Robert Lintott and James Rushton are Aston Villa fans who manage 7500 to Holte. They were kind enough to stop by and answer our questions leading up to the match.
Cottagers Confidential: Welcome to Championship! A dire season in the Premier League with a few coaching changes, a wealthy foreign owner who may not understand the workings of English Football taking over, a lot of money spent on Ross McCormack, a bad start to the Championship season with an early coaching change, more worries about dropping to League One than expectations to challenge for a top 6 spot. Am I describing Fulham's drop or Aston Villa's? Are you worried that your stay in the division could be a long one?
Robert Lintott: Gosh, we really are garbage, aren't we? I'm not usually one to parse questions, but I think your question has two answers.
Your question as you meant it: Yeah, definitely worried. This league is hyper-competitive, and it will wear teams down who aren't ready. And Aston Villa aren't ready. We're garbage, and there is no stability there right now. Maybe Steve Bruce can bring it, but if he can't, five or more years down here is a real possibility.
An alternative take on your question: Yeah, we could be here for several years. It could be even longer, maybe. But I'm not really worried per se. If they are indeed in the Championship for a few years, Villa will (obviously) not be near the top. But they should certainly be more competitive than they were for their last half decade in the Premier League. That means that I could watch matches that Villa could win. I could watch matches that are fun (this league IS fun). I could watch Villa and not dread it all the time. And coverage of The Championship isn't great, but it's better than I expected (and I'd be shocked if it didn't keep improving). So no, I'm not worried about it. I just sort of realize it could happen.
James Rushton: Yes. That being said, it's refreshing being away from the hype of Premier League, where an average run of form can be blown up by the media as the end of days. What we all need to remember is that Villa will suffer a hangover from last year's historically bad relegation. The Championship was never going to be a breeze.
CC: Steve Bruce. He was linked to Fulham a few times, and no one was very excited. How do the Villa fans feel about this appointment? It seemed to me Villa was more unlucky than bad, did Mateo really need to go?
RL: I think Villa fans are okay with this appointment. My read is that Steve Bruce is finally the entrenchment that this club needs. Nothing flashy. Nothing new. Nothing outside of the box. Just stability. And that may not mean immediate promotion, but it certainly (assuming it works out) means an improvement over what we've had lately.
And did RDM need to go? Ehhhhhhhhhh. Probably. He had some really glaring errors that kept biting him in the ass. It seems like luck to lose a bunch of one-goal matches, but it kept happening in the same way (get to winning position, give up a late goal) and that points to a flaw in the plan. Luck evens out eventually. This didn't. Additionally, RDM was TERRIBLE with substitutions. Holding onto a one-goal lead and you have a two man midfield? BRING ON A FORWARD.
God. It was so annoying.
JR: There were a few worries. I think he's an extremely under-rated manager and it is a common mistake to compare him to Pulis, Warnock etc. If we look at the pure facts, Steve Bruce is a serial overachiever who has won promotion from the Championship with bad football teams. He's got a fantastic pedigree in the game and seems genuinely intelligent. I'm not going to brag about Villa's spending, but Bruce will have more support than ever before. It's the role he's been waiting for.
And yes. Villa were unlucky most of the time, but luck can be taken into account. Di Matteo stuck to his guns and ran our of ideas. He failed to rotate the team, didn't play people who should have seen the pitch and seemed to struggle with tactical ideas. He's not great. Let's see how Steve does!
CC: Other than Ross McCormack (we know how brilliant he can be already) who else should Fulham fans be watching out for?
RL: Jonathan Kodjia. We got him late in the transfer window and he has been STELLAR thus far. He constantly seems to be in the right spot. He can head with power. He can shoot well. He can pick out a pass. He's pretty great and I might have a crush on him. There's also Jordan Ayew. If he decides he wants to play, he can be hugely important to this team.
But what about the other side? Y'all should hope and pray that Fulham exploit our wingbacks. Aly Cissokho has conceded two penalties in two matches. And Alan Hutton is. Well, he's Alan Hutton. Run hard against those two and we'll all cry.
JR: Jordan Ayew and Jonathan Kodjia are real threats but lack the ability to pass. Aaron Tshibola can make things happen in the middle of the park and Gary Gardner has a real shot on him. Whether they perform is another question...
CC: Predicted lineup and scoreline?
RL: Gollini; Hutton, Chester, Baker, Cissokho (why? WHY?!); Jedinak, Westwood, Adomah; Ayew, McCormack, Kodjia
Final score: 1-1.
JR: Gollini, Hutton, Chester, Baker, Amavi, Bacuna, Jedinak, Gardner, Adomah, Kodjia, McCormack.
I think Villa will grab a home victory. 2-1? We seem to be on a bit of a high note!