While City head into Saturday's televised game in a 'season-over' limbo, their opponents, Aston Villa head into it in a different kind of limbo. With the top 2 seemingly beyond them, but a play-off place looking likely, Sky TV roll into town at the wrong time. Andrew Lawn spoke to Dan Bardell from Villa View for just that. Who knew Villa Park was home to so many ex-Canaries?
Andy – Thanks for joining us again Dan, so first question, automatic promotion still on, or has attention switched to the playoffs?
Dan Bardell - I think automatic promotion is off the table, too many variables. It would take a big collapse from Cardiff, and Fulham are ahead of us as well.
We’d put ourselves in a great position by beating Wolves, but those 3 games without a win were so unexpected and have derailed the challenge.
I just want us to end the season in good form and see where that takes us. It would be bad news if we went into play off territory in patchy form. I want us to be fired up and in form.
How is the mood among fans? We've had a long debate recently about the extreme swings in sections of our fanbase, with every decision or performance greeted with howls of derision or (more rarely) ecstasy.
I imagine expectations levels are similarly high at Villa Park, so how are the ups and downs handled?
Better after a win Tuesday.
I know Bruce has said similar this season at times. Whilst I agreed with his sentiment as such, I don’t think it was worded great.
Being fair to the fans, the expectation was automatic promotion, that was the target set in the summer. We all knew that.
You have to have a big personality to play for Villa and deal with the fans expectations. I think in the main we have that now.
Imagine it here where despite pre-season noises about restructuring the entire club and the need for patience, expectations levels are similar. There are some angry people now.
You did start slow, what turned it around?
I think you’ll get it right, I wouldn’t have expected top 6 for you guys from the outside looking in. Especially after our game at Villa Park. Patience and perspective required I think.
I always think August is a funny time, you are still shaping your squad and I think there was a mini hangover from last season from us. The likes of Terry hadn’t stamped their influence on the squad yet, and Snodgrass needed games to get up to speed.
Looking back now a slow start has probably cost us, we’ve been pretty consistent since September. I think you can afford 2 off patches in this league. We’ve had 3.
I agree, we will get it right in time. That Villa Park showing was one of a number of early season horror shows. We then recovered and had a long unbeaten run, then collapsed again, then went unbeaten again and are now struggling to win - all marks of a squad in transition.
Ahhh Snodgrass, divided fans here, most famously for (legitimately in my view) returning a volley of abuse he received from the fans when a corner hit the 1st man, but undoubtedly a quality acquisition, especially at this level. Bob aside, who else should we be wary of Saturday? Jack Grealish seems to have found his form again and I have always rated Conor Hourihane?
When Grealish plays well, we play well. The lad gets kicked up and down every week, but gets back up and continues to influence the game.
He’s a special talent, genuinely don’t think he knows how good he is. I’d like to see him score more, but pretty much everything good we do involves him.
Conor goes under the radar for me, which is strange for a central midfielder who has scored 10 goals.
When he’s not in the team, I notice. Does a lot off the ball and I don’t think anyone else closes down as effectively as him.
I quite like that story about Snoddy. I find it strange that fans think they can shout abuse at someone and the player not have a right to react. Snoddy has been great, on the pitch and in the dressing room.
Bunn, Steer, Snoddy, Lansbury, De Laet, grabban...we have a lot of your old boys on our books.
You're very welcome to most of them. Snoddy I'd take back though... Jed Steer. I'd forgotten he existed. He was very highly rated here and was exceptional on his debut (kept a clean sheet away at WBA) in an FA Cup game, but he must be in his prime now and doesn't seem to have kicked on?
If you could take one current City player (not including James Maddison because that's too obvious) to supplement your merry band of ex-Canaries, who would you want?
Steer has had a lot of injuries, but he did well on loan at Huddersfield a few years ago and had performed well when he’s played in cups for us. If we don’t go up we won’t be keeping Sam Johnstone, who despite my initial scepticism is going to be a fantastic keeper. That would leave Steer as our senior goalkeeper as Bunn is out of contract in the summer.
Going to sound really arrogant, and I’m setting myself up for a fall, but I wouldn’t take any except Maddison. Unless I’m missing something I don’t think any get near our best 11 (sorry).
I’d probably take Delia on loan to get the catering into shape.
Delia is unavailable sorry...
We have some excellent players, on their day, the problem has been them having enough 'days' and those days coinciding with each other’s. Ones to look out for on Saturday would be Jamal Lewis, who broke through from the academy this season (having never been heard of prior to Farke being appointed), Onel Hernandez, Josh Murphy and, at least in my opinion Mario Vrancic. We're also strong at centre-half with Grant Hanley and Cristoph Zimmermann (signed from the German 4th tier) impressing.
So on to Saturday, it's is little more than a glorified pre-season 2018/19 friendly for us. With the top 2 almost out of sight, is it similar for you? No injuries and a steady tick along into the serious stuff in May?
No, I want us to end season firing on all cylinders. See where it takes us. It would be detrimental to enter the play offs in a slump or not having played to our best.
Injuries have been particularly bad this season, we would perhaps be higher with a bit more luck in that department.
Kodjia has missed virtually the whole season, Grealish was missing until December and John Terry picked up a 6-8 week injury just as he was really dominating.
Let's finish then with a prediction. We have been so hot and cold in recent weeks, it's hard to predict what kind of performance we will put in, but Farke has called for a reaction to Monday's QPR calamity, so I'd expect us to be tight at the back. Let's say an enthralling TV spectacle; 0-0.
I’ll go with a 2-1 Villa win. Hopefully Tuesday saw the return of some confidence. I’ll go for Snoddy to bag the winner against his former employers.
I’m still haunted by last season’s terrible performance at your place, that was a grim day…
It evens out our frequent no shows at Villa Park though...
While you're here. Two things; first, did you know we have a podcast? It's available via iTunes and Soundcloud. Alternatively you can just listen to it in your browser via our podcast page. Canaries Trust Vice-Chair Mandie Thorpe was our recent guest as we debated the latest talking points regarding NCFC in our 'moaners vs happy clapper special'.
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