Season preview and prediction: That word again

I've spent a few hours over the past few days answering questions for quite a few publications and websites and seeing as you might read them or you might have read one already, I've decided to put up my season preview and prediction post now.

This is also a good time for you to drop your comments down about what you think will happen this season as it is a good place to come back to and read when things start to happen or not happen, but I'm probably the only one who reads old comments.

Anyway, to this season and well, you're going to be quite annoyed by what I write now, but it is, at the core, a season of transition. Clear as day it isn't as big of a change as last season, because the manager has had an entire pre-season and he has brought in a couple of players, but the season is going to mostly focus on him getting his message across and the players learning what he wants.

No excuses

I've got to get this written straight away too, but me talking about another transitional season isn't about setting up an excuse for McLeish if he doesn't do well straight away. Houllier needed that, but Houllier had won the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup, the Trophée des champions twice and the Ligue One three times with two different teams.

Houllier needed time, because he had a record that showed he could do it, he also didn't get a pre-season or a summer transfer window. But enough about Houllier, my point is, McLeish has everything to prove and while he should get a chance and the time, his record doesn't put him in a good starting place. You have to earn that right.

But, things change and in one of the questions I have answered over the past few days, I've spoken about how this season is going to go one of three ways for me, as in I'm going to be surprised and happy, accepting or frustrated. The frustrating part is basically that McLeish is gone and that most saw it coming.

I called it a dark day when the club appointed him and for me it was and still is. But that doesn't mean it might not work out for him and he stays with us until he retires. I could have got it wrong, it has been known to happen and there wouldn't be many happier people if I did get it wrong.

In that question I answered, I said I wanted the surprise and happiness, although thinking back, I think I used the word optimism instead. I also wrote how I thought it was possible - as long as the players take to this manager, they do what he asks and he has the footballing brain to know that if he changes things around too much they will never settle.

He has to find a formation and play it home and away - create a rhythm and understanding. Focus on keeping the ball, creating space and the channels and let the ball do the work for you. We are going to see soon enough.

Prediction time

This is difficult to call and while I've got it right a couple of times, I've also got it wrong a couple of times. I want the manager to do well, because that means Aston Villa are going to do well, but then I look at his record in this league and it doesn't fill me with confidence.

But I also think we have players that are hungry and better than the likes of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing and just like last season, there are worse teams than us, that will go down.

And I don't expect miracles in the first season. What I expect is top eight and I truly believe that is possible, but I'm going to predict ninth. We should also factor in 'new manager syndrome' and if that comes into play, we could even do better and while the League is the most important thing we will ever play for if we can progress in one of the tournaments, it would be nice too, but again, they are just bonuses.

So as long as we finish in a respectable position, then he should get next season and he should be able to strengthen and replace. But not go silly again.

Summary time

So, it is another transitional season - you cant get away from that, but the manager has had time with the players and it looks like he isn't getting loads of money to spend and the club might be telling him what he has to do first, which is prove himself and work with what the club have. I wrote about it here a while ago and I truly do hope that is what is happening.

If we throw money at a manager, we get into a cycle - lets find the right manager first and while McLeish might not be the right one, hopefully the club are doing it the right way now and you know it makes sense.

So, basically, what I'm saying is this - he gets the season to show us what he can do. If he can finish eighth, he should get to bring in one player under the age of 26 for every player that leaves and then one additional player to strengthen the first team, but ultimately the squad and only one.

I could take this further and say if more than two players are to be replaced, then he has to bring through from within - in essence, no more than three new players arriving at the club in any one season, but that is me going into levels of the secret plan that do not exist and I could spend hours writing about why and well, it is a secret and not many believe in my theory that there exists a cunning plan to take over the Premier League.

So, go get top eight Mr McLeish - you'll win a lot of people over if you do. At the same time, play Bannan and Albrighton and bring more of the younger players through - you just need to have a bit of faith in them and give them time and your trust. They wont let you down and you might even do more than win a few people over.

As supporters, don't expect too much or get carried away, but do remember, the season is a season, not a period of three or four games. It is where we finish at the end that counts - not where we are in October or November. And on that, a reminder.

Fantasy football

Just another reminder to click here to play the fantasy football game. All you have to do is register your team and add it to the AVFC Blog mini-league. The pin code is 163802 and the password is blog1234.