Sheffield Wednesday: Barry Bannan braced for Aston Villa boo-boys
Barry Bannan is bracing himself for another frosty reception from the 4,500 plus Aston Villa fans travelling to Hillsborough on Sunday.
The versatile midfielder started his career at Villa Park, making 82 appearances for the Midlanders.
But despite getting playing time under Martin O’Neill, Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish and Paul Lambert, Bannan struggled to hold down a regular starting spot. His lack of match action prompted him to join the likes of Derby County, Blackpool and Leeds United on loan.
Bannan told The Star: “When I was at Crystal Palace and we played Villa at Villa Park, I got a bit of a mixed reaction which kind of hurt me.
“I came through the club’s youth system and actually supported them when I was coming through.
“I still live in Birmingham and got a lot of mates who are Villa fans so it won’t affect me whatever reception I get on Sunday.
“I will doing my best for Sheffield Wednesday.”
When quizzed on the reasons why he received a “mixed” reaction from Villa supporters, Bannan said: “I don’t know why.
“The club was going through a difficult time when I was there. We didn’t do well. The club were on the downward spiral really from the Martin O’Neill days when the team was finishing sixth every season.
“When I broke through, we were just staying above the relegation zone so it wasn’t a good time for the club.”
When reflecting on his spell at Villa, Bannan admits the lows far outweighed the highs.
“Scoring in Europe was a big thing for me but there were a lot of lows,” he conceded. “Villa is a massive club and we obviously wanted to finish as high up in the league as we could.
“But the thing that sticks out the most for me is when we lost to Bradford City over two legs in the semi-finals of the League Cup.
“That was a big sucker punch as we had the chance to go to Wembley and win the competition. That was probably the lowest moment.”
Officials say there could be a crowd of close to 30,000 for their opening league fixture of the 2016/17 campaign. The mouthwatering contest, which will be screened on Sky Sports, gets underway at 4:30pm.
Bannan said: “Villa is a massive club and they have great away fans but our fans are probably a little better.
“It will be a noisy atmosphere and I can’t wait for it. I just can’t wait for the season to start for real now and hopefully we can get off to a flying start.”
More than 40,000 Wednesdayites roared on Carlos Carvalhal’s team at Wembley last May. While the club’s fans left a lasting impression on football’s richest match, the players failed to produce on the big stage, falling to a narrow defeat against Yorkshire rivals Hull City and missing out on a lucrative place in the Premier League.
“The fans can make a big difference,” said Bannan, who is set to start in his favoured central midfield position versus his old club. “They are like an extra man at times.
“At Wembley, they were fantastic. It was just a shame we couldn’t get over the line.”
The Scotland international, who has set himself a 10-goal target, added: “The fans make Hillsborough a hostile environment and it is hard for teams to come here and get points.”