Preview - Aston Villa (a)

Norwich jet off to a underground lair in the side of a volcano to take on the mighty Villa. Who will win!? No-one knows, but Jon Rogers spoke to Jordan Raiye to all about firebombing, mega-spending and getting spanked with the FA Handbook. 

Jon: We both tumbled out of the Premier League like a couple of old folk falling down some stairs. We started excellently. Yourselves? Not going to lie, early on, your last minute equaliser shenanigans were great fun to observe. Can you recall those first months now? Were you just unlucky?

Jordan: Tumbled? No way - we dropped like a stone last season. It was all said and done by January. Still feel for Remi Garde - had no money to improve the squad and his reputation is surely damaged as a result. If the old owners had stayed on I have no doubt we would have done a Wolves and gone down twice. But it’s all good now – Dr Tony came in to save the day. And he has.

Yeah it usually annoys me a little when other clubs have a chuckle at our expense but I am in total agreement with you here. You have to laugh at those last-minute equalisers looking back now (the alternative was to cry, and I’ve already shed too many tears over this football club, so wasn’t going to go there). The one that stands out for me was Huddersfield’s goal against us. Gollini kicks it out, it bounces off Hefele and it’s in the back of the net. Outrageous scenes. 

Well, to take a page out of the Paul Lambert book of quotes (which I am sure you are all too familiar with), I thought we could dust ourselves down and go again. But we couldn’t. The same thing kept happening week after week so it was no surprise to see Di Matteo swiftly replaced by Steve Bruce.

Jon: Another of Lambo's quotes was 'Don't get fuckin' beat'. He was caught on a pitch-side mic screaming at our full back - so I guess a draw was keeping in line with his philosophy too. It seems a long, long time ago now. Wouldn't mind your thoughts on Mr Lambert?

Jordan: He came in immediately after the McLeish era so understandably was welcomed with open arms. At the time, I thought our days of relegation battles were over. As is often the case, I couldn’t have been more wrong. His remit was to recruit younger players for low transfer fees and utilise the academy. The cynic in me says it was just an excuse for the owner to avoid having to put his hand in his pocket. 

I don’t want to digress too much but I do have a bit of sympathy for Randy Lerner actually. He definitely had good intentions at the start, but had his fingers burnt with high wages spent during Martin O’Neill’s time here and with a series of bad managerial appointments. It was no surprise to see him become more reluctant to bankroll the club as much.  

As for Lambert, at the end of his first season I was a massive fan. The squad were playing some good stuff and Benteke was banging in the goals. I was actually in favour of his decision to take Darren Bent out of the team too. Our win against Liverpool at Anfield that season is without doubt one of the best Villa performances I have seen in my lifetime. However, it wasn’t long before the wheels came off. In his second and third seasons he reverted to this ‘Don’t get beat’ attitude you mentioned. The football became dire and the results weren’t much better either. In the end, I just think the pressure of the job was too much for him – trying to build a competitive squad while the purse strings were so tight. He didn’t have the best of times at Blackburn did he? Maybe he can build something at Wolves. 
I do think he is a decent bloke but I doubt you feel the same way given the circumstances in which he left your club.

Jon: Forget Lambo. You're a fan of Randy Lerner and Remi Garde - Villa fans are going to firebomb your front room after this, you do know that!?

Jordan: Fan is a strong word. I wouldn’t go that far. As for firebombing the front room? Mate, the Villa fans are a friendly bunch. Those sort of antics are reserved for Small Heath supporters.

Jon: You can’t be scared of anyone with the word Small in their name.  Here's a question, do you think Norwich's season is over? Look at the table and the fixtures? A good majority think it is. I, personally, don't think so. Be interesting to see a neutral, balanced guy like yourself give their opinion.

Jordan: Oh Absolutely!…Not. 
You guys are five points off the play offs – and it’s definitely possible to sneak in there. Let’s have a look at who you are up against. Sheff Wed have lost four of their last six. Fulham are struggling. Preston are the form side and the ones to watch out for. 

True, you have got five of the top seven to play yet but if you manage to get wins against Fulham and Preston (proper six pointers they are) I think you are more or less there. 
Maybe it’s because we haven’t had the best of seasons but I genuinely can’t see how any Norwich fan could deem their season to be over, especially if you beat us on Saturday. Oh dear, I've just read that back and I’m beginning to sound like a Canaries supporter. It feels weird. Quick, ask me a question about Aston Villa.

Jon: Erm…Erm…Ok…Is there a Villa in Aston?!? Damn. Sorry. So let's talk Saturday instead. Now I don't know if this is true. My mate told me this…but is it true, you're going to buy every player ever until you win everything?

Jordan: Oh no! Our masterplan has been well and truly rumbled. I thought we were being quite discreet about the whole thing - after all, we've only spent about £70M this season. Jacob Murphy is next by the way. Just giving you a heads-up.

Jon: He's one of our owwwwwn, etc.  What about financial fair play? I know if you go over you get around a £37 fine and a lovely day out in London to visit FA HQ but surely you bent that rule over and spanked it with the FA handbook?

Jordan: Yeah you do raise a good point (although I don’t think I can get the mental image of that out of my head now - cheers Jon!) Our spending in the summer, according to the CEO at least, will be a lot less. Though if you consider the amount we've already utilised on transfers and wages we basically need to go up next season (with FFP to contend with and the reduction of the parachute payments). If we don't, then we could be up the creek etc.

Jon: It is a worry. I don't have any connection to Villa. But all decent football fans have a strong affection for football clubs. I don't want you to succeed but I don't want you to be the next Portsmouth or Orient.  So out of your 893 signings, who's been the one you've thought – yes! he's got that one spot on. Is it Ross McCormack? It’s Ross McCormack isn’t it!

Jordan: Yeah 100% Ross McCormack – such a model pro for the rest of the team and never turns up late to training. 

In second place, I would probably go with Jonathan Kodjia. Can he be a bit frustrating at times when he doesn’t pass the ball? Absolutely. But he has got 15 goals for us this term, without which we would probably be where Wigan, Rotherham etc. are. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been nice to visit some new grounds this year but I wouldn’t be keen on playing at Northampton next season. That’s a stretch too far.

Jon: That's true. No-one wants to go to Northampton. You've mentioned Mr Murphy already but is there anyone else you'd like to overspend on in our squad? Basically, who do you want to hurt themselves in the warm-up?

Jordan: John Ruddy always struck me as a solid sort of keeper but given the amount of goals you've conceded this year, maybe that is not the case? Cameron Jerome has put the ball in the back of the net a few times, and I think we need to be wary of him on Saturday. As a former Birmingham City player he will definitely be keen to get on the scoresheet too. As for anyone else? Who needs Hoolahan when you've got Hourihane!

Jon: Everyone needs a Hoolahan. Everyone. Now, I'd like your thoughts on Dr X now. So please finish this sentence. Dr X is...

Jordan: Dr X is someone who likes to talk the talk but right now he is walking the walk.

Jon: Walk into financial ruin or mathematical craziness? Finally, how do you think the game will go and a score prediction please?

Jordan: In terms of how the game will go, I still have doubts over our ability to come back from a goal behind, so if you do get on the scoresheet first it could be a tricky afternoon for us. Norwich have scored a lot of goals this season but we are the in-form side at the moment, so I'm going to go 3-2 Villa.

Jordan Raiye is an Aston Villa FC video blogger for@birminghammail. His preview is here