It's Fan Focus time once again, and this week for the visit of Aston Villa we bust out the Roker Rolodex and speak to someone we actually spoke to last year too.
So a warm welcome please for Damian Dugdale, editor of what we consider the no.1 Aston Villa blog, The Villa Blog. Damian was kind enough to answer our questions this time last year, and he's agreed to do it again, so the least you can do is visit his site HERE or indeed follow on Twitter HERE for the latest happenings from Villa Park.
With the introductions out the way, we'll hand the floor over to Damian to let us know what's going on in the Midlands...
So Villa so far this season, how's it been going overall?
Damian: Pretty much as expected. We've got a manager more used to a relegation scrap than success in this league so we should be happy that we're not in the bottom half. Okay, we're 11th at time of writing this, so things are not great. The day this man was appointed manager was a dark day for our club - the owner as good as gave up. You don't appoint a manager twice relegated from the league and hope for anything.
An unbeaten start to things until the City game and West Brom last week, what's changed from the start of the season?
Damian: What changed? Basically, we played a side with something about them and we were wrongly reduced to ten men against West Brom although we were ultimately a little lucky to pick up six points out of those four games.
Two players wanted by us this summer were Alan Hutton and Charles N'Zogbia, who both ended up at Villa. How are they getting on?
Damian: Do you want them now? They're just average journeymen players - nothing better than we have at the club and ultimately a waste of money. We have better than Hutton, albeit injured at the moment and actually, we have backup - he wasn't needed, but the manager is useless so he is going to waste money. As for N'Zogbia - no idea why we paid £10mn for him - half of that would have been twice too much.
Inevitably we also have to talk about Darren Bent too. Probably on course for a hostile reception on Saturday, but how have the Villa fans taken to him, especially in comparison to the pricetag?
Damian: Bent is a class act and most Aston Villa fans know it. He might not work as other strikers, but that isn't his game. A growing number think he will be off in a few months, but that is down to the club - if they don't get rid of McLeish, Bent is going to want to leave for the sake of his international career. He isn't going to get much from
the way this manager plays.
As fans we're all thinking we can outsmart the manager, is there anything you'd be doing differently with the personnel available if you were in charge?
Damian: Most Aston Villa fans could outsmart this manager - so most Aston Villa fans wouldn't play a striker on the wing or in the midfield. Most wouldn't loan in injured player and most would play Marc Albrighton.
Alex McLeish would be outsmarted by a mouse.
On to the game itself, if you could pinpoint an area you think Sunderland are weak and can be got at what is it? Who do you think can make the difference for Villa at the weekend?
Damian: Sunderland have struggled this season - one win at home - you should consider yourself lucky that there are worse teams than you. As for pinpointing what would be the difference this weekend, it will be luck.
We are not going to win because we dominate the game - we are going to win because we get lucky.
Conversely is there anywhere in the Villa team you consider to be vulnerable and who from the Sunderland side do you think will cause the most problems?
Damian: We just don't seem to be playing like a team at the moment and that is probably down to the manager. Football players might not be the smartest people you are ever going to meet, but they do know football and they'll know that nothing is going to happen with this manager, so why bother and they are playing that way.
If Sunderland want this game more than we do - you'll get your second home win of the seaosn.
And lastly, how do you see the game going and what's you prediction...
Damian: I can see a draw. You wont want it badly enough and we are nowhere near winning a game that we could win. We will win a game we are not supposed to, but a game we could win is a draw every day of the week.
Many thanks to Damian for speaking to us, and of course be sure to check out his website pre and post match for previewing and reactions from the Villa side - http://www.thevillablog.co.uk/