Another week, another derby. West Brom’s not as nasty a rivalry as that with small heath, but it’s a no-love-lost match-up nonetheless. And Villa come into tonight’s game at The Hawthorns after a very interesting, entertaining, and revealing week. A week that’s left us a bit hopeful.

It’s starting to seem a long time ago that Steve Bruce was in the dugout. But Dean Smith has only been in charge since Swansea, and he took the helm during a break followed by the quick succession of matches that always follows. Smith got the win against Swansea in his first outing, followed by one-goal losses to Norwich and QPR.

Then there were 2-0 and 3-0 wins against Bolton and Derby, respectively, followed by another break. This time, Villa returned to handle blues 4-2, had a surreal but extremely entertaining 5-5 draw with Forest (about which Smith was likely none too happy), and then a comprehensive 3-0 win at Boro. Tired? No. Jaded? No. On the contrary, Smith wondered whether the players away on international duty were getting enough minutes to keep their fitness up.

In that span, Villa have beaten two of the seven teams now above us, and drawn with another. Tonight, West Brom sit third coming in, Villa eighth, and the gap is only four points. Albion have scored a couple more than us, and conceded a couple less. We’re unbeaten in five, and the Baggies have won three, drawn one and lost one. The wins against Derby and Boro were considered statements, and rightfully so, especially since both were decisive and away against good sides.

What to expect against another team vying for promotion? Well, as the league’s two highest-scoring teams, we might expect fireworks. However, Deano will only be interested in one-sided fireworks. He’s had a week to prepare, and we know he likes his preparation and makes good use of it.

Albion present a bit of a challenge in terms of that preparation, though, due to Darren Moore’s tactical flexibility. They’ve played three and four at the back, with a variety of midfield permutations. Smith has varied his looks, but not quite as much. But lately, both sides have trotted out what is essentially a 4-2-3-1. Will they do that again? Villa, I’m thinking yes. The only other option I think Smith would try is a 4-1-4-1, though we could see a 4-3-3. However, Smith’s 4-2-3-1 works about the same as a 4-3-3. Albion? No idea. I could see them going with three to get at Villa’s defense and give our outside players more work to do, but also sticking with four due to our strength down both the flanks and the middle.

What we can probably count on are reactions from both managers during the match. If something’s not working, look for tweaks. Neutrals will be looking at the showcase for Dwight Gayle and Tammy Abraham.

For Villa, the game will come too soon for Albert Adomah. Smith talked during the week about giving Jonathan Kodjia a needed break against Boro. After a week, will we see him reclaim his place, or will Anwar El Ghazi get the nod again? The team sheet might’ve just pipped me to the post, but my gut is telling me El Ghazi.

Regardless, it should be good match, one I’m looking forward to yet again, and Villa will be feeling pretty good about themselves. The trick here is to stay disciplined and not get too carried away. There are obviously plenty of goals in both sides, and some defensive frailties. It sounds obvious, but it seems to me that the outcome will be down to who’s more clinical up top and then more organized without the ball. That and the old chestnut I always trot out: Who wants it more? Simples.

A draw would certainly be acceptable, but I have a feeling Villa want all three points and will play for them. Another away win against a top promotion contender, and Villa might well be on their way. A loss? Well, it will be all about how we respond.

Over to you.

Comments 199

  1. Thanks JC- just bumped into a WBA mate of mine and he’s bricking it, he has us to win the league and got 25-1 at the time before Smith obviously, and has 100-1 on Chester to score tonight.

  2. Thanks again, JC.
    I’m looking forward to the Albion match. Win-or-lose, it should be another entertainer. For far too long, Villa hardly seemed to play anywhere near its potential, so I didn’t look forward as much as I should have to the games. That is turning around.
    2-4 Villa

  3. Villa: Nyland, Hutton, Chester, Tuanzebe, Taylor, Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish, Bolasie, Abraham, El Ghazi.
    Subs: Bunn, Revan, Whelan, O’Hare, Elmohamady, Kodjia, Hogan.

    Looks good

  4. Hey there, Iana.

    Likewise. I’m duty bound to see them all, and I have to admit, it often felt like a chore, and then a kick in the groin for my troubles. And just as you say, it was largely down to the fact we just did not play up to potential, and now, win or lose, we’re starting to expect something worth watching.

  5. IanG…Like that Smith’s sticking with El Ghazi. Not afraid to make a change, but also respectful and giving players runs. Careful to point out that Whelan’s a great influence in the clubhouse and training, even though he’s not starting him. Likewise, Jedi making himself available last week even though still carrying a knock. Wouldn’t have played him anyway, but making the right noises.

  6. JC- He said nobody goes to Middlesbrough and wins 3-0, also said WBA were looking at smith , he’s not impressed with Moore, the two big wins sound like us last season, more one off than planned, They have quality though, I think it will be tougher than the Boro game.

  7. top notch write u again jc.

    wba dropped a clanger there playing barry no legs, or maybe the thinking is as he used to play for us, he ‘ll score. anyway , f**k the boggies. UTV!

  8. MK,

    Yeah, don’t think it’s going to be walk by any means. I like these top-of-the-table games now because a) we’ve won a couple and b) good measure of progress.

  9. Goal was not Hutton’s fault, cheap give away by Tammy, and El Ghazi not tracking back to assist Hutton, and also Chester took his eye off Gayle, so he was totally free to score.

    Maybe Elmo for El Gazhi, and Hogan for Tammy second half….

    McGinn back to form….

    Barry putting in great passes and getting in lots of sneaky fouls as usual.

  10. Definitely not converting all the chances but looking forward to second half. It’s a good challenge and if Villa come away with any points, they’ve done well. That said, Villa are more than capable of all three points.

  11. Could be watching a premiership game here
    Some very good football from both sides.
    Exciting to watch and feeling both excited and tense!

  12. Pp
    Can’t blame el ghazi for goal,Hutton was beaten far too easy and Taylor nowhere to be seen,don’t want my wingers playing as full backs just need 2 full backs that can do what supposed to,Hutton is drifting inside to much

  13. Well, here’s a fact….

    Villa played their first ever game against the Baggies on December 9, 1882 (126 years ago).

    That anniversary occurs in 2 days time.

    It was a match in the Staffordshire Cup on Villa’s home ground at Wellington Road.

    The result? 3-3. Could this one end by that score?!

  14. Tammy Abraham’s finding some very good positions and the Villa players are finding him well
    Just need a bit more luck in front of goal

    Oh and what a boot Mcginn has on him

  15. Should have been a penalty but I think it would have been judged a soft one

    Hutton has lying very well again. . . especially as he’s having to do the job of two players at the back

    I guess it’s part of Dean Smith’s style to get those plywrs up front but I can’t hwlp feeling that even he would like to see El ghazi giving a bit more support at the back

  16. thought the c**ts were going to score then right b4 ht!

    much to be upbeat about, we had the better chances, they only really had the one, chessy was ball watching.

    personally i would have kept the same team from the last game,

  17. r0bb0 December 7, 2018 at 9:24 pm
    Let’s look on the bright side
    Maybe Chelsea will be watching this game and decide they don’t want Abraham back after all!


  18. James Gill December 7, 2018 at 9:40 pm
    Hutton done well at lb,Elmo and el ghazi working well wonder was it a language problem in 1st half, Hutton shouting at el ghazi

    Well Said!

  19. Well
    We were the better side
    We’ve now outplayed Derby, boro and West Brom
    Certainly capable of promotion this season but those two dropped points hurt

  20. Jc
    4 points dropped last few matches down to certain players sooner Smith can get his own in the better,to score 5 at home only get 1 point ,them go to baggies and score 2and still only get a point is maddening,but still a he’ll of an improvement on a few weeks ago

  21. Isn’t it ridiculous that whilst he referee is consulting with his assistant, hundreds of thousands of people know without a shadow of a doubt that it was a handball and no goal.
    He evidence is there in full technicolour for everyone to see . . . and yet the goal stands.
    I don’t blame Rodriguez so much as the small brained dinosaurs in charge of the game that allow this to continue.

  22. Yep, should have prevailed but for profligacy. This should help motivate Villa for the next match. There should be no fear in this team. It will come down to every individual doing their job right, which was missing a bit tonight. That said, Villa look dangerous again. Maybe other teams will start fearing Villa again.

  23. JC
    Yes I’ll be glad when albert comes back as codger is lazy sometimes on getting back to defend.
    Mind you so is EG, & as he comes from Lille, it must be a french thing.
    But he at least has the capacity to learn, which is more than you can say about codger.
    Maybe we should bring Mitch Clark back, as Taylor never lasts more than a few games before getting injured.
    Tammie had a day to forget, & if not for injuries we might have seen Hogan.
    The BBC Sports commentator was on about the moaning players when the baggies cheated their way to a draw.
    Having watched it in slo mo it was deliberate.

  24. Yeah, deliberate, and like you say, r0bb0, completely clear to everyone in the world except the officials. Actually a double handball…once when he’s coming through and ‘controlling’ and then on the ground. He lays there like he knows it’s going to be disallowed, even.

  25. And on Kodjia…Yes, he can be lazy, though he’s been better of late. What bothered me was giving the ball away cheaply trying to do too much on his own, probably because El Ghazi scored twice, Bolasie was always dangerous, and he can see his spot slipping away.

  26. IanG….

    El Ghazi will learn, yes, or I don’t think Smith will play him, tbh. Everyone has to work or the pressing doesn’t work. And, tbf, EG does his part up front…He can just be a bit nonchalant in tracking back.

  27. We now have one of the worst, if not THE worst records of points lost from winning positions.
    Against Birmingham I remember commenting to my wife on how much our game management had improved. We were retaining the ball so well that the “Ole’s” were being shouted all around the ground.
    As JC pointed out though, Kodjia didn’t seem to have read the script last night and was running himself into dead ends and losing possession when the clock was running down.
    To some extent I guess it’s part of the new exciting way of playing and the upside is that we’re no longer sitting back when we go ahead.
    Maybe there’s a slightly better balance still to be struck though.

  28. Guys, honestly, Why did Chester turn his back on that? Nyland should also be Infront of jrod, amd then going for it. Chester and nyland both to blame. For both goals really.

    They should both of been in front, of j-rod. Chester was ballwatching for both goals, he shud have cut them both out. Nyland could of punched both balls away for both goals.

    We also missed some bloddy sitters.


    We should always remember the officials r u enemies and always will be. Every other games officials have done and we always f**k us, whether on purpose or not. UTV!

  29. Ace write up again JC. I think everyone who has commented have nailed the issues. Rodriguez caught the ball, threw it towards goal and then diverted into the net with his arm. I won’t be too hard on the officials, they screwed up but in real time I’m not surprised. If Abraham had put just 1 of his great chances away, we’d have won at a canter. The Yam Yams were looking wrecked and I honestly thought if a late goal was coming it would be from Villa.

    Tuanzebe was immense. El Gassy was scintillating. McGinn ran his nuts off. In hindsight, in the heat of a local derby Codger was not the correct sub. Perhaps Hogan with his pace and effort would have been more suitable.

    The game itself was a credit to the Championship. Full of excitement. Full of attacking intent. Full of entertainment. More please. Can’t wait for our next game to come round.

  30. Lovely little review there Plug
    Roger. . . I don’t see the ‘on pitch’ officials as being our enemy.
    They operate to rules that say if they haven’t ‘seen’ an offence, they can’t give one.
    The enemies are the Jurassic men who think that it makes sense for ‘everybody’ to know that it isn’t a goal ‘apart’ from the referee and his assistants.
    It’s just plain silly.

  31. r0bb0
    The standard of the linesmen in the EFL has been atrocious on more or less any match.
    The referees have been extremely variable, more so than is acceptable.
    The linesmen seem to wait for the referee to give the decisions on whose throw in it is more often than not.
    Their positioning is often not good.
    So we might as well have VAR as often the linemen don’t function.
    If the linesman had been in the correct position he would have seen what happened & told the referee who was unsighted, as it would have been obvious.
    The referees penalty decisions are too often atrocious in this league, & we had yet another cast iron penalty with McGinn that the ref waved play on to.
    They’re not servants of the game but control freaks, who act like wanna be players.
    Also the keeper was fouled & ignored yet again.

    I don’t mind the football in the eFL, but the officiating is enough to put me off my distraction.

  32. The Match

    Plug sums up the match very neatly. It should have ended-up as a neatly packaged 4-2 win with the footballers earning their rewards for a calm display against some rough play … even Barry, from whom we should have gained a penalty.

    Albion are a useful side, but the potential Premiership side in that match was clearly the Villa in.m.o. Yep, I’m biased.

    But who would have thought that Abe would miss all 4 such chances he had? THat absolute sitter in front of goal was actually quite amusing to me because you could see he was getting excited about receiving just the right ball for an easy goal. Unfortunately the ball was ever so slightly behind him, but clearly controllable fotr him to tuck away.

    Well, next match he might score 6.

    Nevertheless, it was those missed chances and the non-gained penalty that caused us to drop 2 points. Their last-fling equaliser – flawed that it was – can’t be blamed for a non-win.

    Never mind. On paper it was a good result.

  33. r0bb0: “The enemies are the Jurassic men who think that it makes sense for ‘everybody’ to know that it isn’t a goal ‘apart’ from the referee and his assistants.”

    Perhaps this is equivalent to a ball-over-the-line situation and video evidence called for?

    In this case I don’t blame the officials too much. They were not situated in a good enough position to decide and therefore video evidence is key.

    Otherwise I believe in the old adage that you gain some, lose some. This constant analysis does tend to distract from the enjoyment of the game for me and we frankly should have been 2 or 3 goals ahead by then and not be worrying about what would have been a consolation freak to Albyun.

  34. The last 5 games have felt impressive, especially as they have all been against teams above us in the table at the time. I just wondered how close they are to being good enough for promotion though.
    Over those 5 games we have averaged 2.2 points per game. We now have 25 games left so if we maintained that average we’d amass a further 55 points. Add that to the 32 that we already have and we’d end up on 87 points.

    Over the past 10 years, the average points tally for the second automatic promotion slot has been . . . . 86.

    We’ve shown we ‘can’ compete against the best but we must also make sure that we maintain those levels of performance against the teams below us as that’s where we ultimately fell short last year.

    Let’s just hope we don’t miss out to Albion by fewer than 4 points . . . the cost of the ineptitude of last night’s referee and his assistant’s . . . . along with the ignorant, old fashioned ideas of the law makers of the game.

  35. JL, “perhaps video evidence . . . is called for”

    That’s exactly what should be happening.

    That’s how everybody at home KNEW that the officials were in the process of getting it wrong. While the referee was sauntering over to chat to his assistant, we were all at home watching Rodriguez knock the ball in with his hand.

    Isn’t it amazing that the world’s most popular game is behind the ‘old fashioned’ games of rugby, cricket and tennis, all of which successfully use video evidence.

  36. r0bb0…

    Amen. There is just too much going on for the officials to see it all. In open play, you hope it evens out and often does. But goals and even penalty shouts should be reviewed. Penalties are more difficult, because play often continues. But you could use it in situations were the ball goes out of play or into the keeper’s hand immediately after the instance.

    As you very correctly say, it’s just not right when everyone but the officials can see what happened and the travesty is allowed to stand when there’s a very simple way to get it right that does not detract from the game. Someone could’ve handed him a phone with the broadcast on and he’d have seen it, FFS.

    Officials simply shouldn’t be deciding games with missed or incorrect calls in critical situations. Used to be there was nothing you could do about it, so everyone accepted it. That’s no longer an acceptable excuse.

  37. JL,

    Don’t disagree that our, Abraham’s, profligacy in front of goal ultimately cost us. I had a terrible feeling as chance after chance was missed that it would come back to haunt us. Almost always does.

    But, at the same time, the referee’s decision did cost us a fully deserved 2-1 win. No getting around it.

    It was also great to see us chasing more goals after the second. I absolutely love the mentality.

  38. Calmed down now after feeling incredibly p*ssed off because we should of taken a third big scalp away from home on the trot and gone into the play off places. There is no doubt about it we were robbed, forget missed chances etc we went ahead twice, we made the best chances on the night hit the post and should of had a pen. How the ref missed the players reaction to scoring I’ll never know. I am p*ssed off though because those dropped points cost top two places and we have plenty of early season mishaps to make up for.

    Now we can pick apart the goals against us like the huge 60 yard pass from their box for the 1st or the fact Hourihane and wheelan stood off the player that makes the pass out to the right for the 2nd, or Kodjia didn’t track back or Nyland should of trampled Rodriguez under foot but there is one simple underlying factor to why we feel aggrieved, and that is our expectations have risen.

    We are now watching a team that once had no defence and could not buy a win take apart the best the league can offer away from home consistently. Its not perfect (what is) and we saw the worst of this team amplified under Steve Bruce where we missed some chances and conceded many more against poor opposition, we are now seeing potential maximised while frailty is minimised to the best Smith can do without recruitment. We knew this before he came, we knew the weak points, they remain the keeper and full backs and maybe a CB (although a dominant keeper would take the guessing out of the CB’s mind). On the plus side there is not a player that has not improved on some level and the team as a whole immeasurably.Could he do better? probably but I’m struggling to see how, he is already doing a balancing act.

    I find myself getting emotionally involved in games more now, less resigned as the frustration has gone and the excitement levels have shot up, I’m no longer p*ssed off at players just p*ssed off for them, they are genuinely doing their best and have the platform to do so.

    Thought we lacked runners from midfield in the box leaving Tammy as the sole target last night and the full backs looked more withdrawn for obvious reasons, WBA have scored more than anyone and have some good wingers but by Christ so do we. Would like to see Hogan involved and maybe even Kodjia central to give Tammy a rest and competition.

    All in all in less matches than it took one manager to be sacked another has revitalised the club to an astounding level against top opposition, its gone better than I could possibly hope, keep this up until Jan, make some changes and march on, destroying good teams at their place and room for improvement still? I’ll take that for now.

  39. JG- 🙂 I thought the linesman was where he was supposed to be almost at the corner flag and looking along the line, its what he does next which was running immediately back to the centre line without watching the reaction of the players and Rodriguez that stinks as much as his “should of gone to specsavers “moment. I’m with the get some video footage decisions going crowd, it works in other sports, if you want give each team two reviews a game.

  40. Just seen Sheffield United go 1-0 up
    The goal scorer lost led offside when the ball was first struck
    Then he looked very offside when it was touched on from the head of his own player

  41. robbo/JC,

    What you’re both advocating is all very well but is a route that should be trod with acution i.m.o.

    Football is a fast game (obviously) and the last thing I would want is to have periods in the match which are start-stop.

    So although I’m not against video reviews, they need to be implemented very cautiously i.m.o.

    It obviously makes sense to use such a method in a rare situation like the ball-over-the-line scenario, but how far do you go? The whole matter could end up in silly street.

    As I said, “I believe in the old adage that you gain some, lose some.” After all, you could say we had luck that our first goal went in from that wicked deflection. And – no – I still disagree that it was the ref who cost us and should carry all the can. Abe’s point blank miss stopped us from going 3-1 up. That would have settled the matter long before injury time.

  42. MK,

    Again you go into a diatribe about Dean Smith’s achievement and changing the way Villa play in quick time and that it is working.

    I again reiterate that Smith’s approach has seen a huge difference, but do you know what? It makes very little difference to my hunger to see Villa play. I agree it mich had done 40 or more years ago when you’re of a young frame of mind (up to your 30s) but it shouldn’t continue to have that effect.

    I’m always interested in what Villa do regardless of who is in charge, and I followed matches under Bruce just as keenly.

    And that brings in another point. That every time you throw your accolades to Smith in such a way it does tend to infer that the previous manager was no good. Yes I know that very few on this blog had too much time for Bruce, but that fact is that he did more than anyone else since 2011 to make the Villa into a respected team again.

    The 2011-16 period was horrible. Now Smith is there his approach is making a lot better use of resources, and I’m pleased for him for that – and for the club. But so far Smith has had to use what Bruce left behind him. And what Smith has made of those players indicates that at least Bruce has a good eye for what makes a player.

    Simply because of what Bruce inherited when he came in is also a big reason to me why we should just let the past go and just accept that the club is moving forward at a better rate of knots – but based on Bruce’s groundwork.

    Further reference to Bruce by you will not be appreciated – by me at least. I don’t mention Bruce any more and I’m sure there’s no reason for you to do so either. It gains AVL nothing to keep harping back in such a way.

  43. Sorry John, couldn’t disagree with you more on this one.
    1) As Jc pointed out earlier, a fan could have handed the referee his phone and proved it should be disallowed. So the status quote is just silly. There is no way we would move to it if it didn’t already exist
    2) video referees have already been used to correct many wrong initial decisions in rugby. . . another fast moving game
    3) it’s already been tested thoroughly at the highest level.

    In the game I’ve just arched, Reading we’re hanging on for a possible draw until an offside Sheffield goal was allowed.

    We are now 4 points further from the top 6 than we would be if video evidence was allowed. That could cost us (or some other team) premier league football and £100m. It’s just not tenable for the current farcical situation to continue when a solution is available.
    It’s not acceptable that other less well funded sports have already implemented solutions but football continues to live in the dark ages.
    Time and technology have moved on

  44. I’m not suggesting that the use of VAR will guarantee correct decisions, but it’s been shown that TMO in rugby has dramatically reduced the number of wrong decisions

  45. JL- Its in the context of this season and my opinion, feel free to not like it. You may be happy watching anything Villa throw out myself I was getting worn down by it as lessons were rarely learnt. Never dimmed my support just my enjoyment.

    I am also trying to offer some balance to the thought Smith should be doing things differently by offering comparison with how it was previously done with the opposite effect. Honestly if it offends you don’t read it, I wont be offended.

    I think it very likely having seen Smith work here he would likely of made a better fist of RDMs squad let alone this one. He doesn’t seem overawed by big names, he’s got JT as an assistant for instance and has turned the dressing room around.

    The evidence to what and whom are Bruces signings is up for grabs, the group of players are of good quality but the squad imbalanced. In retrospect of Deans management and style Bruce missed a very big chance to show his ability with the resources he had. Yep Bruce could attract a decent level of player but so can Villa and with the way we are playing under Smith more will be tempted to come not less.

    I am over the moon with how we are progressing at the age of 55, why? because its the best I have seen us play since Big Ron was here.

  46. JL, I do know where you’re coming from. There is still a little bit of wanting to refight old battles about Bruce.

    Having said that where everyone seems to be in agreement is that Smith is managing to get more out of a good bunch of players than Bruce managed.

    Another little example is that we seem to be quicker at taking throw ins. It used to be a real bugbear of mine that we were always so casual about throw ins. We seemed to wait till the opposition were marking every player so that we lost possession as often as not.

  47. r0bb0,

    I’m aware of the points you list.

    The issue for me is not this big need for winning and – for me this movement is going away from the notions of sport, which I and everyone else saw 50 years ago (even perhaps 20 years ago), as the *natural* competition between competitors without the need for the intervention of any device other than the abilities of the players and the *equal fortune that all competitors share*.

    If there is equal availability of fortune then all things work out eventually. That again is what was always believed.

    Why should we have systems in place that are not affordable at every level of the sport, not just the topmost, when natural law is most likely sufficient? The only true reason I see is the industry that develops out of it to make more business out of sport.

    I’m not going to change my view on that and will probably be regarded as an old duffer for having that view. So be it. But this drive towards technology in every aspect of our lives is going to have a cop out in time when we have forgotten that living happily without such resources could be achieved.

    I’m just waiting for the next big power blackout such as those that have already occurred a few years ago. And the time may come when the power might just not come back on again.

    We won’t know what to do.

  48. JL
    How long are the stoppages in matches due to the protests of players when contentious decisions>
    You appear to be a little curmudgeonly about this

  49. JL
    ‘And the time may come when the power might just not come back on again.
    We won’t know what to do.’

    We might end up with more wit on the terraces

  50. r0bb0/MK,

    I thought we had agreed to stop reverting back to issues about Bruce?

    I just not see its relevance. If Smith is doing well – and he is – then great. It doesn’t mean to say you then have to say that proves the old manager was no good.

    And there are people who – underneath it all – just wish to forget the state of the club in 2016 (less than 3 years ago), which Bruce at least helped to pull us out of and enable a Dean Smith to carry things forward.

  51. MK: “I am over the moon with how we are progressing at the age of 55, why? because its the best I have seen us play since Big Ron was here.”

    Without knocking Ron S, I preferred Big Ron.

  52. JL
    Are you implying that all the occupants of the VP terraces were wasted?
    Mind you that may have been the case under some managers I shall not mention.

  53. I don’t know why anyone thinks it was Bruce managerial skills that got decent players to villa,it was big fat paycheck the doc offered,just look at nylan,Taylor last night Bruce’s signings,he got lucky with mcginn, Celtic thought because he mcginn was a fan he would take a lot less than villa where offering,they are sorry now

  54. JL:

    I thought we had agreed to stop reverting back to issues about Bruce?“

    John, I was just responding to your posting . . . . I wouldn’t have mentioned him ordinarily.

    I’m on the same side of the argument as you on this one though. I think it’s a bit silly if anyone tried to suggest that Bruce is a bad manager but in fairness I’ve seen very little of that lately. I do see people saying that Smith seems to be a better coach, and right now I think you’d agree that it does very much look that way.

    Someone suggested that Bruce may make s good director of football and that seemed an interesting angle. Can’t see him wanting that though

  55. r0bb0: “I do see people saying that Smith seems to be a better coach, and right now I think you’d agree that it does very much look that way.”

    And where have I not said that? 😉

    My thing is purely that Bruce repeatedly comes into adverse discussion. For me it’s inappropriate when what we’re concerned about really is the here and now. As in everything.

  56. JL
    “And where have I not said that”
    Errrrr. . . nowhere as far as I know.

    IanG “ as you brought it up, he wasn’t a good manager either”

    Good to see your sense of humour has returned 🙂

  57. r0bb0,

    Just *one* example (other comments on earlier articles): John Lerwill December 8, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    It’s clearly in support of what Smith is doing even if I don’t actually use the words you suggest.

    It’s quite clear that Smith is achieving what he’s doing because of a greater level of awareness of play. It would be a near idiot who couldn’t see that! 🙂

  58. Fair Play

    Thoughts of the injury-time handball goal made me think of fair-play incidents that Villa were involved with years ago.

    The first of these was in the wartime League Cup Final second leg held at VP in May, 1944.

    Villa won overall in this exciting encounter, by 5-4, but Villa’s win was part down to a deliberate handball goal by Villa’s George Edwards that was ‘allowed by the referee, who said afterwards that he felt there would be a goal anyway and therefore let it stand!

    Now, what do you say about that and how attitudes seem to have changed over the years!

    Another, but different situation, was in a match away at Arsenal in 1952 when, with 12 minutes to go and the score standing at 1-1, Villa’s Stan Lynn had the choice of kicking the head of the Arsenal player, who was diving to head in a cross. Lynn deliberately withdrew his boot to prevent the Arsenal player having a nasty head injury, but which action caused Villa to lose the match.

  59. JG- I agree when you look back the whole saga of our demise have been littered with incompetence of one sort or another.We now have a professionally run club with a coach rather than a manager.

    Looking back at Xias era it’s almost farcical now, the idea of Round sitting in his office inventing the Villa way and implementing it over 5 years looks what it was, a load of bull to pacify the crowd. What’s worse is we bought into it all while our eyes were telling us something else.

    Regardless of the club situation the manager always has the last say on the pitch and that’s where you start.

    At least we know these lot will hold the coach to producing higher standards or he won’t be there.

  60. JL. I am genuinely confused. I suspect that one of us has misunderstood what the other was ‘trying’ to say at some point in this exchange.
    I’m just not sure what or when.

  61. JL- surely the answer is for the players to be honest? That would be true sportsmanship, unfortunately sports people want to win and winning a lot generates wealth of time in the professional game.

  62. Mark . . . ahhh, if only.

    Bearing in mind that honesty is not even expected in the ‘gentleman’s sport’ of cricket any more I think it has zero chance of emerging in football.

    In the absence of honesty from players and competence from officials then technology seems to be the answer to me.
    It’s actually worse than a lack of honesty from players. These days they are actually coached to cheat which makes the task of officials even more difficult.

  63. We now live in Orwell’s 1984, where there are cameras virtually on every street, attached to people’s homes, in shops, factories, offices, cars , lorries, buses and in our phones watching virtually every minute of our lives, because we no longer trust, and do not have the human capability to watch everything that happens.

    Therefore, it is perfectly natural that we should have the same in sport, especially football, where even the majority of pundits seem to think it’s ok to cheat if it gets your team a result. I would love soccer to be the same as rugby where the referee has total control, informs everyone of his decisions, and players get ten minutes in the sin bin for a yellow card. The clock is much better in rugby, as there is no argument over time, and it only stops when necessary.

  64. One thing that’s irked me that smith has done. Dropped Elmo for Hutton after we was the best we have played at boro. …and Hutton makes the mistake!

    Think we are are better with him at rb and when he came on we played better.

  65. Andrew
    Exactly what I posted before the match.
    I also think Hutton is better defensively at LB than RB, as he has to concentrate more, & it’s fine that he goes forwards a little less with the players we have up front.
    There seems to be more stability & balance also.

  66. Andrew/IanG I can understand why Smith prefers Hutton for his physicality and pace, Barnes is quick and strong, by the time elmo came on Barnes would be at least a little tired and Villa bossed the second half. The 1st was more even and WBA put us under pressure, no guarantee Elmo would of fared any better. The Goal Hutton was involved in he was bit unlucky having won the ball back then stumbling, Tuanzebe then stood off Barnes allowing him to cross. You will now get your wish lads as Taylor is out for 2-3 weeks.

  67. Mark
    ‘You will now get your wish lads as Taylor is out for 2-3 weeks.’

    As usual these days unfortunately, since his first injury last season.
    We’ve had plenty of practice at looking the left back slot.

  68. No mention of the throw in that never crossed the line in the build up to their equaliser by anyone, or may have missed it as I caught up with the comments.

    Great performance, the hoodoo of Tammy getting player of the month bit us on the night but he’ll bag so many goals for us this season, it will be scary what he ends up with, love to hold onto him if we got promoted.

    Grealish had an off day but it didn’t matter as we are no longer reliant on him, Barry was being a bit cynical or age maybe catching up with him after a fine career.

    Bring on Stoke, after years of pain and frustration, football to be savoured.


  69. Just caught up with all the comments and here are my views
    I thought we had put the Bruce/Smith debate on the back-burner but Phoenix-like it is prevalent in this page again!
    Hutton might have let Barnes get away to produce the assist for their goal but I did comment on their attacking left flank before the game and Hutton was left ‘marking’ 2 men a lot of the time. DS must have seen this and felt the risk was justified with Anwar romping along on out right.
    Mark ‘(although a dominant keeper would take the guessing out of the CB’s mind)’ – too true I played in goal and can confirm dodgy game by keeper or CB throws doubt on the other parties.
    What is by now obvious, if it wasn’t already, we need a new keeper and extra defenders. The rest is making a good job of it for now and we have strength in depth.
    We need to put on a show for Stoke – please!

  70. im fuming we are still 4 points from playoff places after a good run against tough opposition.

    They top 6 seem to be pretty consistent. its going to be very tough. think we can make play offs but top 2 I think is too much.

  71. Early doors, plenty of points to play for Andrew and plenty of twists and turns for us and equally for the teams above us but very confident of continuing our overall form and catching up and putting pressure on the top two.

  72. DOR- Didn’t catch the throw in moment but we do need to Taylor our enthusiasm and keep the ball when we are so close to victory. Loving the overall game play though and approach, its like xmas but better.

  73. Clive- Defo think a keeper is needed, amazing when we have 4 on the books and 2 in the youth. Mr Bruce had been watching Nyland for years too, we seemed cursed in recent years in that department.

    I only mentioned Bruce because there was a little bit of Bruce like caution creeping in with people wanting Albert over Elghazi who has taken the team by storm and practically nearly won the match, he is showing Jack what he needs to acquire to be truly a threat.

    Its a stark contrast in both play and results because Smith is maximising the players abilities which almost all lies in the attacking third. I’m sure he doesn’t want us to be like a barn door at the back but we haven’t got the players. Adomah might have to be a sub in my eyes, Bolasie and ElGhazi are on fire.

  74. IanG- I think Clark will be recalled, can’t of gone unnoticed by Smith. Although it looks like more youth will go out on loans in prep for next season. would like to see o’hare get a run but as the players have stepped up it less urgent, last season I was seeing in the youth the type of play I wanted for the 1st and the senior players seemed incapable of it.

    I do think Smith will push for the B-team system he had at Brentford allowing for a mix of 1st and youth to face better opposition and smooth transition when called on.

  75. Mark
    What if Grealish is out for Saturday?
    Either o’Hare or Hourihane with Doyle-Hayes as DM,
    DS wants the young lads to go on loan to get proper match fit & learn the next step up.

  76. IanG- tough call mate, Grealish puts in a lot of graft but if we are calling him a 10 then O’hare. Might end up being Adomah comes in and gives Elgahzi a more central role. I like Hourihane in that holding/box to box role for his passing and ultimately thats where doyle-hayes could flourish. Thankfully I don’t think we will miss him as much as we have previously. Not sold on Hourihane in Jacks role though.

  77. about time they went on loan. been calling it for ages.

    Proper footy down a league to get them ready. u23 is just not the same.

    Yeah I guess there is plenty of ups and downs to come. still fuming with the last min goal! Plus Norwichs last min winner. big swing of points in the last min! small margins can mean a lot.

  78. one thing I like about ElGhazi is the type of goal he scored on friday is very typical of him, does it all the time so no one off, scored four in a behind closed doors match and had 3 disallowed!! thats accuracy for you. Practises shooting after traing with left and right feet apparently, a bit of Beckham/ Ronaldo like obsession about him.

  79. Andrew- We should be fuming about the 21 points we dropped prior to smith, just 10 of those would put us in 2nd, that or Smith would of had to win all his games. Can’t be helped and I think ultimately we will be fine, feels like promotion is likely more than in recent seasons to me but that could just be the exciting games each week.

  80. I like the look of el ghazi too…sign him up!

    reminds me a lot of la mela at spurs.

    We have been doing superbly but I still think jack and mcguin can do more.

    Jack imperticular seems a little bit off the boil last few games. and I said before mcguinn is so good needs to be on the ball more. in this 8 role can go missing for spells.

    Id love to see him in conors position, proper run the game from there.

  81. Andrew- depends how Smith see’s Stoke, it is a Gary Rowett team so not likely to be all out attack, not seen them play though. Last few games its been more about closing games out (unsuccessfully) and injury so we might see a surprise.

  82. Mark

    yeah deffo, to be honest smith coming in quarter way through…new owners only just here. You need to be proper settled for success. Give smith a summer and 2 transfer windows next season could be decent.

    Not sure about the players we will have though and ffp!

  83. Andrew- Jacks feeling the knocks apparently for few games now, thats why he came off. Don’t think DM would suit McGinn, he’s got such a good engine and covers all areas of the pitch be a shame to shackle him to much.

  84. Andrew- last season I feared that if we went up it would be like a slaughter but I feel a bit more relaxed about it this season. Not ideal but the owners don’t mess about.

  85. Mark

    yeah I guess the dm role would restrict him tbf.

    I just want him and jack on the ball more.

    The intent we are showing and the positivity is there now.

    I want us to be more assured on the ball. still way too many sloppy passes. but im picking and sure that will come.

  86. Mark

    cerainl;y now under the owners and manager I see a future and think we can compete in the prem.

    Ive said it for a while bar the top 6 the quality aint that great.

  87. Andrew- I think the passing ebbs and flows dependent on the quality of opposition and style. Movement is much improved and players passing in the 80% region so a lot depends on the oppositions intent. I like that we mix it up with defenders breaking into midfield and the odd long pass.

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