This week’s Opposition View sees Mike Steede grilling Sunderland fan Joseph Tilbury:
Sunderland appointed Di Canio after sacking Martin O’Neill last season, pretty much to the surprise of all in football. What were your thoughts on his appointment at the time and at the time he was sacked?
I liked Di Canio when he came in. I thought it was just what we needed to get over the line and establish our safety. As a fan, I liked his approach initially but if the players don’t then it’ll never work. I thought he’d been harshly dealt with at the time of his sacking but, as stories started to emerge about his crazy rules and fallings out, I soon lost sympathy for him.
Gus Poyet has been appointed as Di Canio’s replacement. What do you think of him as a manager and do you think he can move you forward as a club?
I think he’s a good young manager who seems to have a decent working relationship with the players. He focuses more on keeping the ball, which more often than not means passing it around the back – safe, if not particularly entertaining. Poyet seems to be a safe appointment and if our worst case scenario occurs and we go down, I think we’re in capable hands.
Quite a few players were signed in the summer by Sunderland. Do you see the board making significant funds available to Poyet in January? Who would you like to sign?
That’s a tricky one. I think in our current situation, you have to get some quality in or we’re down. However, over the years Short has poured tens of millions into the club with little gained from it and he’s tried to put the brakes on his spending when he brought in De Fanti in the summer so I think he’d be reluctant to do any more. But I don’t think he has much choice.
In terms of potential signings, we’ve been linked with Defoe and Forlan in January, however unrealistic they may be. I’d love either of them, as we desperately need goals.
Sunderland currently sit bottom of the Premier League but only four points from safety. Taking goal difference into account, do you think Poyet can move Sunderland up the table to survival?
At this stage of the season, I’d say it’s possible, but we’ll have to improve our goal difference. We’re only a win away from being level on points with West Ham, who are 17th, but our goal difference puts us at an immediate disadvantage. If players perform to their potential them we can definitely do it but it’s a big if.
On to Aston Villa. Paul Lambert has stuck to his philosophy of playing and signing relatively young and untested players while consigning the likes of Shay Given, Alan Hutton and Darren Bent to reserves for training or out on loan. What do you think of Lambert’s approach?
It’s a huge risk but it appears to have paid off. It was quite a bold move to drop players with the edigree of Bent and Given and replace them with virtual unknowns. It appears to have paid off but could just as easily have gone wrong. I do admire his style and the squad you have is full of potential. I’d not be surprised if you broke into the top half in the next few seasons.
Aston Villa have been dicing with relegation for the last three seasons. However, after a decent start to the season considering we had arguably the hardest starting fixtures of any team, many Villa fans are hopeful. Where do you think Aston Villa will finish this season and why?
I think Villa will finish around 12th, away from the drop zone but nothing more. Lambert is looking long term and you have a young squad with great potential. Defensively you have improved which was one of your major issues last season and have proven yourselves against some good sides. At the moment, I don’t think you’re good enough to trouble the top half but should survive
Aston Villa, like Sunderland, is owned by an American. From the twenty Premier League sides, six have American owners. What do you think of the influx of American owners and has their impact been positive?
I don’t think it’s contributed much to be honest, except perhaps a commercial aspect. Since Short came in we’ve been making more links with companies in Africa and Asia, which appear quite pointless on the face of them. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who signs the cheques or where they’re from, as long as they’re getting signed.
Which two players would you like to sign from Aston Villa? Which two players would you like to show the exit at the Stadium Of Light?
As I mentioned earlier, goals are a real issue, so I’d definitely have Benteke. Although perhaps he’s not done as well as people expected this season, his quality is undeniable. I also like the look of Bacuna. He’s versatile and provides an attacking threat we’ve been lacking.
In terms of players to get rid of, Borini doesn’t look much. He’ll forever be a hero for his goal against Newcastle but has been pretty anonymous apart from that. Ji Dong-Won is another. He scored a last minute winner against Manchester City a couple of years ago, which we’ll always remember, but again has done nothing besides that and lacks the quality we need for a relegation battle. However, he could be useful if we go down.
One random question: with the World Cup coming up, how far do you think England will go in the finals and who will be the key players?
I don’t think we’ll do too well to be honest. Obviously, it’ll be easier to tell when the groups have been drawn and the squads announced, but I think we’ll make it to the second round/quarter finals. The national side is in a state of decline and I think our performance will reflect that.
In terms of key players, Rooney, Hart, Lampard and Gerrard will obviously be up there. Lallana has also been impressive so I think this could be the tournament where he really comes to the fore and establishes himself in the England team.
Finally, what are your match predictions?
I can’t see us scoring more than one goal, so unless we manage a clean sheet, which seems unlikely, I can’t see us winning. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.
Our thanks to Joseph for taking part.