Aston Villa Season Guide
Nickname: The Villans
Ground: Villa Park, Trinity Road, Birmingham, B6 6HE
Ticket Office: (0121) 327 5353 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Home - Claret and blue shirts, blue shorts, claret and blue socks
Away - All white
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Official Villa Website
Unofficial site - Villa Talk
Fanzine site - Heroes and Villains
|Last Season - Recovery||Position: Sixth|
After a horrific start to the season, in which they won only three games by mid-December, few predicted that Villa would recover to come within a whisker of a place in Europe. Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel was one of the main reasons for the fine recovery as he bagged 16 Premiership goals, with Villa also having a formidable defensive record. That transformed Villa from a side in the relegation places to a top six club. Young midfielder Peter Whittingham also emerged as a player of real promise at Villa Park.
|Transfers - In and Out|
Martin Laursen (AC Milan) - £3million
Mathieu Berson (Nantes) - £1.7m
Vaclav Drobny (Strasbourg) - Loan
Carlton Cole (Chelsea) - Loan
Peter Crouch (Southampton) - £2m
Rob Edwards (Wolves) - £150,000
Marcus Allback (Hansa) - Undisclosed
Dion Dublin (Leicester) - Free
Peter Hynes (Tamworth) - Free
Colin Marshall (St Johnstone) - Free
Wayne Henderson (Notts County) - Loan
Stefan Moore (Millwall) - Loan
Ronny Johnsen - Released
Hassan Kachoul - Released
|First Choice XI|
GK Thomas Sorensen; RB Mark Delaney, CB Olof Mellberg, CB Martin Laursen, LB JLloyd Samuel; RM Nolberto Solano, CM Gavin McCann, CM Thomas Hitzlsperger, LM Gareth Barry, CF Juan Pablo Angel, CF Darius Vassell.
|The Gaffer - David O'Leary|
O'Leary arrived at Villa Park part with a lot to prove after his experiences at Leeds United. In many ways Villa appeared to be the perfect club, with their youth system producing a steady stream of talented players. At Leeds, O'Leary built a reputation of nurturing the young stars and bringing them into the first team, something which he has already copied with the Villans. After a tricky start to his debut season, O'Leary will have been delighted with the way his side fought back. He was constantly talking down his side's chances of progressing up the league table, and he continues to insist that he cannot compete with those who finished higher in the table - due to financial constraints. Qualifying for the UEFA Cup would be seen as a step forward this term, anything more would be an outstanding achievement.
|Player to Watch - Gareth Barry|
Any Villa fan will tell you that Gareth Barry should be a regular in the England squad, but there certainly seems to be a reluctance on the part of Sven Goran Eriksson to pick the versatile player. Surprisingly still only 23, despite clocking up nearly 200 Premiership appearances, this season could see Barry finally add to his tally of international caps, which stands at eight. He has not played for the full side since featuring as an 85th minute substitute in a friendly against Serbia & Montenegro 14 months ago, but Eriksson's vow to introduce new blood could open the door once again.
|Young Gun - Liam Ridgewell|
Central defender Ridgewell, part of the FA Youth Cup winning team, is tipped for big things at Aston Villa, and his performances for Villa in the second half of last season, after making his Premiership debut against Fulham, suggest he has the calibre to become a first team regular. He featured in 13 games, growing in stature with each match - outstanding in the games against Tottenham and Southampton. The former Bournemouth loanee, who turned 20 last month, began his career in the youth ranks at West Ham United before joining Villa on a free transfer three years ago. Ridgewell, an England Under-21 international, will be back-up to the first choice pairing of Olof Mellberg and Martin Laursen. He was one of the stars of Villa's pre-season tour of Sweden and is sure to see his share of action - although he was injured and ruled out of the start of the campaign.
|From the terraces|
Last season was certainly a good one to be a Villa fan. Only a few points away from a Champions League placing, even less from UEFA Cup - but missing out. Just.
Still, David O'Leary has brought us some pride back. I cannot remember a time when the team has looked so happy, together - and as they actually want to play for the football club. It seems that under O'Leary the days of players wanting to better themselves, only to end up at Middlesbrough, are behind us.
What can we take from the coming season? Who knows. Juan Pablo Angel signing a new contract is a massive boost, and it means we finally have a striker scoring regularly in the claret and blue.
While some fans may not agree with the idea of loaning Carlton Cole his pre-season form has indicated he could be a handy signing. The squad is still looking rather thin as we speak - with three more players needed to sustain a decent challenge on the league and domestic trophies.
Where we will finish? Well, the Villa fans seem to be divided into two camps. The first say that the addition of a world class defender like Martin Laursen and the aforementioned exciting prospect Carlton Cole is enough to ward off any teams below us who have tried to improve their squad such as Middlesbrough - and sixth place should be a reasonable place to expect to finish.
The second camp is a little more pessimistic. They see a team who have only brought in players where they have been forced to and where the squad has been improved it's declined in other areas.
I suppose a position of around 10th is expected... in a similar but not as dramatic fall from grace that we saw Everton take. However, if uncle Doug gets the cheque book out expect them to join the first lot.
And me? Just to be awkward I'm gonna say 8th.
|Best - Champions League||Worst - Mid-table|
Much rests on the shoulders of Juan Pablo Angel this season - who Villa will have to do without at the start of the season after a setback in his recovery from a knee injury. The only other player to bag more than four goals last season was Darius Vassell with nine, meaning they rely heavily on those players to earn the points. If everthing slots into place, with Nolberto Solano expected to be a vital source of creativity, there is the outside chance Villa could push for the fourth Champions League spot, though in reality they may just miss out on Europe.