ASTON VILLA vs WEST BROMWICH ALBION – 2014
Pre-Match Interview with Albion Til We Die
In what is fast becoming a pre-Midland’s derby ritual, MOMS chats with Mark Thomas of West Brom website Albion Til We Die about the forthcoming match. Since the 2-2 game at the Hawthorns, Albion got rid of both their manager Steve Clarke and also Shane Long, who scored both the Baggies goals in the first game. The mid-week clash is a big game for both clubs, as both will be trying to put some daylight between themselves and the relegation pack below them.
MOMS: Straight after the 2-2 game at the Hawthorns, both teams went on a four-game losing streak in December. Lambert is still here, but Steve Clarke isn’t. From the outside, it looked like a ridiculous decision, although you did tell me your chairman had a touch of Deadly Doug about him. How did you view it?
ATWD: I was slightly surprised he wasn’t given a few games longer to try and turn things around but it wasn’t a major shock. Most neutrals did seem surprised by the decision but performances and results had been poor for 12 months so something had to give sooner or later. Clarke didn’t help himself either by criticising the club’s transfer dealings during the summer so I’m sure Jeremy Peace was waiting for the first opportunity.
What was the reaction to Pepe Mel’s appointment? It’s very early days yet, but have their been any promising signs?
I think the manager search had dragged on so long fans were just glad to have a new man installed. A few were disappointed with Mel’s appointment, his track record isn’t great and of course he is a virtual unknown outside Spain. To be fair to the club’s board though, there wasn’t a great deal of choice out there, especially in the market we would have been looking at, ie out of work and cheap.
Mel himself has come across as a decent enough guy and very passionate. He also talks a good game and if he can put into practice what he preaches it could be an exciting time to be an Albion fan. Time will tell.
What’s the current mood like amongst West Brom fans considering the manager incident, league position and also losing Shane Long?
It’s fairly downbeat at the moment although the performance against Everton in the last game has raised hopes that brighter things are around the corner.
After the last game, we’re quite happy not to see Shane Long again (although we’ll have a better defence this time). Is he a loss for the Baggies? Especially when you consider he went to a newly promoted team.
I think the majority of Albion fans would agree it was the correct decision to sell Long. His good games have been few and far between over the last couple of years, something that can be traced back to the Alan Hutton ‘incident’ at Villa Park. Whether the injury he suffered took away a little bit of pace, or the edge off his game I don’t know but he’s currently a shadow of the player he was. Considering his form, goalscoring record and the fact he’s out of contract in 18 months there was no way we could turn down £7million.
Can you see anything happening transfer-wise for West Brom before the deadline?
I’m expecting a couple of loans to come in, probably a striker and a defender and both probably players we’ve never heard of. There’s been talk of bids for Jordan Rhodes and Danny Ings but I can’t see that in a million years. Our chairman is probably still recovering from spending (wasting) £12million in the summer.
The league table is certainly shaping up to be a league of top halves, with all the teams from Villa in 10th, downwards, separated by just six points. Are you confident West Brom can survive a relegation battle royale?
I’m not entirely confident to be honest. At the moment we just can’t seem to find any form or produce the right results, teams around us are though. The squad we’ve got are certainly better than our league position suggests but it counts for nothing if we can’t pick up enough points. A lot will depend on how quick Mel can get his ideas over to the players and of course it also depends on how good those ideas actually are.
In November, you had Albion to finish above Villa by four or so places. Still confident of that happening?
Hmmm… ask me after Wednesday’s game!
Highlight of the season?
No question about it, the 2-1 win at Old Trafford back in September although the result doesn’t look quite so good now with how United are struggling for results.
Lowlight of the season?
I think the one that stands out is the penalty award in the last seconds away at Chelsea. Blatant cheating by Ramires and total incompetence by Andre Mariner robbed us of what would have been an even bigger result than the United one.
Player of the season so far?
No one has been fantastic, in fact it’s fair to say the majority of players have failed to produce what they are capable of this season but the two players that have been most consistent are the defensive duo of Billy Jones and Gareth McAuley. Both rarely have bad games but if I had to stick my neck out and pick one it would be Jones, he’s often been our best attacking outlet in games despite being our right-back!
Any player been particularly disappointing?
I think the most obvious one is Nicolas Anelka for a number of reasons. Whilst I don’t think anyone was expecting him to bang in 20 goals a season we did expect more from him. He did actually have probably his best game for the club last time out against Everton but of course that’s all been overshadowed by his goal ‘celebration’ against West Ham last month.
Premier League Champions?
I think I’ve said Manchester City all along so I’ll stick with them.
Fulham and Sunderland can’t seem to get going and Cardiff seem to be going backwards, I’ll go for those three.
Considering Villa’s woeful home form, do you think Albion will fancy their chances or are you going to predict a draw again?!
I really hope I’m wrong but I can see a Villa victory. I’ve got a feeling the way Mel wants us to play might just suit Villa and the pace of your strikers. If you score first it might well be game over.
Our return interview can be found here on Albion Til We Die
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