Nickname: The Villans
Unofficial site - Villa Talk
Fanzine site - Heroes and Villains
|Last Season - The Turnip era||Position: 16th|
Last season was very much one to forget for Villa fans as they endured their worst placing for eight years. Graham Taylor's tenure was troubled from start to finish, with big name players such as troubled £9.5million striker Juan Pablo Angel replaced by the likes of Peter Crouch and World Cup semi-finalist Alpay ostracised. To compound the misery, star names Peter Schmeichel, George Boateng and Paul Merson left the club without adequate replacements being brought in and as a result Villa plummeted to the Premiership basement. If one image can encapsulate a whole season then Peter Enckleman's goalkeeping blunder against arch-rivals Birmingham City, as Villa collapsed 3-0 to their poor relations in their inaugural Premiership season, is probably it. On the plus side the likes of defender JLloyd Samuel and midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger emerged as decent players and things can only get better... did I say that last term?
|Transfers - In and Out|
Gavin McCann (Sunderland) - £2.25m
Thomas Sorensen (Sunderland) - Undisc.
Robert Olejnik (FK Austria) - Free
Michael Husbands (Southend) - Free
John McGrath (Doncaster) - Free
Steve Staunton (Coventry) - Free
Ian Taylor (Derby) - Free
Alan Wright (Middlesbrough) - Free
Peter Crouch (Norwich) - Loan
Hassan Kachloul (Wolves) - Loan
Colin Marshall (Clyde) - Loan
Boaz Myhill (Macclesfield) - Loan
Leon Hylton - Released
Oyvind Leonhardsen - Released
Cameron Stuart - Released
|First Choice XI|
|The Gaffer - David O'Leary|
Despite what is turning into an eternal war words with former Leeds United chief Peter 'PR' Ridsdale following David O'Leary's sacking from Elland Road a year ago, Villa chairman 'Deadly' Doug Ellis has taken a punt on the relatively young Irish manager. The former Arsenal player only embarked on a managerial career in 1998, after a spell as assistant to George Graham, and elevated Leeds to a top four finish in his first season in charge. O'Leary brought through the youth players at Leeds, adopted a more fluent style of football and achieved a third placed spot the following term. The 2000/01 season saw Leeds reach the Champions League semi-finals but in 2002 a lack of silverware, a fifth placed finish, a £96m squad and a bust-up with Ridsdale saw O'Leary shown the door. Villa fans will be hoping O'Leary can bring some optimism to a joyless Villa park and harvest their crop of young, talented players as he did at Leeds. He is unlikely to have the funds afforded to him at the Yorkshire club but he has already brought Alpay and Angel, the club's record signing, out of exile.
|Player to Watch - Alpay|
Alpay joined Villa in a surprise £5.6million move from Turkish club Fenerbahce in the summer of 2000 and quickly adapted to the Premiership to become an ever present in his first season. However, a series of spats with manager John Gregory and then Graham Taylor saw him cast aside by the club he labelled, along with others, as lacking ambition. O'Leary's arrival has brought with it a sense of optimism and Alpay, who has featured in pre-season, has promised Villa fans that they will see him at his best under the new manager. The international defender helped guide Turkey to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup and a return to that kind of form could foster a formidable partnership with Olof Mellberg at the heart of the Villa defence. With Euro 2004 on the horizon the 30-year-old centre-back will have to put in a impressive performance for his club if he wants to go to the Championships in Portugal.
|Young Gun - Stefan Moore|
The Villa coaching staff are expecting great things from young forward Stefan Moore but with Marcus Allback, Darius Vassell, Angel and a resurgent Dion Dublin to contend with he may find it difficult to get a regular spot in the first team. After winning the FA Youth Cup and a loan spell with Chesterfield, Moore was handed a squad number for the 2002/03 season and marked his League debut with an impressive solo goal against Charlton Athletic. He went on to make a further 14 appearances, mainly as a substitute, during the course of the season but failed to add to his goal tally - although he did score a three-and-a-half year contract. At 20-years-old he has plenty of time to develop and should continue to progress under O'Leary.
|From the terraces|
It is hard to picture us having a worse season than last. O'Leary seems to be making all the right noises, and although still hampered by the board's excessive cost controls should quickly make a positive impression on the club. I'm not expecting miracles by any means - a finish of somewhere between 7th and 10th is my current level of expectation.
Youngster to watch out for: Peter Whittingham. England U-19 player Whittingham made a couple of promising appearances at the tail end of last season, and has had a very impressive pre-season to date. I expect this left sided defender/midfielder to make the break through into the first team very shortly.'
By Peter Bosworth, from Villa Talk.
Surely, this season cannot be anywhere as bad as last season? Now that Graham Taylor has gone we can look forward with much optimism for better days under David O'Leary.
The task for the new boss this season is not to have us challenging for the title and a Champions League spot is out of our reach, so all we are asking for is a bit of pride and passion on the pitch.
Although not quite in Chelsea's league when it comes to spending power (ahem!), O'Leary has bought well in the summer with the additions of Gavin McCann and more significantly Thomas Sorensen.
And with youngsters such as Stephen Cooke and Luke Moore set to make an impact on the first team, we could be in for exciting times at Villa Park. Prediction - Top eight. Anything more would be a bonus.
By Terry Bullent, from Fans FC.
|Best - Mid-table||Worst - Relegation battle|
David O'Leary has brought a fresh face, optimism and new ideas to Villa Park following Graham Taylor's promotion from with in the ranks and that could be crucial as Villa look to throw off the shackles of recent disappointment. If Villa's exiled and underperforming players can stop sulking and play to their potential the Villans could easily move up the Premiership table but mediocrity has recently become a word synonimous with the club and O'Leary must first instill some belief. A good start to the season could do just that but a poor start and they may find themselves with a 'hear we go again' attitude.