Marcus Braddock gives us his preview to Town's friendly against Aston Villa
There are some big clubs in the Midlands but they don't come much bigger than Aston Villa. F.A. Cup winners on seven occasions, First Division winners and European Cup winners in the days where it was just genuine Champions. They've also won five League Cups, the European Super Cup and the 2001 Intertoto cup. They have also had short spells in the lower divisions, the two most recent of which I remember quite well.
There have been six games between Villa and Town in the football league, the first four were in the old division three in the early seventies with Villa winning twice and town winning once and forcing a draw at the Gay Meadow. I don't have a clear recollection of our most recent game in division two in the 1987/8 season. I do remember it being quite a busy November afternoon and I recall losing but not much else sadly. I was in the last year or two of my teens at the time so I had other distractions but I do have a programme as a memento.
Villa's most recent flirtation with the football league has lasted since 2016 but after losing last seasons Play-off final, they prevailed this year against Derby and are back in the top flight. It didn't seem quite right to see the Premier League table without Villa but I'm a little biased as my Grandfather supported them in the days when the crowd would have been a sea flat caps.
One or two faces have changed since last season, top scorer Tammy Abraham went back to Chelsea where he's currently impressing new manager Frank Lampard after scoring twice against his Derby team. In his stead is Brazilian Wesley Moraes, a 22-year-old striker who has been knocking goals in for Club Brugge in Belgium. Dean Smith has also added to his midfield, bringing in Jota for a rumoured £4 million from Birmingham City and has made El Ghazi's loan from Lille a permanent one. The defence has seen the biggest influx of players with Matt Targett(Southampton) Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth) and Ezri Konsa (Brentford) arriving with close to £50 million going the other way between them.
Villa have spent their pre-season at a training camp in Minnesota, finishing on a high by beating local team Minnesota United 3-0. Jack Grealish, Henri Lansbury and Birkir Bjanason all scored in a game where two separate XI's played one half of the game each.
It's a pre-season game so the result isn't the foremost objective, the real point is to get everyone on the road to proper match fitness ready for the start of the season. There is also the tactical side of things, players need to get used to the formation their manager prefers. So far, ours looks to prefer the use of wing-backs on the flanks rather than wingers. Depending on the position of the ball, the wing-backs could be supporting the defence, the midfield or the attack, getting the ball into the box. They're often used with three central defenders, three centrally located midfielders with two forward players. There are variations within the midfield, defensive or attack-minded players can be used to change the emphasis of the team depending on the behaviour of the opposition.
That's info isn't essential to enjoying the game though and for me, the best part of football is when you become so involved in what's going on that you forget everything else, living for a split second in one moment with everyone else. I can't wait for the season to begin!