Holla. It's time for us to do another Fan Focus, the top notch feature where we seek out the opinions of he opposition fans prior to the weekends game, and see how their feeling on their season so far, and of course help to preview our game.
This week for Aston Villa, we bring back the familiar voice of Damian Dugdale, editor of leading Aston Villa website, The Villa Blog, to get his thoughts on tomorrow, Alex McLeish, Villa's talented youngsters, plus what might happen to us with Martin O'Neill at the helm, and a whole lot more. Enjoy...
Damian: From the very appointment of Alex McLeish in June to the very moment I write this, lacklustre isn't even close to describing this season. We have become a team more interested in not losing than winning and we are quickly turning in every other side he has managed; dire. He relegated his last side twice and is the only manager in recent history to have Rangers in Scotland finish outside of the top two. This managers middle name is lacklustre.
Some speculate that Villa could be dragged into the relegation battle. That's not going to happen is it really?
Damian: Sure, everything is possible and if you want a relegation battle this is the manager to appoint. Some even call him The Relegator now, but the truth is, it isn't really about us. We will pick up the odd point or maybe even three with the remaining fixtures and that will be enough, because there are three teams below us that are worse.
Of course part of this could be down to the quite ridiculous injury list Villa have, but youngsters have been stepping up. Who has been catching the eye and taking their chance?
Damian: So many of the younger players coming through are looking the part. Chris Herd, Ciaran Clark, Barry Bannan, Gary Gardner, Andreas Weimann, Marc Albrighton and Eric Lichaj should all be starting but this manager plays them because of injuries and if he is given the summer to bring in his own players, they will once again be relegated to the bench or reserves. You'll see some of them play and they are all very good players that have come through the Aston Villa Academy and you can not buy that team spirit.
Do you think Alex McLeish will be leaving this summer, and who would you want to replace him if so? Some are still suggesting Roberto Martinez...
Damian: I'd like to think he was leaving. I'd like to think that our owner has seen enough to know that everything that came with him is true. If he does go, I've no idea who should replace him. Martinez has the right philosophy of how football should be played but maybe not the right players and he does carry a huge risk - you don't end up where he ends up, just out of luck. Most important thing though is the right footballing philosophy but you need some success too - maybe someone from outside the Premier League this time.
Martin O'Neill was of course at Villa once upon a time. Was it an enjoyable one, even if it did come to a bitter ending?
Damian: To start with yes, absolutely. There was this belief and we were blinded by what we thought he had done before, but then after a while you figure out that O'Neill and his one style of football can only take you so far. He will get you a top eight with your current side next season and maybe top six if given a little money but you are not going to get the type of player to get you any higher because the right type of player isn't going to want to play for him and his style of football. He'll soon turn you into a side where passing is an afterthought and the aim is long to the wings, crossing and lots of hope. He says all the right things though for most people.
Looking at this weekend's game, who do you think from your side will give us the most problems, and where do you think Sunderland can be exploited?
Damian: I've not seen that many games with Sunderland this season but I did take an interest in the FA Cup matches against Everton and it does seem as if O'Neill has very quickly turned you into that team I described above. Work rate is excellent and it will make it tough to break you down but if we score it will be as much opportunity over something we have created so if you make a mistake or three something might come for us, if you play a solid defensive game and keep your shape it might be very difficult for us because our emphasis is not really on attacking and scoring goals, more making sure you don't score that many against us.
On the flipside to that, is there anyone form our side that you think will give you a spot of bother, and what are the Villa weaknesses?
Damian: We are poor at set pieces but this isn't news to anyone. We've not scored from a corner this season and we've let in a few. We also don't like anything where there is a bit of pressure on our team - but again, this isn't news. Alex McLeish has turned us into a side that is happy winning one match in four and that attitude has made its way into everything the team does.
Lastly, what's your prediction for the game, and how do you think it will go?
Damian: My head says we will not win. My heart says draw. The thing is, with Alex McLeish, you know we are not going to go out and boss the game so any Villa fan saying with any certainty that we will win, is either drunk or deluded.