Larry shut his laptop down. That must have been the 16th time he had watched the run in from the previous campaign, it still haunted him. He had spent the summer looking long and hard at himself as well as the job at hand.
Larry and Terry Butcher had talked often and in great detail about how to approach this season and both come down on the side of continuity. Huge sweeping changes wouldn’t be needed, the odd new face and a couple of promotions from the academy were all they were looking to do.
Recruitment – Patrick Harris returned from his year in Spain and now had a valid Work Permit which in itself felt like a new signing. Other players to join up for pre-season were Mathew Pennington (DC) from Wolves, Sam Johnstone (GK) from Manchester United and David Stewart (SC) On loan from WBA.
The foreign legion in the academy was also added to with the capture of Jimmy Rodriguez (SC), Stefan Suchy (SC), Marko Mitrovic (DC) and Emir Murati (MC). All four of these players needed Work Permits so were sent out to clubs in European top-flight leagues on 12-month loan deals.
As always when players arrive some have to leave and this season was no different. Maxime Dupe, Phillip Billing, Ashley Fletcher, Neil Taylor and Taylor Moore were all moved on for cash amounts whereas Gary Gardener, Jonathon Kodija, Angus Mcdonald and Luke McGee were loaned out to clubs willing to pay 100% wages and loan fees.
Preseason – Opening game apart it was a successful period. The new lads settled in well and were scoring goals and seemingly enjoying their football. David Brooks netting a perfect double hat-trick in one game was the real highlight.
August would be bookended by two huge transfers. Unfortunately for Larry, they were both deals that saw players leave the club.
Alex Cooper, a young striker captured on a free from Manchester United three years ago had just made the breakthrough into the first team, scoring a hat-trick in one preseason game. Larry really liked Alex, he had a bit of everything and at just 19 years old the world was at his feet.
Big money for such a young untested player but Fredericks knew this was a player Villa should have fought harder to keep but once again Dr. Xia overruled him and took the money.
The month of August saw Fredericks side win three league games but lose the other two, they also won both Caraboa Cup fixtures, David Stewart netting four goals in a 5-4 thriller away to Premier League Brentford.
Deadline day is always a period Larry Fredericks likes to get involved in. From his early days at GKS Tychy, he has enjoyed bringing the fans a player or two on this now highly anticipated media driven occasion.
It was, however, another bad day at the office for Fredericks as the board chose to accept a £13.25 million bid from Benfica for young midfielder Patrick Harris.
It left Butcher and Fredericks very little time to react but they did there best. Lenny Robson, a young defender joined on loan from Newcastle, Tashan Oakley Boothe, a player Larry signed twice for Motherwell joined on loan from Spurs and Ollie Watkins signed for £3.1 million from rivals Leeds United. The Watkins fee was more than Fredericks would normally pay but he was desperate for another face so signed the deal.
At the end of the opening month, Larry had seen two of his better players leave the club but he was mostly happy with the new faces he had brought in. Financially Aston Villa were now fully functional with a balance of over £30 million and a wage budget at nearly 50% percent under its value.
September would see Aston Villa knocked out of the league club at the third round stage, Liverpool winning a seemingly even game 0-3.
There were five league games in all and Villa were simply fantastic, winning all five of them and scoring eighteen goals in the process.
Fredericks noted that one player, in particular, had excelled in September.
Liam Mandeville was keeping last years golden boot winner Kazaiah Sterling out of the side which was a fantastic achievement, the young striker had netted five times in his last four appearances.
Butcher and Fredericks were both worried by the strength of Middlesbrough who seemed to be every bit as good as if not better than Aston Villa.
Larry managed to secure the Manager of The Month award for September so all in all, it was a great month.
October would see Fredericks Villa side play only four games, three of them, however, would be against the other teams in the top four spots in the league. Now was not the best time for Sterling and Mandeville to pick up knocks, ruling them both out of the months opening fixture at The City Ground against Nottingham Forest.
What a game it was! The late, late drama from David Stewart won the game 3-2 for Aston Villa, the on-loan striker finished beautifully in the 92nd minute.
It wasn’t all good news though as Fredericks team lost Joe Williams, John Johansen and David Brooks through injury during the 90 minutes. With the international break upon them, Fredericks had time on his side for the players to recuperate.
A routine 2-0 victory over Preston with goals from Macedo and Chalobah was then followed by a trip to the Rich Arena in front of the SKY TV cameras.
Over 5000 Villains made the short trip to Coventry and after they witnessed Villa hit the woodwork three times inside the opening four minutes, David Stewart finally put them on their way to another three points and a 2-1 victory and a brace for himself.
The last game of the month was ultimately the biggest, first v second. Middlesbrough came to Villa Park in the home sides biggest test to date.
At halftime, Larry was more than happy with the way his side had controlled the opening 45 minutes, although they hadn’t broken the deadlock they should have on numerous occasions.
At 90 minutes he had a sour taste in his mouth, Johansen had seen red early in the second period, A decision Larry wasn’t happy about, in fact, he told the referee, the press and anybody who would listen just how unhappy he was.
The red card changed the game and despite their lack of ambition, Boro stole all three points with a 1-0 win.
Four games three victories but more importantly they had lost the big one. Still, Fredericks Villa side folded on the big stage.
November on paper was a month Larry had marked down as an easier run of games or as Terry Butcher put it ‘A month for putting lambs to the sword’.
Millwall at The New Den was always a tough fixture but the 3-2 victory probably made it look closer than it was. Goals from Tashan Oakley-Boothe and a brace from David Brooks made light work of the Londoners. Reading came to Villa Park with nothing and left with nothing, a comfortable 3-0 victory for the home side thanks to Macedo, Brooks and a rare Clive Scott goal.
As always the Villa faithful take up their full allocation of tickets and it was no different as 7000 of them made the trip to Hillsborough. A crazy first half saw the Villains race into a two-goal lead before the home side somehow clawed it back to 2-2.
Mandeville and Stewart both had to leave the field with knocks before Oakley-Boothe fired home from 25 yards and Kazaiah Sterling wrapped it up to eventually win 4-3.
In the post-match interviews, Fredericks pulled no punches in laying into the Wednesday manager Aitor Karanka. The Spaniard had long been helping about Fredericks perceived lack of ability so this seemed as good a time as any to have a go back.
Rotherham have brushed aside comfortably 4-0 at Villa Park before arguably the toughest game of the month, Ipswich Town away. A side who currently occupy 4th spot in the table would be no pushover.
Another five-goal thriller went Fredericks way after his side almost threw away a three-goal lead. Only the crossbar kept there 100% record for November intact. Two goals from the Portuguese striker Macedo and one from David Stewart kept the Fredericks army marching on.
A ten point gap on December the first was more than Larry had dreamt about. Going forward they were a joy to behold but that irrepressible need for attacking was starting to catch them out at the back.
Seventeen goals scored in the five November games but seven were conceded. Larry knew where they needed to improve.
Larry secured his second manager of the month award of the season which he dedicated to his shoes. (More on this later).
December would open with two televised fixtures, Norwich at home then Leeds away. The first of which would end in Aston Villa’s first draw of the campaign. The trip to Elland Rd would get the show back on the road though with a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Pennington, Stewart and Scott.
Only a 92nd-minute winner from Clive Scott stopped Derby County from taking a share of the spoils home in the next game and then that was quickly followed by a comfortable 3-0 victory at The Macron Stadium.
Tetsuhiro Kodama was making great strides and had started to put real pressure on the current first team encombants. Given a start in the side, he scored from the spot to open his professional account.
A trip to The Stadium of Light produced a real humdinger of a game. Once again Fredericks charges threw away a two-goal lead but this time it was David Brooks who netted a 94th-minute winner.
The last opponents of the month were Stoke City who beat Villa 1-0 way back in August. Since then Larry’s team had developed and improved into the image he wanted. Stoke had no answer and another 3 points were chalked up.
Larry was becoming a bit of a cult hero. Since day one of his managerial career, Fredericks had worn Purple shoes.
Not always the same pair but always purple. The Villa fans had embraced this with his shoes now having their own Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Over the past few months, a certain song has been heard echoing around the streets Birmingham…
‘Larry Fredericks Magic, He wears Purple shoes and When he puts them on, The Villa never Lose! Fade to repeat…’
Surely this time nothing would stop Fredericks march to the Premier League.