View from the opposition: Bruce’s work to turn Villa’s fortunes around deserves high praise
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Ahead of today's televised Carrow Road clash ITV Anglia journalist and Norwich-based Villa fan ROB SETCHELL gives us the lowdown on Steve Bruce's high-flying visiting team.
Do Villa fans believe Cardiff can be caught again following Tuesday's 3-0 win over Reading?
Only the most optimistic... and I'm yet to meet any of them. I think we'd also have to catch Fulham who seem to be powering on. Given the circumstances Brucie picked us up in – and the misery of the last few seasons – I think most of the fans are just happy to be involved at the right end of the league again. I'm fully satisfied with a spot in the play-offs... provided we win them, of course.
A play-off spot is looking safe already, just how well has Steve Bruce done this season?
I can't praise him enough. Yes, he's had the luxury of cash and a more-than-capable Championship squad at his disposal – but bringing a team of relatively new recruits together, turning around results and dissolving the toxic atmosphere that was souring Villa Park has been no small task. I hope the job is his for as long as he wants it.
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John Terry is in the Championship Team of the Year, how impressed have you been with the former England captain?
Impressed but not overwhelmed. I have to admit that he wouldn't make my team of the year. I'd have big Aden Flint at Bristol City ahead of him and I think Conor Coady has been terrific at Wolves. That said, he has brought the consistency, fitness and leadership that a fully-firing JT is capable of and all at the age of 37. I'll admit I did roll my eyes when we signed him but it seems like he's been a really positive influence. Good call, Brucie.
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You have a few former Canaries, how have Robert Snodgrass, Henri Lansbury and Lewis Grabban bee getting on?
I'm a big fan of Snodgrass, in particular. I don't think he gets enough credit. He's one of few wingers to excel at that level without the raw pace to glide past defenders. Lansbury probably hasn't had the chances he'd like in a competitive midfield set-up and, again, I thought Grabban was a bit of an odd signing. You can't argue with results though and he knows where the net is, scoring four in nine games. Good call, Brucie.
Who else has impressed?
I'm praying that Jack Grealish is now ready to become the star he's always looked like he should be. His recent form has been brilliant and he's a match-winner when he fancies it. Albert Adomah has been a revelation and his goals have been crucial with King Kodija out injured for big chunks of the season. I'm also a big fan of Conor Hourihane.
And who has been disappointing?
I feel a bit sorry for Scott Hogan who hasn't quite replicated the form that brought him to Villa Park yet. I also expected a bit more from Spurs loanee Josh Onomah who started well but hasn't really stood out.
Have you been surprised to see Norwich floating around mid-table?
In short, not really. I think they're a good side but it's clearly a work in progress and there has been a lot of change at Carrow Road. I think they are still a few quality, experienced players away from being true promotion contenders – starting with a 20-goal striker. It looks like a big summer is on the horizon for Farke, Webber & co.
Do you see Villa as favourites for the game or are there any nerves?
I think Villa are slight favourites but there are always nerves. Our form has been patchy over the last few weeks and I wouldn't be shocked to see the Canaries take points off them. Having said that, I don't think they will fear a trip to Carrow Road like they might have done in previous seasons.
And finally, what is your prediction for the game?
Villa to nick it 2-1. Kodija to mark his return with the winner. Unfortunately our trip to Carrow Road clashes with my stag do so I won't be there this weekend. A raucous, unsettling atmosphere, a few too many and the prospect of being humiliated. Maybe it won't be too different from watching the Villa after all.