Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)
Dan Bardell is known for his involvement in the popular YouTube channel The Villa View, where he and others discuss the latest buzz around Villa Park, past results and future games through match previews and podcasts. He’s also one of the blokes you might see stood outside of Villa Park with a microphone and a camera, asking fans their opinion on the games.
In more recent times, Dan is the face of Villa’s pre-game Facebook Live streams – where he sits with club legend Ian Taylor and they digest all of the pre-game chat that fans want to hear – being in a position that many fans would certainly pay good money to be in.
We have an exclusive interview with the man that’s turned a hobby into something more, which you can read below.
On The Villa View:
Firstly, one for fans of The Villa View, how are the rabbits?
DB: Haha. Rabbits are fine, one of them is named after James Chester and he’s quite the character. Chester the rabbit provides me with more worries than Chester the defender. I know we can rely on James Chester, whereas Chester the rabbit seems to be on a mission to destroy everything in sight!
Why do you think fan channels, such as The Villa View and Arsenal Fan TV are proving to be such a success?
DB: First off I wish we were as successful as Arsenal Fan Tv, Robbie has made that his full time job. I dream of making my Villa stuff a full time gig!
I can only speak from my point of view, but I didn’t want us to ever be like Arsenal fan TV and I don’t think we are, we want to work with the club rather than against it. If we think something is wrong we speak about it, but we never rant and rave and never will. People are free to come on fan cams and speak however they want, but the people that present will always behave in a certain way. We want to be considered in everything we do. Some people like that, some don’t, but it’s the way it is!
I think “The Villa View” has done well, but I’d like it to go further but in many ways that’s out of our control. It’s definitely done better than I ever expected, we’ve done a lot of great things and without the channel I wouldn’t be doing some of the things I’m doing. When Dan Rolinson and Matt started the channel I think the plan was for it to be pretty much fan cams, then they decided they wanted it to be more and I was lucky enough to get involved. Those two deserve the credit really, I just came in and offered an “older head” so to speak.
I think fan channels do well because it’s genuine supporters offering thoughts on clubs, a lot of what you hear in the media comes from people with no affiliation and they don’t always know exactly what’s going on. We are probably more informed about Villa than most media outlets, you see so much rubbish printed and I just think, why do they bother?!
The support we’ve had from Villa fans has been immense and I’ll never forget that and it’s always appreciated.
How does it feel to have been able to turn a hobby into a huge pre-game gig with Villa legend Ian Taylor?
DB: It’s a dream come true to get to work with Tayls each Home game, he was my hero growing up and he’s probably one of the funniest people I know. I’m lucky that the Club have been good to me, I think they like having someone who is a long term fan doing it. Tayls has been great with me as well, he puts me at ease and is a natural at talking about Villa as you’d expect.
The element of it being live sometimes makes me nervous, but in general I try to treat it as two mates having a chat about the Villa down the pub, keep it relaxed. It just happens that the mate is an absolute Villa hero!
Being part of “The Villa View” has presented me with some great opportunities, and I hope there is more to come.
On Tony Xia and behind the scenes:
What do you think some of the larger changes at the club outside of players and managers have been?
DB: There is a feeling of happiness around the Club that I don’t think was there under the last regime, there is also that feeling of consistency again. For the last 12 months there hasn’t been a change in key personnel, that wont have happened too much in 12 month periods at Villa over the last few years. When I’ve been around the place you can just sense there is a positive atmosphere.
A lot has changed with the supporter engagement as well, fans felt separated from the club previously. I don’t think that is the case anymore. The Club are looking to get that feeling of “family” back into B6 and I think they are achieving it.
In your opinion, what’s the key message coming from Villa, both club and board?
DB: I think that they are showing a desire to get Villa back to where they should be, whilst also realising that not all the changes they are making will yield instant results. “Stability” is something I think they are pushing and I don’t think everyone realises all the messes that needed cleaning up at the Club.
Again I think a key message is that they want the supporters involved and they want to engage with the fan base. I don’t think they shirk questions, even difficult ones. They want to be transparent and I don’t think you’ll find an owner or CEO who are as accessible to supporters as ours are.
I think a lot is riding on going up this season, obviously the sooner we go up the better and I think the board has done everything they can to put us in the best position to achieve it.
I think not going up this year would be seen as a failure by the board themselves, I know they have high standards. However if we don’t make it I think there would be plans in place to recover and to use a Paul Lambert term “go again.”
In terms of Tony Xia’s and Keith Wyness’ presence on social media, does this set a marker for how other clubs should communicate with their supporters?
DB: I’ve mentioned above that I think we are lucky in that respect. However there are pitfalls in using social media that will always deter CEO’s and owners taking the same approach. It’s worth mentioning that Dr Tony and Keith Wyness don’t just exist on twitter, they interact that’s the key part.
I do think it’s unique, after years of nothing from the previous regime this was exactly what’s needed at our Club. I think Dr Tony has alluded to the fact that when things are how he wants them he wont need to be on twitter anymore, but I think that’s a long way off. He has high standards.
On Aston Villa and Players:
Do you think there will ever be a time when Villa receive an offer for Grealish from another club that’s too good to turn down?
DB: Personally I love Jack. I think he’s a fantastic player, one that is playing so, so well at the moment, saying that though I still think he can play even better! He needs to be more selfish at times and get away more shots, he has a fantastic strike from range but doesn’t use it enough.
He’s my favourite player to watch at Villa and has been for a number of years. He just glides past people with the ball, and his technique just seems effortless at times. His work rate has come on leaps and bounds this season as well, off the ball he puts a lot in. I’m of the opinion that being at Villa the last few years has actually stunted Jack. In and out the team, too many managers, not playing in his best position, it all adds up.
If he develops the way he should, at some point someone will come in for him but I think the key things is that Jack loves Villa, this is his dream and this where he wants to be. He’s one of us, living our and his dream if that makes sense.
Obviously every player has his price, but I could see Jack spending the majority of his career here comfortably.
With Scott Hogan coming back into form, where does Jonathan Kodjia fit into the team when he eventually returns?
DB: Depends which league we are in I guess. You need a squad, so it’s great to have these options. I’d very much doubt we will see Kodjia until maybe the end of April if we are lucky. I think he was rushed back before because we were on a bad run. I pray there will be no need to expedite his return this time round.
I still think he has a lot of good games on the wing for us, so Hogan and Kodjia could definitely play on the dame pitch without the need to change the current system which I think really suits us. I wouldn’t want Jack moved from playing in the middle for one.
I’m delighted for Hogan. I can say I’ve always backed him to come good, he just needed some service. He looks confident now, I wouldn’t say he is doing anything different to what he was before. We are just playing in a way that suits him now. Again I think the new formation helps.
Steve Agnew has also worked closely with him, given him a lift. I don’t think that can be overlooked at all. He cant stop scoring or smiling now, long may it continue!
If Villa gain promotion, what are the vital areas we should improve?
DB: Everywhere. I think we’d need 7-8 new players at the very least. There are players here that have been brought in to get us out the Championship; some won’t make it here should we get promoted. There’s a core that would be good enough to play for us in the Premier League such as Chester and Grealish, others that would form part of the squad and others that would be deemed surplus.
If we want to hold on to Johnstone and Snodgrass I think we’d have to go up. Tuanzebe would probably stay on loan if we went up.
The squad we have now should be good enough to get us up, that I am convinced of.