Villa came up from the Championship. How different was your first season from the Championship?
When we got promoted, the biggest difference was definitely the quality of opposition. Don’t forget, we were absent for three years from the Premier League so we got used to the no-nonsense style down in the Championship.
But when we returned, you could see the quality straightaway. We made a number of signings when we came back up, mainly because we had released ten or eleven players and we needed a strong squad that could survive in the upper tier. Some worked out. Some didn’t.
But staying up was the priority which we managed on the last day
Give us a lowdown on Villa’s season last season
Last season we were brilliant. We got off to an amazing start winning our first four games, but then came the good old Jekyll and Hyde performances. I remember being 4-0 down to Southampton at home thinking where is the Villa team that won their first four games?
Ultimately we finished 11th which was a right result, but we should have got top 10. I thought Watkins had done well for his debut season and our Player Of The Season goalkeeper Emi Martinez caught the eye with some amazing performances – going on to equal the most clean sheets in a season for Villa.
A lot of fans were buzzing when we signed Barkley too, who also got off to a good start – scoring two goals in his first two matches. But then performances started to fizzle out.
But all in all, it was a good season.
Dean Smith was great for us. How has he been for you?
Dean is a great manager but unfortunately, every set of fans have that little section who instantly call for the managers head. Any Villa supporter in their right mind knows what an amazing job Dean has done. Took us from 13th in the championship to the Premier League, a League Cup Final, kept us up and has ultimately pushed us on.
Richard O’Kelly his assistant who was with him at Brentford, wanted to leave the role over the summer. However, he stayed on and ultimately left when he felt the time was right. We certainly wish ‘Uncle Richard’ all the best.
Were you happy with your close season?
We had yet another good summer. All the talk was about Jack Grealish and rightly so. Such a unique player. However, no one player is bigger than any club (unless you’re Peter Withe) and it was inevitable Jack was going to leave – especially with the chance of playing with Kevin DeBruyne who he adores.
One signing that really excited me was Danny Ings. That came absolutely out the blue. What a signing. Danny Ings guarantees goals, and when we announced him, I really couldn’t believe it. No rumours. No news of a medical. No leaked accepted bid.
Leon Bailey is the one to watch out for me. A great signing from Bayer Leverkusen, he will bring real pace and skills and loves scoring a goal or two. Meanwhile Buendia is a playmaker who slots nicely into Jack’s role with goals and assists galore hopefully.
Ollie Watkins is a player close to Bees fans heart. How has he been?
Watkins has been immense for us. Great attitude. Always running. Creating spaces for others. And he really has got a finish on him. It was great seeing him score a hat-trick against then League Champions Liverpool. He finished on 16 goals which is brilliant for your first season in the Premier League. He deservedly got his call-up for England and scored on his debut too. A great player and more importantly, a great human being.
How has your season start been?
We’ve had a decent start but it’s too early to predict anything or to make any real conclusions. Judging on the two games we’ve played, we haven’t look great yet. We were off the pace against Watford in the first game of the season and the first half in particular cost us. Against Newcastle, we were definitely better than the week before but still not at our best.
Saying that, I’m confident that we’ll have another good season and push further up the table than last season.
On the pitch – what can we expect from Villa?
We like to play exciting attacking football. Fast paced with short passes.
If Jamaican international Leon Bailey does play, he’ll be one to watch out for. Buendia is another great player. A magician in the middle. Generally we’ve got a good squad now so it should be a good season – fingers crossed.
I’m going for a 2-1 win for Villa. I think it’ll be a tight game with two teams who like to play football going toe-to-toe.
But ultimately it will be Villa who will bag all three points with a winner from Watkins