Fan Focus: Aston Villa

by Kevin Coleman

Today we grill Damian Dugdale, Aston Villa fan and editor of The Villa Blog. It’s been an interesting summer for Aston Villa fans, having had to deal with a new manager from across the city and the loss of two of their main players. Damian chats to us about his hopes and expectations ahead of the new season, plus his opinion on what Michael Owen is really up to…

What is your greatest hope for the season ahead…

Hope is a big word in football. I hope one day to see my Football Club win the league, but I know it wont happen this season, so I’d like to hope that we are working towards that. So this season, I hope we see more of the youngsters that have come through from our Academy make the type of impact we all ‘hope’ they can in the first team. We have some very special younger players that just need a chance and a run of games. That is my hope; that they get the opportunity to show us they are good enough.

And your biggest fear…

My biggest fear is the new manager brings in too many new players and the youngsters don’t get the chance they rightly deserve. If the club spend all this money and time on developing a youth system and then not give the chances to the players coming through, it seems like a massive waste.

Thoughts on the club’s summer transfer business…

So far, I’m happy. I’ll be very happy if the club bring in a left sided midfielder/winger and then we stop doing all business in and out. The manager has to prove himself with Aston Villa players before getting too much money or we end up in a cycle of never really going anywhere. If we can get that one extra player, the manager can impose an attacking style of football at the club and the players can respond, then hopefully we might only need to add a player or two each season – which is where I think we need to be.

Who’ll be your most important player this season…

Many will say our most important player will be Darren Bent in terms of scoring goals, but then he needs the service and I think that will come from the likes of Stephen Ireland, Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan and hopefully that left sided midfielder/winger. I guess what I’m saying is there shouldn’t be just one player, so I’m not going to name one.

And who’s the fan favourite…

I think the fan favourite is Darren Bent at the moment. The impact he made when he arrived last January and his goals were massive. I think at the end of the season, if he gets his chance, Marc Albrighton or Barry Bannan will be the fan favourite.

Anyone new who we should keep an eye out for…

I’ve mentioned these two in most of my replies and they’re not really new, but they didn’t get the chances they should have got last season, so look our for Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan. But there is also a chance Fabian Delph will play more too. We signed Delph from Leeds in 2009, he is still just 21 but has only made a few appearances for us after picking up a couple of injuries but when he has played, he has showed glimpses or real talent. But if you want someone ‘new’ look out for Gary Gardner, brother to Craig at Sunderland – I’ve seen him once or twice for the reserves and everyone at the club has high hopes for him and he does look special – better than his brother in every department.

The player you’d pay his taxi fee to his new club…

There really isn’t anyone at the club that hasn’t, at one time or another, show us that he is capable and none that I’d like to see leave right now. Ask me again in January though and that might change – there is one player who has to show he wants to play for us this season and in January, we will know.

Who do you want to beat most this season…

I know you’re probably wanting different answers to some that I have given and this will be no different, but there isn’t one game that really sticks out above the others. Three points in every game is hugely important, but seeing as you want a team and my neighbour is an Everton fan, I’ll say them.

Opposition players you admire and you despise…

I don’t really admire any footballer. I quite like Michael Owen – only because he can’t be as clean as he makes out and he always seems to be as cool as you can be. I reckon he’s got a dungeon at home where his wife is tied up fourteen hours a day and only let out when he is at training and one day we’ll find that out and a l lot worse.

I don’t really despise any player either – I don’t like Joey Barton, but it does look like he is trying, although it is probably PR and spin. I also don’t particularly like Gareth Barry either, but you can’t really blame him for going to Manchester City and earning double what he was earning with us – I’d leave my wife and kids for that type of money, join a gay bike gang and be happily thrown about the room twice a day for four years and pretend to enjoy it for that type of money.

Have you got the right manager, and what advice would you give him…

The day he was appointed, my blog post was called something like ‘a dark day for Aston Villa’ and I stand by that. Not because of him, but because that is where our owner has positioned us by appointing a manager that was twice relegated from this league. It doesn’t inspire confidence and it sets the bar low. On reflection and with all things in football, you look for that thing called ‘hope’ and I believe every manager deserves a chance and because he is the manager of Aston Villa and regardless of what he has done in the past and where he has come from, because he holds that position, he deserves some respect and a chance. So, I hope he brings a determination and work ethic to the club that inspires some of the younger players and makes others believe it is possible. I hope he concentrates on possession and passing and composure and I hope it works. Football isn’t a difficult game and a part of it is in the head. I hope he gets that chance and I think he will, but because of what he has done in the past and where he has come from, he wont get a second. And my advice would be to believe in the players that the club have produced, really believe. Take a leap of faith.

And finally, where will you finish…

Second. Okay, maybe not. If it goes to plan and the manager gets the best out of the younger players and they take to him, we can finish 7th this season and I hope, they do and we do. If they don’t, we’ll finish 12th with a new manager in by January.

Visit The Villa Blog, and read our Aston Villa season preview.

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