Aston Villa are the neutrals’ favourite team at the moment John Terry tells talkSPORT, as assistant coach lauds ‘valuable’ John McGinn
John Terry believes Aston Villa may be the neutrals’ favourite Premier League club right now following their fine first-half to the season.
The Villans have dropped off slightly over the past few weeks after an incredible start to the campaign, but they remain in ninth place, only one point off sixth and seven points from the Champions League spots with two games in hand over most the teams around them.
Having narrowly escaped relegation last term, no one expected this from Villa in 2020/21, but a strong recruitment drive last summer coupled with some existing players really turning it up a notch has seen Villa develop into a truly top-class outfit.
And Terry, who is one of Dean Smith’s assistant coaches, believes the team pairing defensive solidity with an exciting attack makes Villa one of the most thrilling watches in the top-flight.
Terry joined talkSPORT’s Sports Bar on Tuesday night and said: “We are one of the youngest squads in the league. Things were tough that first year and it always was going to be, regardless of the money that we spent.
“We recruited really well last summer; the manager made some really good signings like Matty Cash, Emi [Martinez], Ollie Watkins, Ross [Barkley] has come in, Bertrand Traore as well…
“We have got some real talent, along with the talent we already had – with Jack [Grealish] being a massive part of that.
“Defensively we’ve looked very good and going forward we’ve always looked a threat, and I’ve said from the start that I think we are really exciting to watch
“So for a neutral, I would say we are probably everyone’s favourite team at the moment.”
With the top six within reach for Villa, and the top four not too far away, just what are those in charge aiming for this season?
Villa fans may be dreaming of the Champions League, but has the possibility of a return to European football been discussed behind the scenes at Villa Park?
“It certainly wasn’t at the start of the season,” Terry replied when asked whether Europe is the aim. “We came into the season wanting to improve substantially on where we finished last year, really, as that was a struggle.
“I think we learnt through that process, and lockdown was good too as the manager regrouped the players and we had a good few meetings that certainly helped.
“But listen, who knows? With the way the league is this year everyone can beat everyone, and like I say we are a really attacking team but at the back end of the pitch we look really solid too.
“So, who knows? There have been some good additions added to the squad and we are very comfortable where we are at the moment. And who knows where that will take us at the end of the season.”
The aforementioned Watkins, Barkley, Cash and Martinez have all been praised this season for playing a key role in Villa’s fine campaign – along with captain and star performer Jack Grealish.
But Terry reserved special praise for midfielder John McGinn, whom he believes is one of Villa’s ‘most important players’ – even if he goes under the radar.
“He is doing the kind of holding role with Douglas Luiz where they do the scrappy stuff really well,” continued Terry.
“Really, John is a number eight who wants to be arriving in the box and scoring goals, but we are asking him to do something a little bit different that he is not used to.
“But he does it so well.
“He is one of those players every team has who goes under the radar, which from a Villa point of view we are happy with because we know just how valuable he is within our squad.
“To me, he is one of the most important players in the group.”