The Villa Underground has caught up with the longest running Wigan Athletic fanzine ahead of Villa’s trip to the DW Stadium.
Paul Middleton, Co-Editor of the Mudhutter Football Express, provides insight into the current state of Wigan, who we should watch out for and a frank outsiders view of Villa’s current malaise.
You will face Villa without Warren Joyce at the helm after his recent sacking. Joyce was previously linked to Steve Bruce’s backroom team & was well regarded in the academy set-up. What happened there?
The general belief is that Joyce is probably a decent enough coach of an U-23 team, but he’s miles from ever being a good first team manager. I daresay he was, like the last few Dave Whelan has appointed, the cheap option and the preferred choice of Whelan’s great pal, Alex Ferguson.
What would you put your struggles down to this season?
One manager who couldn’t get on with his chairman and another who couldn’t get on with anybody, from the tea lady to the players, probably didn’t help. In the last 22 games, though, a team set up to get a 0-0 draw every Saturday, and then hear it described as “…a cruel way to lose” after most of them, visibly took its toll on the players and their willingness to play whatever system Warren Joyce thought he had going.
How confident are you of avoiding the drop to League 1? What would this mean for Wigan?
Amazingly, despite being awful for as long as we have, we’re still in touch with the rest so I’m not giving up quite yet. Relegation would be difficult, given that we don’t have access to the Whelan family money any more (and haven’t had for some time, actually) but, as fans, we had a blast last year so I’m okay with it personally.
Who is your key man this weekend?
It depends on whether the players weren’t trying under Warren Joyce or if they are genuinely shite, but Dan Burn has been immense at the back in very difficult circumstances. Up front, assuming we actually try to score, Omar Bogle is a real handful and as strong as an ox.
Are there are rising young talents emerging at Wigan we should keep our eye on?
Omar Bogle, definitely. Although he sometimes looks a bit lost, having stepped up 2 divisions, if he’s managed properly and given the right on-field support he could be a superstar.
Villa have stabilised lately, but our away form remains pretty dismal, what are your predictions for the game and result?
Recent form would say that we’ll hang on for 80 minutes and then concede a poor goal, but with Graham Barrow in charge – a man hugely respected by the players, we could end up winning 3-0. But I’ll say a poor draw between 2 all-too-often-poor teams.
What are your views/opinions of Villa generally as an outsider looking in?
Probably deserving of better than your current status, in all honesty, but your slide over the past few years has been quite startling and should serve as a reminder to at least 14 other clubs in the Premier League that football isn’t a game of Top Trumps and that you do actually need to win games rather than just assume being a big club will be enough.
It’s also a bit surprising that you’ve done so poorly this year, when Newcastle have managed to get it so right. I suppose using the entire parachute payment to fill a gaping financial hole doesn’t help!
If you could sign any Villa player, who would you take? Equally, is there anyone amongst our squad you’d want to avoid with a bargepole?
It’s obvious nobody ever gets out of this division without a goalscorer, so Jonathan Kodjia would need to be a consideration, but we already have about 35 forwards out on loan and desperately lack a creative midfielder or genuine winger to make things happen. Based on that, probably Albert Adomah who always looks decent on the C5 highlights.
Hard to say who I wouldn’t want, as I obviously see so little of players outside games we’re in, but I’d say Ross McCormack based on the fact that he seems to have turned into another of George Weah’s cousins since you signed him.
If you could swap your historic FA Cup win for a return to the Premier League, would you?
Never in a million years. That was the single greatest day of my life, and I’d happily do it all over again even if it meant another relegation.
Thanks once again to Paul Middleton (Twitter: @mfemigs), Co-Editor of the Mudhutter Football Express for taking the time to answer the above questions.