Ahead of our potential title-decider at Villa Park, I’ve been chatting with The Villa View presenter Dan Bardell. We talked poor Paddy Bamford, brilliant Jack Grealish and the Championship’s Virgil van Dijk.
Before we get on to Sunday’s game, tell us a bit about your Villa-supporting journey and how the Fan Channel came about.
Dan: The Villa View started as simply as fan cams after home games at a time when the club was heading for relegation, eventually ending up with a measly 17 points. You boys came down with us if I recall correctly.
I saw that it had some potential and asked to be involved as “presenting” was something I’d always fancied a crack at. Luckily the guys at the time said ‘yes’ and it’s developed from there really. We do a weekly podcast, fan cams, match previews and anything else we can really.
The Villa View’s success has led to me personally doing presenting work for the club last season, Facebook live with ex-players and managers and I’ve also done some work with the players this season for our kit sponsor Luke Roper.
So… assuming Leeds don’t do the impossible and lose at Ipswich – I suspect they could beat them if they had to play in bare feet – it’s a two-legged play-off semi with West Brom. How do you feel about that?
To be honest, a few months ago the season was petering out and I just wanted it to end. The run we have been on since has been simply incredible. The ten wins in a row is no mean feat, especially in a league where the games are physical and just keep coming.
I feel like we are obviously carrying a hefty amount of momentum, whereas West Brom have probably been coasting for the last few months knowing that they were pretty sure of staying in fourth.
Last season, despite being a good one, I didn’t really ever feel confident that we would beat Fulham if we got them in the playoffs, and alas we lost. I’d fancy us to beat West Brom over two legs though, I believe we have the superior side. It’s just been a funny season.
I want to look at the play-offs as a “nice to have” because I wasn’t expecting it at all after our results whilst Grealish was out for three months, but once you are there you want to get the job done. Losing 2 years in a row in this situation would be tough to stomach.
Give me your take on what happened at Elland Road… certainly makes for a tasty final if it’s Leeds and yourselves who make it to Wembley!
Pretty farcical to be honest. You should always play to the whistle, but Leeds don’t really have a left to stand on considering they made such a fuss over us putting the ball out just prior.
I also feel like Tyler Roberts feigned to put it out which led to our players and the linesman stopping. All in all, it wasn’t a good look for them, and that became amplified with Bamford’s blatant cheating.
Losing El Ghazi pretty much took away any chance of us winning that game, which is disappointing as we were trying to make it 11 wins on the spin. I have to credit Bielsa, he came out of it all very well and did the right thing. I wouldn’t have liked us to pull the stunt that Leeds did.
Up until the aforementioned, it was a really good game of football; two cracking teams going full tilt at each other. I was very impressed with our defending and to be fair to Leeds they could have turned up going through the motions after losing out on the automatics, but they played really well.
Part of me thinks it’s written in the stars for a Villa v Leeds final now!
I think so too. Bit harsh on Bamford though; El Ghazi nearly knocked him into next week didn’t he? 😉
Is it really all about Jack Grealish? There was a time when your playoff hopes appeared to be waning a little and Dean Smith appeared under pressure, then Grealish gets fit and then it’s a long run of successive wins that make playoff qualification a breeze. Is that over-simplifying it?
Our defence was a bit of a mess. James Chester had been playing on virtually one leg all season thanks to the summer activity of Steve Bruce, so we were very short. Tyrone Mings has been a revelation; I didn’t know how good a footballer he is. The Championship van Dijk, he’s made a real difference.
Jack is a superstar through and through and making him captain was a masterstroke by Dean Smith. The guy is international class, right here, right now. I don’t see another English midfielder that can do the things Jack can.
Obviously, he is playing in the Championship, but I’ve no doubt he’s capable of playing at the highest level. Outside the Villa bubble, I don’t think people realise how much he has come on and what a player he is. He’s got the lot.
It’s no coincidence it’s all come together since he’s returned.
On the basis it surely can’t *all* be about Grealish and Mings… who else has impressed this season. Hourihane? McGinn? Abrahams?
It isn’t all about Jack. We’ve a very likeable and talented side, and the biggest thing is that they are a team, they are playing for each other and the badge on the shirt.
McGinn has had a superb maiden season in English football. He deserved the accolades he picked up at the awards do this week.
Whelan has been unbelievable in 2019, we’ve real competition in midfield at the moment. Hourihane has had another good season goals and assists wise, but is struggling to get in the side at the moment.
Your old boy, Jed Steer, has offered a calmness and stability in goal that has been all season as well. He’s deserved a crack, again absolute madness from Bruce to loan him out at the start of the season.
How would you describe Dean Smith’s style of football? Or should that be John Terry’s…?
Ha, Dean Smith has deserved a crack at a job like Villa, not just because he’s a fan but because of the style of football, he implemented at Walsall and Brentford. He’s been a complete breath of fresh air; he doesn’t bull$hit post-match and he has completely galvanised the fan base and the players. The definitively correct choice post-Bruce. Smith will be leaning on JT, Cutler and O’Kelly for sure and they also deserve praise for sure.
We are playing with tempo and purpose now, playing out from the back and we have scored a lot of goals. Exciting.
Do you expect them to rest any of the big names on Sunday?
McGinn won’t play as if he gets booked on Sunday, he would miss the entire playoff campaign, so not worth it. I’d be shocked if we played Jack for more than an hour either.
There’s competition for places at the moment on the wings, in central midfield and central defence, so players will be eager to play their way into the team for the playoffs. We need to keep up that momentum as well, so will be going all out for the win I expect.
What have you made of our rise to promotion? We didn’t see it coming, so I’m not expecting you to have done!
Not going to lie, I’m shocked you’ve kept it going. Fair play to everyone at your club, there has been some real savvy business done and the board deserves credit for believing in Farke and sticking with him.
I love both your full backs and every week I’ve thought “Pukki can’t keep this up for them.” He has.
It’s a horrible league to get out of, so anyone who manages it has done well. The way you’ve done it has been pretty unique. Fair play.
Finally … score prediction for Sunday … and will you make it through the playoffs to the Promised Land?
2-2 and absolutely no comment!
A quick history lesson:
On 25th June 1982, West Germany played Austria in the World Cup group stages, knowing that a win by one or two goals for the Germans would see both sides qualify. Following an early German opener, the teams played out the remaining 80 minutes without breaking a sweat and seemingly making no attempt to further alter the scoreline, in what became known as the ‘Disgrace of Gijon’.
With City needing a point to lift the trophy and Villa hoping to head into the playoffs without injury or suspensions, you could forgive both sides for settling for a lifeless draw and Sunday’s finale could be wholly at odds with the drama that’s gone before it. Then again, this is City we’re talking about.
With the curtain also falling on our tipster league, nothing bar the perfect prediction from Andy (or a sneaky rule change from Steve) can prevent Stew from being crowned Champion.
Since the start of the ‘Webberlution’, Stew has consistently beaten the drum for patience and optimism, so it feels entirely in keeping with events at Carrow Road this season.
For one last time, it’s over to the panel…
Penney predicts: No-one can really guess what Dean Smith will do in terms of resting key players but that shouldn’t affect too much. Both sides can afford to be on the beach if they feel like it, of course. 1-1.
Andy assumes: A 1-1 draw that gives us what we need, and sees Villa continue with their unbeaten run moving into the playoffs.
Gaz guesses: Not the ideal place to go to get the points needed for the title and we’re Norwich, so it’ll not be straightforward, but I reckon a late goal in a 1-1 will win us the title.
Cookie concludes: Promotion achieved, pressure off. I expect City to ‘go for it’ and play with freedom and purpose and sign off in style… Villa 1 – City 3
Stew suspects: Villa’s minds may be elsewhere; ours will be on the title. 2-1 to City.
The oppo’s opinion: 2-2
Siri says: The answer is Villa 2 – City 2