back. They all look willing to sweat blood and run till they drop, much like the early days of Ron Saunders. There is no way you can say the likes of Chico Hamilton and Frank Carrodus were by any shape or form great talents , but boy they put the shifts in, and we built on that, brought in the likes of Mortimer and co, to add to some of the trainees coming through, one Brain Little for example, and added a couple of good kids in the likes of Andy Gray, if we can repeat that formula I one for one won’t be too disappointed. I just hope that in the not to distant future i get to see my Villa win the FA Cup, i was only 6 months old when we last won so i don’t count that. Was there for Chelsea but watched the Arsenal debacle on the box. Its our time lifers we cant stay put on seven and longer!!!! This year has made me realize you cant guarantee your going to live to a ripe old age, so just in case I’ll take stability in the prem and a cup win next year, and a top 10 the year after that.

  59. CV – I hope you get over your recent ops and are soon running in the marathon mate 😉
    Agree absolutely that as you get older you start to question your own mortality, you need to live life for today – or at least the near future – I worry about things that I never used to like will I finish my backlog of books or drink my cellar of wine before I pop my clogs ……….

    Loved your comparison with the early Ron Saunders days and the players we had then. My favourite era both on and off the pitch as Villa seemed to reign supreme and in those days if we had a bad spell, the crowd would get behind the team even more and pull them through……..
    Looking at all this chaos on the web with Villa fans and Wembley tickets, not able to get online or having to wait too long etc etc – remember in the late 60’s/early70’s when tickets when on sale for big matches at 10am Sunday morning and me and my lot had to walk from Sutton, starting at about 2am, all the way to Aston and then queue around the ground to get a ticket. Whatever the weather!

    Anyway time for a nap now lol ……..
    Cheers, oldvilla

  60. Yes, I remember that too, had to get down from the Scott Arms area myself. I got tickets early as I used to save the program coupons, and after they introduced standing season tickets for the Holte, I could get two, so our kid could come with me. Spurs league cup just myself, but the time we got there against Norwich and Everton, I was able to pick up two.
    Twas a great time to be a Villa fan that’s for sure. I remember at High School, I went to Dartmouth, we were about 50% Villa, 35% Baggies and the rest Blue noses. Jim Coombes of West Brom was coming in at lunch time to sign autographs and never made it. We gave the baggies fans a rough afternoon, only to get home to see Gary Newbon announce Villa had signed Jim from West Brom, so went in the next day with egg on our faces.
    What a difference he made though, those long kicks of his and Brain Little beating the offside to meet them and either set some one up or taking a crack himself. Any one remember that same move away at Forrest the ball was falling behind Little but some how he scooped it up over his head and into the top corner, what a cracker.

  61. OV, Andrew
    You could still get in the turnstile [no tickets] on demand when there was 65,000 in the ground in 1957, but then what does that prove?
    Mainly that it was our club in those days, & that players appreciated their leg-up, & were expected to get on with it & function to their ability, unlike today’s preening superstars, & supporters who have too often been had in the net.
    Just because we are having a bit of unfulfilled [as yet] success, is no reason to over emote for a week
    I see you & Andrew focusing your opinion on emotional basis, & Mark more on specifics.
    Why is the moment passion of being a supporter these days often transformed into media manipulated emoting?
    It is a business no longer connected to the supporters directly except as a marketing choice, except for the raising of prices which dispossesses many working class people from their club.
    But we are the clubs lifeblood, which without us is no better than Man United, chelski & the Spuds, & other ersatz clubs.
    Everyone agrees that the experience of less disinterested & more passionate support is welcome, but why are some trying to ‘own’ the passion?

  62. Canadian Villan- If only we had that team mate, by the time they came up they had the likes of gidman and little settled in and had won a cup and been together a good while, I can’t compare this lot to that era, nowhere near the talent and the league was a lot more even then, now teams are full of quality players on millions. More to the point they were a real base to start with, I don’t see that now, maybe I’m wrong but I do think it could of been much different quite easily. I was surprised the Doc didn’t have everything in place at takeover and a plan, it just seemed he bought the name on the cheap and when he got it thought what now? after all our woes were well documented by then.

    Anyway lads off for a short break so enjoy my absence till next weds.

  63. IanG – I am not focused on emotional issues, I am purely stating where we were and where we are now. Not emotive just plain facts that we all recognise. ie we were cr*p from top to bottom and now we are better than that because we’ve made progress.
    I am not one for going into all sorts of minutiae as then you are getting anal in analysing every time someone farts and what that means exactly. Far better and somewhat easier to say we are in the play-off final and other than the two auto promoted teams and Fulham, none of the others made it. So we should look at that as progress …… and be HAPPY 🙂 🙂 🙂


  64. OV
    If you’ve noticed all I normally post is how good it is but without going over the top because we haven’t achieved it yet.
    I am happy about it, but get fed up with being told to be happy etc, & how bad I am if not following some of the people on here with their agendas or lack of.
    I don’t analyse I have experienced what I posted!
    If that’s anal then what are you lot?

  65. IanG – I don’t think I go over the top either.
    I don’t have an agenda and I’m not talking about you or anyone specifically when I mentioned anal.

    I’m told that I don’t post anything but slanderous comments about others lol then I write what I think are reasonable and reasoned comments and I still get cr*p.

    Not sure its worth the hassle to be honest.

  66. OV
    Exuberant you can be & nothing wrong with that, but it is not just about you.
    cr*p is endemic in the current psyche it seems, along with conspiracy theories without foundation being portrayed as truth.
    This explains the general lack of intellectual voracity in the world, which unfortunately tends to negate humour, as well as generating misunderstandings & extreme posts.
    But I’m also sure it’s not worth the hassle, but it does still have to be called out occasionally, especially when we start to act like a blog filled with frustrated teenagers, as we occasionally do.

    But concerning the final & our current position as a club & family of fans, I personally feel quite calm.
    Mainly I think because of long experience of things not working out to plan.
    But also like us all, I have high expectations due to having seen 2 major aston villa football events where we were underdogs leave us as huge winners [1957 & 82], but tempered by typical dark humour.
    Still not impressed by media spun situations which used to emanate from the genuine supporters, not media spin indoctrination.
    Not aiming at you here.


  67. I agree with folks comments on here in support of the positive effect JT has had on proceedings. When he signed up for the year I was very sceptical about him. Thought he was in the twylight of his career and looking for 1 last pay day. I also thought he would be injury prone and not pacey enough for this league. Delighted to say I was completely wrong.

    He’s been a leader that does everything as it should be done. He commands the respect of the other players. The dressing room which had been a rabble before Spud arrived became tight and spirits have soared. This England captain has served us well. It’s appreciated. Hero status awaits if he can get us over the line next weekend.

  68. Was over the moon with the capture of JT, and predicted well before it happened, as I had an inkling that he had bonded with Bruce whilst in Portugal on holiday.

    I really felt that he would bring a great deal to the table at Villa Park, and he did, and I still feel he has a much bigger role to play at Villa park. Would love to have Lampard on the staff as well…!!!

    Looking forward to next Saturday and Bruce getting his tactics right for this £100million match..!!

  69. I don’t care who’s on a ‘staff’, I just want us to have some good players & focus on winning things again, preferably without being mind numbed in the process by the media & reactionaries who seem to think they’ve had an original thought when they regurgitate word for word what they read, which is happening everywhere, promoted by a megalomaniac orange buffoon.
    or to quote Steeley Dan – “I read the daily news & believe every word.” – not good for the mental or emotional health!

  70. PP
    I’ve seen the match reported as being a £100,000,000, 175,000,000 & 200,000,000 match.
    They can’t all be right, so 2 or 3 myths there to rabble rouse the masses.
    Is your figure definitive or right?
    Not that it matters to the football at all, just curious.

  71. I’ve also noticed that since the last summer transfer season, the constant use as ‘player earning £… to describe a player rather than use his name, & before that it was his purchase price that they mostly guessed at, pure clickbait to have us in the net & manipulate our minds that we think we’re in control of.
    I’ve also noticed that the Mirror Group appear to be buying the Telegraph, should be interesting propaganda to be aware of & preferably not propagate.

  72. The HK sevens have been interesting so far.
    We’re top of our group, having seen off Cagliari.
    We’re also in the last 8 in the knockout stage v either Leicester or Brighton.

  73. JG
    I heard that the 100.000.000 PP mentioned was the TV money the newly promoted earn, but didn’t see an explanation.
    It’s like “look at the shiny shiny”

  74. IanG – I think JG has got it right. The bottom team in the Prem got 97m this season. That’s for everything. The parachute payments are worth 41m for year 1, 33m for year 2 and 15m for year 3. All figures are give or take a million. That lot adds up to 186m but of course…….if you get relegated in your first season up, followed by promotion again in your first season down you only get 97m plus 41m.

    True mate, don’t believe anything that you read in newspapers. There’s so much bullschitt you slip over on it.

  75. IanG – Think that HK score may have been last years final game. My info is we won Group B and are playing the runners up of Group D on Sunday when the knock out stages start…..which happens to be Leicester City after they were beaten today by Brighton.

  76. This time next week we could be in absolute joy or absolute agony

    I’m not sure how it will go. If we park the bus Fulham will do us

  77. Plug
    On reflection that was last year’s score.
    This year we are stronger.
    There was no title or date on what I was looking at.
    Glued to the computer screen for too long probably.
    Something to look forward to

  78. Frem
    Feeling very ambivalent about the match, trying not to wind up too soon as the last Wembley time was the fiasco against the arses.
    Surely they wouldn’t do it again

  79. Bigger than us, fast & constant log ball game, we were overpowered.
    This is why the mix in the first team has to be right to support the kids.
    Mind you, you have to play them first to do this.

  80. Yesterday’s cup final might be a pointer to our game next weekend. Thought Man Ure were very disappointing. Both teams played defensively but at least Chelsea got the cup so they don’t care.

    Hope we don’t set up defensively in case we lose. When entertainment goes out the window, you have to win. I’ll be ready to top myself if we play defensively and lose.

  81. Plug
    Parking the bus equals low tempo of thought, reaction & play, a recipe for defeat.
    At least the kids won the Main shield in HK edging out West Ham, after they lost the quarter final in the cup, so they don’t come home empty handed after a very successful season.
    I hope we keep this group together as many are u21.
    The weekend? it’s 3 minutes into Tuesday, a little early to need prozac.
    Though many of us will probably ascend to a peak of manic depression at some point.

  82. The 26th can’t come quickly enough, apprehension and anticipation in equal measure. Need this over with.

    I just hope we make a good account of ourselves and by that I mean that we aren’t overly reliant on containing Fulham but look to cause them problems and get them to chase the ball on a wide pitch. Big believer in the best form of defence being offence.

    Can’t call this at all and won’t dare to dream or even think what league we’ll be in come September or whenever the season is starting.

  83. Ref for the final is Anthony Taylor.
    Hope he’s improved since the last match he refereed with us, Villa v Watford in the relegation season.

  84. IanG – I’m not familiar with this ref so I hope he’s up to standard.

    JG – Now confirmed that Rowett has joined Stoke. A shining light in loyalty eh? Billy Smart’s is alive and well.

  85. Our big day is getting closer. Villa take note. I’m not going to Wembley to enjoy a day out. Forget it. Nor am I going to Wembley to watch one of our sub standard games. Forget that too. And I ain’t going to Wembley to watch us capitulate. So forget that also.

    I’m going to Wembley in full regalia to witness Villa in all their glory. Time to deliver.

  86. Plug
    Too right!

    The ref sent off Cissokho, & booked Bunn, Bacuna & Gueye.
    I remember that he seemed a bit of a martinet.
    Apparently he was in charge of the FA semi between Manure & the suds last month.
    Don’t know how he did because I didn’t watch it.

  87. Heres an interview with Grealish about that Kidney, fair play to him it really did change him. Ok JT, Bruce etc helped but this was life changing for him, don’t think we would of seen the player we have this season without that accident and his subsequent hard work. Hope we win it for our club but
    how nice would it be for Jack, and especially Bruces family Losses this season, he may not be my cup of tea managment wise but he’s shown some guts and Bravery this year.

  88. wheres JL when you need him? just read this on the MOMS site 🙂

    “By now you will realise the significance of the play-off final date of the 26th May. It’s the same day Villa beat Bayern Munich, 36 years ago in their finest hour to date.

    On route to the final in Rotterdam, Villa also won the semi-final against Anderlecht 1-0 on aggregate over two legs; the same score they beat Middlesbrough by.

    Villa were also the underdogs against the German team.

    Are the stars aligning once again?”

  89. So here we are…first set of thoughts on the game are up now. As you might’ve guessed, I’ve sort of been avoiding it. But it’s getting harder to do.

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