Villa began the season in an underwhelming manner but seemed to have turned around their fortunes prior to the international break – can you sum up the first month of the season?
It’s been a difficult start - there’s been such a big difference in Villa’s home and away record over the last few years and they’ve notoriously struggled on the road for about five seasons now. If you compare the home and away results the same sort of patterns are already emerging; they’ve had exactly the same start as last year – five points from five games. Di Matteo lost his job after eleven games, but the message that we are getting is that the club are sticking by Steve Bruce, especially after the two wins and a draw that preceded the international break. They are, slowly, starting to turn things around.
It’s been well documented that Chelsea legend John Terry signed for Villa over the summer – how has he settled in?
He’s settled in really well and is having a massive influence on some of the youngsters, who have spoken very highly of him. He’s almost set the standard, really. He’s very fit considering he’s 37 in December. Seeing him over the years we know he’s never been blessed with pace but works very, very hard. I’m told that he still spends a lot of time down in Surrey so hasn’t relocated yet, but he’s having an impact in games and the matches that he hasn’t played in, he’s attended them and supported the team. He’ll be disappointed not to have any clean sheets as yet and if I’m honest, he wasn’t great the last time out, but over the course of the season his leadership skills will help Villa through – they’ve been missing a figure like him.
Scott Hogan made the move to the Midlands from Griffin Park in January – how do you assess his time at Villa Park so far?
Without stating the obvious, the main issue Hogan has is his injury problems. He’s picked up four or five different problems with the same ankle since signing so it’s just been stop-start for him. Brentford fans will be familiar with his style of play and not much has changed. I don’t think he’s been given much service which is why he hasn’t scored as many goals as he would’ve liked or expected, though he’s got three in the League Cup. I think he would be better with someone playing alongside him, perhaps youngster Keinan Davis who is only 19 years-old but he’s really strong and holds the ball up well. I think that’ll help as he makes plenty of clever runs but just doesn’t get the service. With the likes of Jonathan Kodjia in there, it’s been hard for Hogan to hold down a place and when he has played he’s picked these injuries. It’s been frustrating but he’s a confident lad who says he wants 20 goals so we’ll see what he does.
What are you expecting from Brentford on Saturday?
Having lost three players to Birmingham in the final days of the transfer window, I really don’t know how that’s going affect them. I like Dean Smith - I know him from his time at Walsall and speak to him quite regularly as he’s a Villa fan - so I know this weekend will be massive for him. I know they like to play attacking football and it’s quite free flowing but I just think those departures will play a big part. I think it’ll be a bit of a makeshift side for Brentford to start with and it’s difficult for any team to come to Villa Park because the record is so formidable. I think it’ll be quite an open game and there will be goals.
Which player should Brentford be most wary of this weekend?
I reckon signing Robert Snodgrass from West Ham is the best bit of business Villa have done this season. I still haven’t seen him play as we signed him after the Bristol City game, but if he does play I think he’ll be one of the most influential players so look out for him. Also, Andre Green, who is a young left-winger, is very direct and attack-minded; he’s a boyhood Villa fan and scored his first goal for the club in the 4-2 win over Norwich so his spirits are going to be extremely high. He played for England U20s during the international break and he’s another one to keep an eye on.
Villa are good at home and they will make it difficult for Brentford so I’ll go 3-1 to Villa.