As I was getting up this morning, the missus says, “Jack is back. He’s got sort of a poncy hairdo.” I thought she was talking about my daughter’s boyfriend, Jack, and wondered where he’d been off to and what he’d done to his head. I might’ve had a bit too much to drink last night. Turns out it’s our Jack, and yes, he has a poncy hairdo. “He’s good enough he can get away with it,” I said.

So, that’s the big news, obviously, and I’m a little surprised Deano has him starting. Not because he doesn’t need him, but because one might be a little cautious reintroducing him after a long layoff. That said, he’s not going to influence much from the bench, so if his fitness is off, I guess he’ll be playing the first 60-70mins. We’ll see just how rusty he is.

Obviously it’s been a bit of a mystery, this shin injury. I’ve thought it has to be something along the lines of a stress fracture. Maybe a deep bone bruise. And I’d like to think the club has done right by him insofar as they’ve not seemingly rushed him back. Fingers crossed.

But with just 12 games to go and eight points to make up, any hope Villa have of making a playoff challenge means you need all the quality you can get on the pitch, and now. Frank Lampard’s Derby, who’ve won only won of their last five, will mark the starting post for the final sprint down the last quarter of the campaign.

Elsewhere, Hause continues to start at LB, and Elmo will slot in on the right. Jed Steer gets the nod again, despite Kalinic having recovered from a knock to his head. Tom Carroll is on the bench, as well. Tellingly, Chester once again is absent, meaning his knee was really not in good shape, and Elphick and Mings are doing well enough for Villa not to ask any more of the Welshman.

So. Apart from missing McGinn, Villa are putting out a pretty decent squad, and will revert to the 4-3-3/4-5-1 Smith has favored most of all.

Me, I’ve not quite given up hope on the playoffs, though I really am okay if we don’t. As we’ve talked about a million times, I just haven’t seen enough in Jack’s absence to make me believe we belong in the top flight, and I think the current set-up is well-suited for a rebuild that’s going to happen either way. But. No reason why you don’t go out try to win through if you still can. Never give up, never surrender.

So come on you Villa boys. Let’s finally turn a draw into a win and make this interesting.

Steer; Elmohamady; Elphick; Mings; Hause; Whelan; Hourihane; Grealish; El Ghazi; Adomah; Abraham

Subs: Bjarnason; Green; Kalinic; Kodjia; Taylor; Jedinak; Carroll

Comments 92

  1. Derby have gifted us a present with their own injuries and form but we appear to have remembered we can play, Hourihane sounds better in his more familiar attacking role, where does this leave McGinn?

    Think Jack might get a rest on 60 for the youngster and caroll at some point

  2. So, you take the opponent into account, six changes I think it is, and on a poor run.

    But. The whole half swung on Villa being able to neatly and quickly pass out of pressure. Derby were really pressing it, but we just kept beating the press. If we don’t, it all looks different. We were just having fun after the second.

  3. Villalore…

    In the last couple games we finally saw the side starting to play well enough without Jack. Put him back in, and you just see all the little stuff he does and it tips the scales. The players all look more confident, and they’re all putting in a shift, making good decisions by and large.

    Won’t always be so easy, but this is exactly how they were playing before Jack went out.

  4. MK…

    I’d think McGinn comes back in for Whelan, but maybe not. Maybe Hourihane makes way, but it’s hard to sit a guy who’s scored two and is in the thick of everything. One thing I think Smith deserves some credit for is using Whelan in a way that keeps us from looking like we’re playing with 10.

  5. Villalore- there were signs in the last game but this is a whole level up and down to playing higher up the pitch which Jack helps in my opinion.

  6. JC – people are saying Wheelan is motm can’t comment as I’m only listening to the inept villa commentator, which is basically large expanses of the Villa crowd, Motson would be mortified.

  7. That’s nice.
    A run up the table would be nice. Grealish adds quality no doubt but I think also he gives players a lift mentally and ups their game as well. Jed steer for PM. 🙂

  8. I think it is back on, MK. Given the fixtures, we can carve out ground, and you can have a good run when the pressure’s off and everyone’s thinking the season’s over.

  9. jbd656,

    Yep, we’ve got just enough games left for all of the returnees to make an impact. Axel, Mings, and Hause will make a nice back line.

  10. Paul,

    Very happy, yes. Derby are obviously struggling, but it really was key to beat the pressure and just not let them get a foothold. They kept fighting, but we played the full 90, and that was nice to see.

    And it was just good to see everyone playing well. Not a one-man show by any means, just that one little bit of difference that pulls it all together. Whelan, apart from getting caught on the ball as he tends to do, had a very good game, and Mings and Hause have made a big difference.

  11. No doubt Derby are poor but only been losing by the odd goal. I think what Jack brings is a bit more than confidence although he certainly does that, its time and space for others, the whole team ends up further up the pitch and in their third for longer periods and Passes find players. Teams really do seem to fear him.

    JC-I agree, on our day we have shown we can beat anyone in this league, or at least it seems, beat the scummers next week and we just might put the fear of god up a few. Norwich look nailed on with their run in, leeds and sheffield too. WBA should get 4th but Boro and Bristol have tougher run ins. Hull and the sty can have a say in it as long as they don’t go on huge winning streaks. Its looking like a great end to the season if we can stop losing players. Praying leeds and Norwich have gone up by time we play them.

  12. Talking of does Mcginn come in for wheelan? actually its does Wheelan deserve to be dropped and ditto Hourihane, waiting in the wings for both are Carroll and McGinn, nice head ache to have.

  13. Just how much Jack adds to our team was there for all to see. I won’t go over the top because the Rams missed King, Lawrence and Mount and were there for the taking. But we did take them.

    Credit where it’s due. Whelan spotted jack unmarked just outside the box and played a sublime corner kick. The missile that followed will live in the memory.

    So next up is small heath. On the debate as to whether McGinn should come straight back in……..yes please in my book. This game will be played in the heat of battle and we need McGinn to match fire with fire. Good job it’s not my task to decide who steps down.

  14. I’ve always liked Jed. Having a goalie that talks to the back 4 is key. I know there are great foreign goalies in England, but for me Klaninic is too big and awkward and not sure how good his English is.

    Should never change a team that won 4-0. Hope Elphick is fit. Any news on his injury?

  15. What a wonderful and magical day yesterday was , with Dean Smith not only being brave enough to play Jack from the beginning, but to make him Captain, and make a real statement to the team.

    Having enjoyed a wonderful breakfast in a Premier Inn, before the game, topped up with some Mad Goose real ale in the Aston Tavern, I was ready for another game at Villa Park, and a good positive mood, knowing that Jack was back, but totally unprepared for what I was about to witness.

    From the off Villa showed that they were ready to take the game and be on the front foot with every player oozing with confidence as each pass of the ball seemed to reach its intended target, and no silly mistakes occurred. The pace of the game continued and it was not long before Villa were claiming their first goal with a lovely move with a ball over the top from Grealish to Abraham, and a simple tap in for Hourihane.
    The next is a beautiful ball out to Elmo, who provides the perfect cross to Tammy and it is 2-0.

    villa remain on the front foot with Jack, Tammy and Conor Hourihane causing all sorts of problems, and it isn’t long before Tammy provides a lovely assist for Hourihane’s second and Villa’s third.

    Then just on the stroke of half time, Hourihane decides to take a corner which they had practised several times in training, but failed to convert, but this time Jack meets it perfectly on the volley as it drops, goal number four, and Jack is definitely back..!!

    The second half was a bit of a come down, but Villa still played good football and create chances, but no more goals.

    Steer was as solid as a rock in goal, Elmo had an excellent game, while Mings and Hause were immense, with Tommy Elphick being part of a very solid back four, until his tragic injury, which has ended his season with a suspected broken ankle.

    Glen Whelan probably had hi best performance in a Villa shirt, and was MOTM for many, but difficult to separate him, Jack and Conor Hourihane, who also had his best game in a long, long time for Villa.
    El Ghazi continues to improve, while Tammy and Uncle Albert turned in good performances too. Tom Carroll replacing Jack showed that he can be another asset for Villa and Andre Green did not disgrace himself, but still has a way to go. Taylor is ok , but not the player that Hause looks like being.

    All in all, the best Villa performance at home since we thrashed the ‘Noses 4-2, or before that the Sunderland drubbing.

    Dean’s post match interview reveals his thoughts on Jack and the future. “Jack is a Villa fan, he has leadership qualities, he is not fazed by the responsibility, he has a very long contract, he wants to help us achieve our ambition of returning to the Premiership. Jack is our future”.

    So it seems that the future is now clear, as is the future of his pal, John McGinn, and that is with Villa in the Premiership…!!

    Team for the ‘Noses match:

    Steer, Elmo, Mings, Hause, Taylor, Hourihane, McGinn, Grealish, El Ghazi, Abrahams, Adomah

    subs: Kalinic, Whelan, Jedinak, Carroll, Bjarnason, Kodija, Green

    The future is now looking bright, providing we can avoid anymore horrendous injuries. With so many strange injuries on the pitch, is there a problem with the sprinkler systems installed under the pitch, and the small turf fixings that have to be there covering the points, and can players accidentally catch a stud in them????

    If we can keep Villa Park rocking, a top six finish is still possible, but the fans need to do their part, as they could still have given a lot more vocal encouragement in the second half, but were probably recovering from the first half of magic….

  16. Good summary, Paul. Thank you. Good day to be at Villa Park.

    Top six is definitely still doable. One game at a time, just go out and win. We were feeling like we could beat anyone until the injuries, no reason why we can’t get that feeling back, especially when they’ve all got proof positive they can still do it.

  17. Thanks JC.

    It really was a great day to be at VP, with over 37,300 fans, not bad for the Championship! I am sure if we carry on winning, VP will be completely sold out, and was so pleased for our Norwegian fans who were over to see the game!

  18. In his after match presser Dean Smith said that they had been practising the corner that Jack scored his volley from this week but nearly gave up as he couldn’t hit the target, just shows what small margins exist between awesome and fail 🙂 I’m even more in favour of us getting the kicking coach in he had at Brentford.

  19. what annoys me is elmo being a much better rb than hutton but smith kept playing him. why!!

    Elmo such a good threat going forward. His ball in for tammy was superb. guess we will go house in cb for elphick. and taylor lb.

    Don’t think playoffs is on, thet have a game in hand too

  20. H&V – I’d say that Hutton is the better defender and taller, while the defence was week it makes more sense and Hutton also made the odd press breaking run when we’re playing well. Elmo is the more intelligent player and better crosser but a bit lightweight. Changing four of the five members of the back four might now be allowing Elmo to play there without being skinned, that said Derby did naff all to threaten us.

  21. Listening to mings comments on avtv about jacks return and he seemed a bit miffed ate the suggestion it’s a one man team but did say it’s a matter of the confidence jack brings out in the team . Sounded a bit like he’s less than impressed with some players bottle.

  22. Plug,

    I am pretty sure that McGinn will come in for Whelan, even though he had his best game in a long time on Saturday, unless Dean decides to protect Jack and have him as a substitute, but that is highly unlikely. He will want McGinn to terrorise Craig Gardner and give Jack and Conor space to play.

    Looking forward to the mind games between Monk and Smith…!!!

  23. With Jack, it’s always a funny one. Mings has made a big contribution, Hause as well, and obviously there’s been an upturn in Whelan’s contribution/effectiveness.

    So, I can see Mings or any other player being a bit miffed. At the same time, you’ll all have seen Kenny Burns’ bulletin-board comment:

    “Jack Grealish is one we’ll have to watch against Villa. Without him, they are not much of a team.”

    Now, outsiders usually oversimplify. They don’t watch all the matches, certainly not the full 90. But if it’s a matter of bottle, then I’d hope the other 10 out there make him eat his words. All up to them. Mings is certainly making his case.

  24. One thing that is being overlooked after the Derby game and thats Hourihanes contribution, 5 chances created and 2 goals, Now McGinn is spoken about as nailed on and Smith has held him up as a shining example. Question is now for me has Dean Smith missed a trick over the last few months by playing McGinn further forward rather than Hourihane? second Question is can McGinn turn into a more combative Wheelan? if he could then happy days.

  25. Fair points, MK.

    I know it sounds like having it both ways, but I seem to remember a fair amount of interchange between them before. If the balance falls to Hourihane being the more advanced player, I don’t think it’s bad.

    McGinn’s strengths when he first arrived were his tenaciousness; his non-stop engine; a good shot; and good delivery into danger areas. He can do all that from a more supportive deeper role as long as he provides that pivot man Smith looks for. The big thing is that he’s got the engine for it. Does he have the composure?

    Will be interesting to see how Dean sets them out if McGinn is coming back in on the heels of Hourihane having such an impact and Whelan perhaps playing his best game for us.

  26. hello JC- I think It depends on whether Mcginn can be disciplined enough, That goes for Jack and Hourihane too who would have to rotate if he goes, going on his ten cards and 18 for his last team might be an ask. Carrol is a much more likely threat to Wheelan for me and has the close control. We might see Mcginn or Hourihane being subbed in. Would also allow for 2 up top in a 4132 with Jack central. Quite fancy Tammy and El Ghazi as the two.

    looking to next season if we kept this midfield then adding Ohare, doyle hayes and clarke could give us all sorts of options dependant on how the game is going. Don’t think we have seen Ohare on the pitch with Jack other than the cup.

  27. JC – the only thing Kenny Burns understood was thuggery. Let’s put small heath to the sword this weekend and silence all of them.

  28. MK,

    Thanks for that. The accounts make very interesting reading and I could spend a day here going through them, but basically, we are in a very strong financial position now, with costs being cut, a solid investment in shareholding, a big reduction in the loans outstanding, while the value of the assets is at a fairly low written down value, and an undertaking from the directors to support the club for at least the next twelve months, and sufficient funds in the bank accounts to pay the bills!

    The value of sponsorship has also doubled from around £2million to £4million. This I am sure could still be improved on.

  29. MK – Thanks for the link to Companies House. The figures make interesting reading. Dr X really was struggling. Outgoings of 96m. I would like to see a breakdown of that sum. Puts this coming weekend’s skirmishes into context. I will be having a party on July 1st to celebrate the shifting of the spongers.

  30. Plug
    July 1st, yes looking forward to that.
    It should be a very active time.
    I noticed that the Doc had had the Villa repay the debts to the parent company, before he sold up.
    That’s why the low price I should imagine.

  31. PP/Plug No worries lads, I just hope the owners have it under control, the investment in a RB for next season in Jan Bodes well for me considering the club has about 4.

    I see Jack had his injury for about 7-8 games before he had to stop against WBA, to think he was labelled lightweight, he really does just want to play and was trying to impress the manager.

  32. been saying for yonks mcguinn is wasted as a number 8. we loose him from the game too much.

    Get him in that number 6 role. he runs all day puts his foot in and can pass.

    it bugs me smith doesn’t see it!

  33. IanG
    When the Doc had AVFC repay his debts I’m intrigued to know whether it was just the sum he poured in, or whether he charged interest on the amount.

    My calculations on Lerner’s time as owner had him charging Villa around 18% annual interest on the money he loaned. When those repayments became impossible he baled out.

    I hope for the fans sake that Compass have a better business model than the previous 2 owners.

  34. H&V- I’d be amazed if Smith hadn’t considered it, McGinn started out as a winger then a LB before ending up in midfield, didn’t he play there under Bruce once? Still think 4132 would suit us if we had better FB’s that way he can play out left and hourihane right with jack central.

    Plug- no chance, these lot are big time.

  35. Dean Smith on Gardner and why he refused to let him play, in his thoughts then ?

    “If he was to have a poor game for Birmingham then you will have their fans questioning him.

    “If he scores the winner against Aston Villa then it’s not very good him coming back here!

    “I think we can take the burden away from the player.

  36. Can completely understand Dean Smith’s thoughts on Gardner, and at the same time take into account that he is still a Villa player, and may well return to us in the close season, and come into the reckoning.

    Of course, he could also be sold for a reasonable profit, as his cost to us is £0, apart from training him and paying his wages in the past.

    Not sure about Dean using Jedinak in the back four, but McGinn at left back could be a very good call, with it giving him plenty of permutations to work with should he want to change things during the match. It is almost like giving him a bonus sub. It would also give a very strong left side to the team with Jack and El Ghazi in front of him.

  37. Albion have sacked Darren Moore even though they are 4th.
    I agree with Frem that this is an important game.
    Still can’t get my head around the thought of McGinn as left back.
    Either way we need to get it together.

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