A packed and raucous Villa Park welcomed the Swans on Saturday, and Dean Smith came away with a 1-0 debut win thanks to Tammy Abraham’s 8th-minute header.

Here’s what I came away with.

The Good
Much more aggressive pressing higher up the pitch, which saw Villa largely bossing the game through the first 45. A lovely little ball from Ahmed Elmohamady that was well finished by Abraham to make the early advantage count. Of note was that it’s the kind of ball Elmo is well suited to provide, coming not from the touchline, but further infield, which is more of a Smith trademark.

John McGinn delivered another all-action performance, further cementing him in the hearts of Villans, and reinforcing the perception that we might well have finally found a replacement for James Milner. He’s rapidly become indispensable, so it’s a shame he picked up his fifth yellow and will miss Tuesday’s match. But at the same time, he’ll have gotten it out of the way.

Orjan Nyland made some excellent saves. One hopes we’ll be turning him over to a kicking coach. But on the day, the distribution woes paled in comparison to preserving the win.

The Bad
I’ve seen Albert Adomah come in for some stick, and I do understand. He was putting in the effort, but he still hasn’t regained that remarkable run of form that might well have turned out to be atypical of him. Worse was Bolasie’s complete lack of impact. And Johnathan Kodjia still just isn’t right. The heart’s there, but he can’t quite pull off what he could before the ankle, and is still trying to do too much on his own.

There were also a number of gilt-edged chances that went begging.

As Dean Smith noted, Villa let Swansea into it in the second half largely due fatigue, which is probably to be expected after the break and running more. It’s going to take a little bit to get them all going for 90 minutes when that’s not the sort of game or match fitness they’ve been trained for. The good here, though, is that the idea is not to let the opponent come back into the game by dropping off. We did invite Swansea on in the first to make space, but that was obviously intentional.

Could’ve been a very entertaining draw, as a result. But, thanks to Nyland and some grit, Villa got a vital three points to kick off the new gaffer’s tenure.

The Ugly
I’m going to just leave it at The Bad. Nothing ugly on the day.

Final Verdict
All we’ve been reading and hearing before and after the match is that Dean Smith is, first and foremost, a coach. And Smith used his two days with the full squad to focus on playing without the ball. We saw the evidence of that in the first half: tighter triangles, coordinated pressure.

In the post-match presser we heard unfamiliar terms: game plan, traps, overloads, second-phase delivery. Things like “We’ll also work on possession in the coming weeks because were a little loose on the ball. We can’t be like that at this level.” Or even just saying that the point of focus on the day was keeping a clean sheet. A clear, simple first step that wasn’t made out to be anything else.

What I expect to see in coming weeks are the fruits of coaching, things we often gloss over, except to say, “I don’t know what they’re working on in training.” Knowing how to communicate with different players, how to organize sessions and get the focus right, make the most of the time, and having a Point A and a Point B. That sort of thing. Sounds rather simple, and it is in the big picture. But not all managers are good coaches. And then it’s up to who they surround themselves with.

I expect the players will take it on board because we’ve heard too much from too many about the lack of coaching, and not just under Bruce. They see how successful sides play, they’ve fallen victim to it, and they know their futures are only brighter the more they learn—individually and as a team.

It’s more an aside, but I’ll also expect Smith to rotate a few players through these first couple of weeks to see what he’s working with. Saturday’s lineup was not a radical departure, with Tuanzebe at CB being the only real move of significance. We’ll probably see largely the same spine with wingers being swapped round, and maybe Hogan coming on instead of Kodjia.

So for me on the day, a couple positive signs, and obviously too early to reach many conclusions. However, I’m very much liking what I’m hearing, because I don’t remember hearing someone actually laying things out for a while. And I’ll certainly take the three points, and remain optimistic that Villa are going to improve.

Over to you.

Comments 54

  1. Nice one John.
    Adomah in my opinion is sometimes as useful as a defensive midfielder as a forward – he gets back to help out more than anyone I know in the squad (bet Mourinho would like him to teach Rashford!)
    I think the need is for a full 90 (+) minutes hard work. You rarely saw the Ron Saunders’ team let in a goal in the last minutes of each half and yet that is exactly what happened in the years following his decision to leave. In fact the first few minutes were also dodgy as I recall.
    I’m off to Malacca for 2 weeks on 4th November and hope we have beaten Norwich, QPR and Bolton before I go, so I can come back to a win v Derby and a thrashing of our neighbours.

  2. Will echo what Clive said. Nice one John.
    I agree with Clive about Adomah. True he hasn’t regained his scoring boots, as yet, but he does get back on defense a lot.
    It’ll be a pretty big task to beat Norwich, QPR and Bolton in a row but if anyone can Dean can. I expect Villa to be more consistent and cohesive under the new management.
    Clive better be careful in Malacca, hate to hear he’s been kidnapped and ransomed whilst being held a prisoner at the point of an AK-47 in some vermin-infested mangrove crawling with giant venomous spiders and slithering serpents.
    Here’s looking forward to the next game.

  3. Iana – I am going to the city of Malacca not the ‘Dire Straits’ so it will be a bit more like Spanish City in Whitley Bay with the ‘Tunnel of Love’ rather than the ‘Wild West End’

  4. Good write up as usual John,fitness is big problem and with the way fixtures are coming it will take a while to sort out(Thanks bruce)as for Albert lack of form again after listening to Bruce for 2 years it will take Smith a bit of time to change the mentality of villa squad ,but hopefully the way he used subs on Saturday like for like not just putting on defenders is a good sign of smiths intentions

  5. Notes from ‘the Leprechaun”

    I don’t know why we’re focusing on Adomah’s lack of scoring as he never was signed for his scoring attributes. I believe last season was a complete one-off for him scoring-wise. He’s an out-and-out winger in reality – with good track-back ability – and I like it when he’s in the team. For me he adds something that is difficult to define.

    I saw earlier some comment that the players want to play for Dean Smith. Well that’s as maybe, but in reality at this stage they’re playing for their positions as their first priority as anyone who’s not showing up well won’t last I’m sure.

    Elmo is another that comes up for criticism but though he’s not a dazzler he plays a useful role to my mind.

  6. Clive: ” I am going to the city of Malacca not the ‘Dire Straits’ so it will be a bit more like Spanish City in Whitley Bay”

    Well, I know Malacca well so I find that a bit of a strange description! 😀

    Actually my wife is off there for 3 weeks this week-end to see her mother so she might bump into you! Otherwise I’m sure you’d be welcome at Taman Melaka Baru.

  7. John – both my and Iana’s references relate to the piracy in the Straits of Malacca and I was using songs from Dire Straits.
    Your wife’s mother probably knows the guy I am going to stay with – he is Ming Kuan (MK) otherwise know as Frankie Chan the tri-shaw man – he has a thriving tri-shaw business that allows him to go off and explore the Silk Road, ride a motor bike from Melaka through Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia and he has just come back from a motor bike tour of Eastern Europe. He raises a lot of money for the blind with the Melaka Motorcyclists and is married to my wife’s cousin.

  8. Iana: “Piracy is still a fact of life in the region.”

    You’re right of course, but it’s obviously not restricted just to the Straits – as your link clearly shows..

    As for Albert, mention was made about his scoring going off the boil, hence why I said what I did.

  9. JC: “… obviously too early to reach many conclusions. However, I’m very much liking what I’m hearing, because I don’t remember hearing someone actually laying things out for a while.”

    Yes, very early to say much yet, John…

    There’s clearly a pre-disposition towards welcoming Smith with open arms – and I sincerely hope that he’s successful. More so as he had Villa blood in his veins at a young age.

    But apart from one position, Saturday’s side was unchanged – and the used subs were the same.

    Not that I expected much change given the lack of time he’s had with the squad and as such any comment now is rather premature – except that the players did seem to be taking more responsibility and with better movement earlier on.

    Though two matches in 7 days does invite some rotation (and possibly an enforced but needed rest for McGinn tomorrow) I cannot see much big change taking place in the team selection. So long as we see the best ability being extracted from the players (especially Jack and Albert) is my key hope.

  10. Thanks JC very refreshing to here so much common sense being spoken by Smith.

    JL- I agree Albert has never been prolific, his golden patch was probably just that, I think his score rate was something like 17 shots 15 goals which is incredibly lucky/accurate.

    I think that we will see that the players we have are not so Bad so Kudos to Bruce but maybe not in how he used them mostly or the mindset he may of instilled. If you go around saying the championship is hard it probably will be.

    Robbo- On Bolasi and Kodjia subs, I’m only basing that on their careers so far, as is being pointed out the players that replaced them have a more rounded game, some players just can’t defend as well we’ll see. Players tiring played its part and certainly the Bolasie sub was at a time when we were still attacking ( according to the radio). Tired players plus less than stellar application would not have helped.

    From a point of wanting it all I wish Smith had our entire squad to pick from pre-loan outs.

  11. Andrew – “Your right about elmo. seems to go unnoticed but he was superb sat.

    Works hard, grabs assists a lot too. direct as well. I like him a lot.”

    Totally agree with you – always puts a shift in and playing in a more advanced role, he makes some cracking runs into the box. I think – but may be wrong – that he has scored 2 and made 3 assists so far this season?
    He carries out a lot of work that goes unseen and covers that side from defence to attack.

    On a different subject, was at the Drs this morning and ended up being given some very strong codeine tabs for the residual 3 week old cough following a nasty bout of flu. Just had one so far and they are jolly good – floating about 6 inches off the ground at the moment. Reminds me of my misspent youth in the late 60’s/early 70’s 🙂
    Happy daze …….


  12. An excellent leader JC,

    Good to see we all now seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet, and agreeing on the strengths and weaknesses of the present team. Looking forward to tomorrow and who Dean will add to the squad, without changing the team too much.

  13. Clive,

    Don’t disagree about Albert. He does work hard, and was a big part of the high press. Like others have said, last year was sort of miraculous. He’s never made himself out to be a goal-scorer. I’ll be curious to see whether someone like El Ghazi, who seems more apt to charge into the channels, ends up taking over in what would probably be more of a 4-3-3. But whoever’s out there, it’s obvious they are going to have to work for the full 90.

    And that probably means certain players are going to be told to run themselves into the ground for 60-70mins, then they’ll come off for some fresh legs.

  14. JL,

    They are definitely playing for their positions, which is what I think a lot of the new manager bounce comes down to.

    And agreed about Elmo. I’ve given him stick on the defensive side of things and also playing as a true wide winger, but he can be very effective delivering exactly the sort of ball Abraham scored from. When he and Hogan were playing early on, he also seemed to be the only one who understood the kind of service Hogan needs from the flank, low and to the near post. And he does put in a shift.

  15. JC- I agree on Elmo mate the devils in the detail and how he’s used like so many. You can put it down to new manager syndrome or the hope they can cement a place but I think they will have been told they are all needed. I know we heard about rotation a lot for the last few seasons but it didn’t really happen. Dean Smith really does rotate his team and squad and that can only give players incentive to be ready. Most Champs winning sides have a core 4-5 players that play the majority of games and the rest in the 20’s.

    I think lots of goal scoring players problems stem from an injury which alters there shooting, much like a golf swing its in the groove, what was once automatic is suddenly off target or pulled. That leads to doubt and even worse accuracy. Even a missed penalty can do similar. Adomahs chance was golden on Saturday but he pulled it wide. Its about re-cementing the right patterns in the brain.

    I liked that Smith picked up on us not capitalizing when we won the ball back quickly, he said we should be creating real chances from those opportunities not just something hopeful. This could make a huge difference.

  16. JL, MK…

    I’ve never really thought it was the players. As I’ve said many times, there’s no one on the team I don’t like. Some I think are more useful than others, some I think have more upside. And of course we’ve had a lack of depth in certain positions while having almost too many to choose from in others.

    It’s really about what we’ve heard Smith talking about. Breaking the game down into component parts. Knowing when to press, how to press, how to deal with a press, when to rest and how, that sort of thing. Likewise, understanding what you want to do once the initial foray stalls.

    Not rocket science, just systematic. And when it’s systematic, it’s easier to understand and implement. And then it’s easier to slot players in.

  17. MK,

    It really is down to confidence and just not thinking. Has to be reflexive. Like you say, a lot of things can get in the way of that, almost always mental.

    It seems like Grealish, for example, is a bit gun-shy, often passes up a shot. Liked Deano saying they’d be working on getting more goals out of him.

  18. JC- yes just a system, simple but essential, you can either tell the players and be very specific or you can pick the players you think will fit and hope they tell each other eventually or Gel or whatever you want to call it (which obviously takes a lot longer unless the players are unreceptive to ideas)

  19. Anybody see this? You’ve got to love the Media, what planet is Murphy on? if he cast his mind back to nearly every manager we have had they all point at the team not being fit enough when they arrive, Smith has even gone as far as saying its no reflection on the former Staff just that he does it different.

    “Smith spoke to Talksport before his opening game at the helm – a 1-0 win over Swansea – and claimed that the players had been working at a tempo which they hadn’t for a while in training.

    Murphy took that comment as a dig at former boss Bruce and took exception to it, slamming Smith for his decision to call his predecessor’s training methods into question.

    Speaking on Talksport [Monday 22 October, 12:07], Murphy said: “I don’t like what he said regarding they’ve been asked to work at an intensity that they haven’t been asked to recently, that’s having a little dig at the old manager.

    “I don’t like to hear that from any manager that comes in. You know you get this thing – he’s talking maybe about fitness, application there – keep it to yourself, do you know what I mean?”

  20. Apart from McGinn, I don’t see him making many changes tomorrow, as it’s a tough game.
    Although the subs may change more.
    Skytwot has it down for a Norwich win, but I have my doubts as think it may be a draw.
    Would be delighted with a win though.

  21. IanG- I’m thinking Draw, Norwich won 7 of the last ten, still we have the quality to upset the apple cart. I’m wondering who will come in for McGinn? Hourihane came on for Grealish, was that to pack the midfield or is he seen more as an attacking threat? odds on its Hourihane but we have so many options (none like McGinn mind). If there is a change it may be on the wing, unlikely to Be Tammy or Grealish.

  22. Mark
    It just goes to show what a pillock Murphy is, as well as permanently anti villa, & a boring & negative pundit.
    Maybe he should get into real work like management to see how he would do, before putting his always grouchy anti villa tuppence worth in.

  23. Dean’s just telling it like it is. You press and have success, then can’t keep it up. That’s fitness, pure and simple. And it was obvious to everyone watching. Been obvious for ages.

    At this level, there’s all sorts of training and recovery techniques. But the simple fact is that to play 90 minutes full tilt, you have train at a certain level of intensity. We see other teams press us for 90, and they’re not supermen. They’re just in shape for it. You have to practice the way you play.

  24. Iang- we do attract em

    Jc- it’s not like smith over complicates things which is probably a massive plus for the players to learn from. On recovery Jt would go to Chelsea for cold therapy and introduced yoga to villa so just shows you that not all clubs are receptive nor up to date.

  25. MK,

    No, it’s not terribly complicated. Which is what’s been so frustrating. Fundamentals, hard work, drilling. You could go on and on about the rest of the physical prep and recovery, all sorts of methods out there.

  26. JC: “No, it’s not terribly complicated. Which is what’s been so frustrating.”

    Why the frustration? Maybe because we believe one thing and the incumbent prefers to concentrate on another?

    Three (surely) can never be just one approach to things. If that were the case then we’d be automatons – which is what the powers that be would prefer us to be, it would seem.

    Even the British government is now saying that by 2050 the army here will be comprised of sem-biotic soldiers!

    Do we want semi-biotic footballers as well so that the game is super-efficient?

    Education has moved to make us more and more efficient. And it’s a bit alarming I think when I remember how life used to be here 60 years ago. Once upon a time you came across real characters and independent thinking but now it’s all geered to making us think in straight lines.

    So, if old-time managers like Bruce had one way of doing things that didn’t match our own perspective, that shouldn’t – surely – make us frustrated. When we scored those 11 goals in 3 games last season (for example) were you complaining about frustration then? No, of course not. And that was only 7 or 8 months ago.

    Bring back the Stan Matthews age for me! You can improve on the equipment (like getting rid of those old leather balls) but quality is quality … players that once upon a time got people out of their seats, not be super-efficient. All that style does is pump up the demand of supporters for league points rather than football principles.

    Alf Ramsay has a lot to answer for, and Brian Little getting only 10 minutes of international play underlies the direction that football has gone in. Especially now that media pundits are largely old players who stick together to claim that incidents that we would have regarded as clear fouls even 20 years ago are now valid

    Ugh. To think this was once called “the beautiful game”. The last game I saw anything that fully matched that description was Brazil v England in the 1970 World Cup.

  27. What a sea-change in post match interviews, learnt more about the manager’s thinking in the last few days than in a life time of cliche ridden SB interviews (final dig).

    Not expecting miracles tonight but at least a chance to see a Smith team one game further down the road to what he wants, it will take time perhaps the high pressing game will be flipped to the second half to ensure we don’t get get overrun by a very good Norwich side.

    Either way, Norwich will need to be a lot more clever to break us down. Agree with JL re Adomah, exceptional last season but provides a balance and a great work ethic up and down the wing.


  28. Jl- I agree to an extent but never would I call what Bruce produced entertainment. It has also become easy to counter with more intelligent and educated coaches about today . We would just spend loads of cash while getting nowhere, it’s unsustainable. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you have to have a base to let players like jack perform.

  29. Jl – if you want to see the beautiful game watch Mezut Ozil in the Arsenal v Leicester game – that man is inspired (most of the time!) and Germany must be kicking themsleves they let a media frenzy lead to his retriement form international football.

    I am hoping to see some measure of the same v Norwich but no exactly expecting to see it as Villa is now in the redevlopment phase – i.e. not rebuilding as the framework is there but more like the process of introducing the option preferences that the owners and suporters have selected.

    Meanwhile if your wife wants to let me have a contact in Melaka (via pm) I will endeavour to try and meet up if we are likely to be in the same area.

  30. Clive: “if you want to see the beautiful game watch Mezut Ozil in the Arsenal v Leicester game”

    Well, yes, individual players of brilliance have cropped up at different times over the last 60 years – Best, Cruyff, Maradona and Messi just to name a few.

    In that comment about the “beautiful game” I was alluding more to the overall pattern of play and the spirit in which the game should be played. As I inferred, sportsmanship is rarely seen now, but back in 1970 it was vividly present – as well as fine football – and what a pleasure it was, although we lost. You could see on the faces of Pele and Bobby Moore at the end what a fine match they experienced.

    As to the “meeting up” suggestion, Clive, that’s a nice idea, but Ana is visiting on compassionate grounds as her mother (now in her 80s) is quite sick. There won’t be any time for socialising unfortunately. But thanks.

  31. JL,

    It’s like being kids and growing up. You go knock around a ball at the park, on the street, in the playground, no worries, no plan, you can run forever anyway.

    As you get older and move up (if you keep playing), it gets more complicated. All sport works that way these days. Everyone’s looking for an edge. People innovate. Players used to smoke and drink (regularly), their fitness was relative to one another’s. Now, you simply can’t afford to give away that edge.

    So yes, we had a couple good runs and couldn’t sustain it. That’s frustrating. Chasing shadows? Having no ideas to change a game that’s going against you? Not keeping up with the competition? All frustrating. I think it was frustrating to the players, as well.

    Watching good teams ping together pass after pass, move fluidly, control games, give themselves the best opportunity to win? Seeing players reach their potential? That’s not frustrating. It’s playing the game as well as it can be played.

    There’s long been an argument about players from certain eras and how they’d stack up in today’s game(s). There are some qualities/characteristics that will translate, some players that would be ‘timeless’ and some genetics that predispose certain individuals to keep up. But overall, it’s generally the consensus that you can’t compare across eras. Take track and field…apart from equipment, today’s athletes are simply faster. All that work and science is what it takes to shave seconds and then fractions of seconds off times. You’re never going to convince everyone not to try and get faster, not to try and be the best. The ones who succeed influence the others, and the whole thing moves forward. You’ve got one caveman figuring out how to build a fire and then everyone wants one. Castles met canons. Waves of marching infantry met machine guns. Biplanes met monoplanes and monoplanes met jets.

    Whether it’s “better” or good for us, everyone will have an opinion. Maybe modern life is rubbish. Me, I like the idea of flying a Spitfire or Mustang moreso than a modern jet.

    But here we are and it’s simply the way of things. If Villa want to flourish in the modern era, they have to at least do the things successful clubs do. You have to be as fit, cohesive, drilled and intelligent about the game as they are. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes success more attainable.

    Steve Bruce doesn’t have to have the same ideas as me or any other manager. He simply has to have equally good alternatives to what his peers are doing.

  32. MK: “I agree to an extent but never would I call what Bruce produced entertainment.”

    Not the best of entertainment, I agree, but when you score 11 goals in 3 matches (and an average of about 2 goals per match over a dozen matches) it can’t be so very bad, can it?

    But we all knew Bruce’s limitations and he was the chairman’s choice. I shan’t say more about him.

  33. JC: “As you get older and move up (if you keep playing), it gets more complicated. All sport works that way these days.”

    Sadly, yes. But I wasn’t saying it wasn’t the case – I was considering how much the game has lost it’s attraction *because* of the way it’s gone. Like athletics – it’s all money and winning the big thing. That didn’t used to be the case, let’s not forget.

    What you’ve written is an essay on what the state of things is … now. I don’t at all disagree – but what I was really saying is that we’ve lost something in our attitude (or expectancy) towards sport. Bruce had the team performing quite well last Spring, until the last few matches. But we all too easily forget all that in our expectancy for top of the table placing.

    And as far as ol players “translating” into the modern game, I agree on the matter. But, again, that’s not waht I was talking about.

    In short, sport was brought about for a good purpose. And not just to win and certainly not at all costs, which frequently is the case: bad fouling in football and drugs in athletics for example.

    The move way in terms of the ideal of sport towards being the best achiever has brought about a lot of evils, and we frequently forget decency as a result – the “professional foul” is now the master, and if the manager has a bad patch then it’s “out, out”.

    It’s very sad and someday it will get it’s uppance as it can only get worse as things are.

  34. Jl – a bad patch yes frequent ones there’s something amiss. Goals are the icing but but only because you are winning or catching up or drawing level, that’s the emotional aspect. I get as much satisfaction from seeing good play even if they miss, that was devoid mostly in our play , very sporadic.

  35. JL,

    TV, money, professionalism. You can blame players first getting paid, in the end, and the establishment of professional leagues. Was only ever going to go one way after that. Our appetites can destroy anything.

    So, I see what you’re saying, but I suppose it doesn’t bother me as much. I think it still serves much the same purpose at all sorts of lower levels where most of us will engage.

  36. JC,

    Well, what you say (last para) serves – in a kind of way – for now … but for how long? That’s the crucial point. How nasty is sport going to get once you pump in more ambition, money et al?

    Before it all gets put right, perhaps we might see the epics of the Collisseum re-appearing to satisfy people’s declining tastes…!

  37. MK: “I get as much satisfaction from seeing good play even if they miss”

    So do I. But I fail to see how the word “turgid” (as used by some) could be applied to many of the matches I’ve seen these last 2 years.

  38. Jl- ok depressing 😉
    Seriously a lot of games I watched they just didn’t grab my attention at all. Id be glad we won or sad we lost etc but the that was worth the time watching? A very large percentage were not for me, as JC said they were frustrating because they were such minor but crucial elements missing.

  39. JC- The technology and knowledge is getting really out there now, Theres a machine that delivers specific wavelengths or vibrations to your body in Europe. Lets say your low on Iron, well just taking a pill/food doesn’t work for everyone as they are poor absorbers, so they put the same vibration as Iron into your body and hey presto you begin to absorb it through your diet. DNA is the latest and the tracking of sleep and over training has moved on to another level, Sometimes you just shouldn’t train.

    JL- As for fouling are you sure you were looking at the same 70’s football as me? they didn’t just foul you they kicked you so hard your unborn child felt it 🙂 In the post Roy Keane era I can’t think of one hard man though, The champs is slightly more physical but thats because the refs are not up to much IMO. The grabbing and shirt pulling is the worst thing.

  40. MK,

    The ’70s were when I first started watching, and it was brutal compared to today’s game. Talk about professional fouls, more like professional muggings. Today it’s mainly just a hip check, a cheeky tap on the heels, or a tug on the shirt. That said, Jack’s been subjected to treatment that can only be described as truly cynical and sometimes dangerous.


    Sadly, I would have to agree with ‘turgid’. To be quite honest, I often found myself keeping one eye on the game and being continuously tempted to do something else with the other. But ‘depressing’ is also apt, because apart from the different shirts, you could almost have substituted watching one game for another and not come away any less the wiser.

  41. Fascinating about how the game has changed, especially with regard to fouling, and wonder how many have read Peter Crouch’s excellent book which tells it as it is, and goes back to the days when the likes of Sean Dyche, Paul Devlin and Kevin Muscatt were playing, and many others, who would tenderise your body, scrape down your achilles, smash you with a couple of elbows and tell you they were going to break your legs. I also don’t think that it had changed much going back to the 50.s. There were always very tough defenders, which you would have to handle or you would not be in the game. Today it is a different story, especially in the Premier league, where refereeing standards are far better, and defenders have more involvement in the play.
    Like Clive, I must say it is a pleasure to watch the likes of the new Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool, and probably Wolves, where they are demonstrating how to play the beautiful game with superb movement, passing and some amazing skills, whilst at the same time often keeping it simple, and just moving the ball well, and intelligent movement off the ball.

    I see Dean Smith moving along the simple lines with one and two touch passes, with players ready to receive the ball, and looking for space.

    Well, all prepared for tonight’s game and looking forward to it. Come on you Villans..!!

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