WEST BROMWICH ALBION VS ASTON VILLA
Pre-Match Interview with Albion Til We Die
As per last season, MOMS hooks up with Mark Thomas of West Brom website Albion Til We Die for a cordial chat about the forthcoming Midlands derby. It can’t be a draw again? Can it?
MOMS: After not having Lukaku to call on anymore, nobody too special coming in and then losing your first two home games, did you fear the worst for the season ahead?
ATWD: Definitely. Like most fans I had watched the team struggle since last Christmas and felt without serious strengthening we would possibly face a relegation battle this season. With Lukaku and Odemwingie both going, the main fear was where our attacking threat would come from. Thankfully, Jeremy Peace broke the habit of a life-time and actually gave Steve Clarke proper backing on deadline day. In came Stephane Sessegnon, Morgan Amalfitano and Victor Anichebe and overnight the gloom lifted from around the club.
I felt you looked weaker than last season, when this season kicked off, but Albion seem to be back on par with last season – consistent and capable a great results like your United win. Is this a fair assessment? Do you think Steve Clarke will be around for a while yet?
We definitely started the season with a weaker squad, but like I said above, the signings on and around deadline day changed that completely. On our day will can give anyone a game as shown at Manchester United and Chelsea. We’re never going to seriously challenge for the top 5 or 6, but likewise for the foreseeable future, we shouldn’t be worrying too much about fighting relegation. As for Steve Clarke, I’ve been as bigger critic of him as anybody and it’s took until the last few weeks for him to finally win me over. Our chairman has a touch of the ‘Deadly Doug’ about him and managers tend not to last too long under him but I believe Clarke will be here for a season or two yet.
Villa and Albion have both had similar seasons so far – same points, a few decent showings each against the mooted current top teams and we were both conned at Stamford Bridge. When you look at the table now and look at the teams above, can you see any of our teams making any inroads into the top-half of the league? Do you think our seasons will be simply about finishing in the top half and hopefully higher than the other?
I think for Albion another top ten finish must be the target especially after good finishes the last couple of seasons. With the squad we’ve got it’s definitely achievable and Steve Clarke, the club’s hierarchy and most fans would be disappointed if we didn’t manage it. As for Villa and whilst he wouldn’t admit it, I’d imagine Paul Lambert would be more than happy with a mid-table finish, especially following last season’s struggle with what was admittedly a young and inexperienced team.
Where do you think both teams will end up?
Unless there’s a dramatic slump in form and fortunes I can see Albion finishing 10th or 11th, whilst Villa should have enough about them to finish around 14th or 15th.
What’s the party line from your chairman and manager in terms of Albion’s ambition – both short and long-term?
Our chairman’s ambition is a sore point amongst fans especially given his strange interview prior to the start of the season, in which he claimed we were a Championship side in terms of stature and finance, and questioned spending big transfer fees ever again. In one short interview, he made himself look the least ambitious chairman in history and made himself even more unpopular than he already was. Fans were resigned to an inevitable relegation battle after hearing what he had to say but the interview became even more baffling on transfer deadline day when he sanctioned two £6million moves. I, like most fans, are still trying to get my head around that one.
On to the game, who should Villa look out for? Anybody who is on fire at the moment?
Young Saido Berahino has been grabbing most of the recent headlines but Stephane Sessegnon is definitely our main threat. On-form he is unplayable as Manchester United found out to their cost.
What do you see to be the weakness of the current Albion team? Any player not pulling his weight?
Our full-backs are definitely our weak point ahead of the game. Former Blues’ & Villa left-back Liam Ridgewell is steady but not in the best of form, whilst on the right we will be missing one of our players of the season in Billy Jones. His stand-in Steven Reid is experienced and committed, but his lack of pace is a worry especially given the lack of pace in our defence as a whole and with Villa’s pacy attack in mind.
After Benteke, who do you think Villa’s next best player is?
I’ve always liked Gabby Agbonlahor and he always seems to do well against us. Pacy, skilful and capable of goals he’s definitely one to fear.
Prediction for Monday’s game?
Whilst Albion have home advantage and have been in the better form, I think that will go out of the window on Monday night. I’m pretty confident it will be another tight game and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s not another draw – 1-1.
Premier League Champions?
I’ve said Manchester City from the start of the season and I’ll stick with them but it’s starting to look doubtful now isn’t it? Liverpool have been the best side I’ve seen this season but whether they can maintain their form I’m not sure.
I think Palace are pretty certain to go despite the arrival of Tony Pulis, who I believe has never suffered a relegation in his career? Sunderland just can’t seem to get going either so I think they could drop too along with one from Norwich, Cardiff and Hull.
If you’re off to West Bromwich Albion vs Aston Villa, drop us your comments and pictures from the game by using the #momsvilla hashtag.
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