Aston Villa’s disappointing season was summed up by Stephen Warnock’s rallying cry with three games to go. For a side of Villa’s stature to be in a relegation scrap with only a handful of games left shows just how poor they have been this season.

Warnock called on his team mates to “stand up and be counted” in the final run in to enable Villa to beat the drop. Villa did eventually manage to avoid the drop, but the fact they were still in trouble with 2 games to go and their eventual sixteenth place finish shows just how disappointing their season has been.

Warnock was open in admitting that Villa were lacking players with experience of surviving relegation battles, with only Warnock, Collins and Heskey having been involved in relegation battles in the past. According to Warnock the problem was clear, “we need fighters now”.

There are plenty of top class players in Villa’s team but they needed something extra after that. It was not all that long ago that Villa were knocking on the door of the top four, but with Martin O’Neil’s departure at the start of the season was the latest and Villa would hope one of the last stages in their decline.

The departure of Alex McLeish straight after the culmination of the season gives the next manager the maximum time to build the new team, and revive Villa. They will certainly be hoping that this season’s relegation scrap will be an exception and they will now be building towards becoming a threat at the right end of the table.

Warnock summed up the problems and showed that the team knew exactly what was needed of them and they did eventually secure safety. Had they got a bit less luck along the way there is every chance that Villa could have been playing in the Championship next season and they will be determined to never have that risk over their heads again.


The exact return date for Steve Sidwell looks to be a matter of luck now, as Fulham will be hoping that the former Aston Villa midfielder will recover in time for the match against Swansea.

Steve Sidwell has had a hernia operation recently and has been out for quite a while now. However, his return will add so much needed strength to the side, which has looked at totally out of depth away from home. To add to the misery, Fulham manager Martin Jol has fallen out with the class leading marksman Bobby Zamora, and it could spell more trouble for the team.

Fulham do need the services of Bobby Zamora, as he is the only player who is capable of getting goals for a regular basis for the London team. The return of Steve Sidwell also becomes extremely crucial due to the fact that captain Danny Murphy is likely to be out for a couple of weeks after suffering a badly swollen ankle. Danny Murphy was the architect for Fulham in their win over Liverpool on Monday, and the absence of the skipper will certainly pose a lot of problems for the visit to Swansea. Swansea’s home form has been inspirational this season, as it has been largely responsible for the team to avoid relegation struggle so far.

It is going to be an extremely tough match and Martin Jol was quick to comment regarding the possible return of Steve Sidwell. “I was a bit disappointed because he [Sidwell] needed a minor operation and they told me maybe he would play the next match after 10 days, but he still feels it – it’s still painful after the operation. But hopefully he will be fit for the next game,” Jol said.