Date: 18th July 2009 at 12:00pm
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As am I to Vital Villa in a front-page wizardry capacity! After what definitely doesn`t seem like an eternity, Villa begin their pre-season campaign at Fergie` junior`s Peterborough United, who are looking forward to an exciting time mixing it with the big-ish boys of the Fizzy Pop Championship Division 1 Championship type thing.

For many squads, pre-season friendly matches are a good chance to give new signings a good chance to gel with the team, get used to their surroundings and for the fans to get their first exciting glimpses of what the manager has brought in to light up the respective sides over the coming season. Unless you are Martin O`Neill of course. The only glimpse of new star signing Stuart Downing may well be as he uses the team coaches` disabled ramp, to avoid risking too much injury.

Hop-a-long aside, our lack of numbers since the departure of Gareth “It wasn`t for the money but gosh my new Bentley is shiny” Barry and the retirement of Martin “God Mk.II” Laursen for no fit-inbound, will give some of our much lauded youngsters a good chance to shine.

It`s Villa, it`s Peterborough, it`s preview back time!

Vital Quotes:

Villa boss Martin O`Neill was in his usual twee mood as he discussed the opening game of pre-season, with a classic anecdote, praise for the opposition team and manager, and no mention of the fact that his squad is looking somewhat threadbare. Nevertheless, O`Neill on Fry, Ferg and Football Matches to

“I have known Barry for a long, long time. He was the main manager in the Vauxhall Conference way back when I was in charge of Wycombe Wanderers as a young and up-and-coming manager.

“Barry was the king of the non-league scene, managing Barnet and doing it very successfully.”

“He has done well there and is a real charismatic guy. I know, from past experience, that players I have signed from Barnet always loved playing for him.”

Let us hope that O`Neill has given up that idea of signing players from Barnet! He went on to add about Posh:

“On the playing side, Peterborough are on a good run. They now have Sir Alex’s son, Darren, in charge and he has done fantastically well.

“It should be a good test for us – and a very difficult match. We are looking forward to it.”

Turning our attention back to football matters, Barry Fry has had to be serious for a moment. A bug, believed not to be swine-flu has swept through the Posh training camp and may even mean that Fergie Junior isn`t on the bench this afternoon. Speaking to Peterborough Today, the charismatic chairman said:

“We had a great week over in Spain but that’s where players started to catch the bug

“It is a terrible situation to have this in the camp going into a new season, especially with so many big friendlies coming up in the next few days.”

The club`s assistant manager, Kevin Russell believes that retention of the old pigs bladder is key to them having any sort of decent match against Aston Villa, as they`ll struggle to get it back even with the words “please mr, giz us a kick” (not his words.) Speaking on the official site for the club, he wittered (not sure I can say “twittered” anymore.)

“Against St. Albans it was down to us to influence the game, we had a lot of the ball and were able to get in behind, but against Aston Villa, we will have to do a lot of chasing because if we give the ball away it will take us a long while to get it back.

“That is why we do so much fitness work in pre-season and why the week away in Marbella was so beneficial.”

Beneficial except for perhaps two of your key players and your manager became sick, but okey dokey Nigel Reo-Cokey!

FC Posh Team News:

Peterborough are suffering from the previously mentioned bug epidemic that isn`t swine flu, so they may need to make a few changes as 8 players are suffering including their main striker, Craig Mackail-Smith. New signings Tommy Rowe, Toumani Diagouraga and Lee Frecklington may all play.

Player to watch: Joe Lewis

Joe Lewis is a player I am surprised Martin O`Neill hasn`t looked at yet as he bids to strengthen his side, as it appears that the England U21 international can play as a striker as well as between the sticks!

Good goalkeeper and one to watch for the future, Emile will have his work cut out!

AVFC Claret & Blues Team News:

Today`s match will be the first with a squad Barry-less and, more importantly, Laursen-less. We have no new signings to trot out, as our only new player to date is still requiring crutches, which I do believe are not allowed on a football field.

I`d expect a mixture of fringe players and youngsters for this one.

Nothing really else to say about it to be honest.

Player to watch: Salifou?

If Salifou is featuring, it may well point to the fact that we`ve for some inexplicable reason given him a contract extension!

Match Facts & Stats

Fans travelling to P`boro today should note that the club have announced the game is on so ignore those press reports that suggest a boat or at least a lifejacket would be needed.

I struggled with this, I was tempted to use The Prodigy on account of Maxim Reality (whose real name is Keith) having been born in Peterborough. However I have gone for something far easier, and more apt, as the Villa boys return to action (just like last season!) Enjoy!

After that amazing musical interlude, I feel I must inform you that the City of Peterborough has a 50mile network of cycle lanes, called ‘The Peterborough MIllenium Green Wheel.`

Rumour has it that it`s wheelie good!

Other famous people, outside of make-up wearing Prodigy members that hail from Peterborough include Sir Henry Royce (Rolls-Royce co-founder), footballer David Bentley (soon to be Villa?) and Aston Merrigold, lead singer of JLS, who may or may not have been named after former Villa left-back Jlloyd Samuel.

Peterborough United`s former notable players listed include none other than Zat Knight, and Tony Philliskirk, who back in the days of Premier Manager (97 I think it was) was unbelievable for my team!

Wheelie goodÂ…get it?

Ref Watch:

If anyone has the foggiest, let me know, perhaps Downing could do it, crutches included, by just standing in the centre circle?

Match Prediction:

Hard to predict this friendly against lower league opposition, Wigan lost 1-0 to now League Two Crewe Alexandra on Thursday. I`ll go confident however and say that we`ll win 4-1.

Next Fixtures:

Colchester United (away) on Tuesday 21 July!

Thanks for reading all; it`s nice to be back!