Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NY Villans Update - Premiership 11/12 Week 1

Villa fans of America welcome to the first update of the 2011/2012 season. The New York Villans is officially 5 years old this month and what a roller-coaster 5 years it has been. Before the main diatribe begins quick match update. The Villa vs Fulham tie like all Premiership games could potentially be postponed due to the current underclass insurrection in England. If it does happen it'll be live for subscribers at 10am Eastern. NYC crew we are back in Legends for the opening game, for newcomers the bar is on 33rd street between 5th and 6th aves directly opposite the southern entrance to the Empire State Building. Games are usually on in the downstairs bar.

Also I demand you all join the Facebook page for some quality banter:

The summer started out in chaos and excitement for some but not for others. While the majority of you have been wearing out the F5 on your keyboards I was baking myself in the Hawaiian sun. While rumors abounded of Anchelotti, Moyes, Jol, Hughes, Martinez, McClaren and ultimately McLeish, I was barely bothered to follow the madness. Instead I was busy flinging the wife off a Jetski at high speeds into dolphin infested waters and drinking myself stupid on Pina Coladas. Still I did occasionally have a sneaky glance at the footy headlines on my phone but thankfully avoided the insanity on the Villa message-boards.

So here we are and nobody could have seen it coming the great ship Villa having barely managed to stay afloat is now being steered by the man who relegated our bitterest of rivals not once but twice, a man who against all the odds somehow found a way to guide Glasgow Rangers to 3rd place in a two horse race. Not only that but he is a ginger (shock/horror/burn him at the stake). Well you would think I'd be livid, you would imagine me outside Bodymoor Heath burning an effigy or dialing long distance to rant on Talksport. In fact I'm not too disappointed.

Back in 2007 when McLeish chose to take the Birmingham City job I was not only surprised I was actually gutted. Here was a reasonably young manager with a lot of potential who worked magic to guide Motherwell to a second place finish in the SPL and Hibernian to third. Who snatched a league title at Rangers from a then dominant Celtic team under Martin O'Neill and he was holding the reigns at the Sty.

Now as previously mentioned he did have his failings up north before taking a dip into the choppy Premier league waters but it would be cruel to pin those failures on him alone. Rangers at that time were barely able to stay afloat and his squad was being sold from under him at an alarming rate. That first half season at Birmingham was a mountain to climb and given the resources few managers if any would have been able to keep them away from the inevitable drop that we celebrated so much. However McLeish bounced back and Birmingham escaping the Championship the following year was rarely in doubt, he followed it up with an excellent 9th place finish and that Carling Cup victory that will pain us for sometime before their eventual relegation on the final day of last season. Said relegation may have appeared difficult to justify given how well they performed in the first half of the season but given a squad and resources at his disposal that really guaranteed little more than a relegation scrap; it is understandable given the bizarre circumstances of said scrap, involving almost the entire bottom half of the table till the last day that they did go down.

Now the real question: "Is McLeish the best man to take Villa forward?" No, of course he isn't. There are countless other managers that would have been better choices but unfortunately none of them were either available or interested in the Villa job. Martinez as we know firmly rejected us to continue learning his trade at Wigan a decision I really admire. Jol if he was ever in the running wanted to remain in London where he lives. Anchelotti may have entertained the idea for a couple of minutes before remembering he has better opportunities ahead and fuck knows what's happening with Mark Hughes, perhaps he was naive enough to think Chelsea were interested or maybe Randy like myself just doesn't rate him. McLeish was undoubtedly quite far down the wish list but as many Villa fans have suggested it certainly wasn't barrel scraping.

Deciding to take a manager across the second city divide is not a decision to take lightly. In doing it Randy Lerner has certainly put his credibility at stake. Should McLeish be as big a failure as Houllier then Villa fans will have no faith in the current board making future appointments.

So the turbulent summer has come to an end, we have seen many departures from the squad. As expected Ashley Young went to Old Trafford but you really can't hold a move like that against him. Downing on the other hand was much more disappointing, here was a player who we brought to the club at a time he was badly injured (at the hands of Petrov no less) we nursed him back to health watched him play some rubbish football in his first season then some excellent football in his second season. As soon as another opportunity came along he was off like a rat. I do hope Petrov sticks it to him again next time they meet on the pitch.

A less important pair also departed: Nigel Reo-Coker as we understand was offered a contract far below the bags of money he was seeking and went out onto the open market eventually ending up at Bolton who I can't imagine were willing to dish out the kind of money we were lead to believe he was seeking. Also sniffing for a pay day was Brad Friedel who chose a 2-year last hurrah at Tottenham over the 1-year deal we offered, no complaints there.

Coming into the club is seasoned guardian of the uprights Shay Given. Now there can be little doubt that Shay has been one of the finest keepers the Premiership has seen and I've no doubt that if he had been born in England would have had a hundred caps but thankfully he's a wee Donegal lad. As preseason has shown age isn't a major factor for him with some impressive displays. In fact, after watching bits of the recent Celtic XI vs ManU XI I don't think age is much of a problem for his legendary mentor Packie Bonnar who can still pull off a string of wonder saves. The real concern over Shay is his shoulder problems. We can speculate all we want about how likely the problem is to rear its ugly head again but if it doesn't we will have a very solid keeper for many years to come.

Our second signing is a 25 year old French international who scored 9 league goals last season and 8 assists compare this with 9 assists and 7 goals for Stewart Downing and you would consider it a fairly good swap but also factor in N'Zogbia being 2 years younger and half the price? Looks like it was the Scousers who got robbed for once! If only there was another one knocking around for the same fee.

Preseason itself has been a mixed bag an excellent performance against Walsall was followed by a solid result against Blackburn before a disappointing defeat to Chelsea. A much weakened team was dispatched by Derby before the final warm-up a mixed bag at Braga. I was able to catch the Braga, Blackburn and Chelsea games couple of notes:
Warnock was exceptional against Blackburn one of the finest performances I've seen from him but I would be concerned about coverage if he of Luke Young were to get injured. For now Warnock looks like he can play; as opposed to the Warnock of old who was arse.
Gabby looks very fired up for the new season and appears to have the spring back in his step but a couple of goals would be good for his confidence.
McLeish appears to be able to get the most out of Heskey with the formation we have been using.
Back in from the cold Stephen Ireland is actually showing some promise.
The defence has finally remembered how to defend set pieces.
Makoun still needs time to find his role in the squad.
Jury is still out on the Fonz.
Barry Bannan hasn't yet transformed into Paul Scholes. I hope the fans have some patience and don't turn on him and the other youngsters.
Overall the new shape of the team looks pretty solid but I am fearful that a couple of injuries might reduce us to rubble.

My season prediction: 10th place, it wont be exciting but we wont have the terror of flirting with relegation. I expect a bit of a reverse Everton - very strong first half of the season, very poor second half.

Other news:

A Jean II Makoun song and music video you say? Absurdly awesome: and another? I can't think of another Villa player who has had such a soundtrack. Not since Right Said Fred sang Deeply Dippy about Stefan Postma.

And it's time for another installment of "Colin Davies has far too much time on his hands": Cheers for keeping us entertained Colin!

Fantasy Premier League is back! register your team at before the season starts and join the Aston Villa USA league. Join code is: 497440-134949 28 teams already in at time of writing including some big names but surprisingly not the Millionares of Bob Warren... What gives?

A new footy pub is expected to be opening soon. Smithfield 215 West 28th Street, Between 7th and 8th Ave. Will be the domain of our old pal Kieron and we very much look forward to checking it out.

That's about all I have for now with this 2,000 word dissertation but I'm sure to have forgotten something.

Up the Villa!

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