There’s six obvious reasons to be cheerful as an Aston Villa fan, so we’ll get them out-of-the-way first. Vlaar, Weimann, Benteke x 3 and Gabby all provided a night to truly remember. Villa have clicked before this season, away from home when we turned on the style against Liverpool and Norwich, but nothing has prepared Villans for a night like this. The patient fans who saw Lambert’s long-term plan for reviving Villa’s fortunes in a proper constructive way, have had to swim with the pessimists for most of the season, but finally they seem to have been validated. There is method behind the madness of his gamble on youth. There’s still work to be done this season, but the boys became men at Villa Park on the 29th April 2013.
1. Where do you start with Christian Benteke? Yesterday, we posted some tables that showed he’s the most important player to his team, in the Premiership. If the PFA Young Player of the Year Award was at the end of the season, he would have surely taken it from Bale. A hat-trick is something we’ve been waiting for and more significantly, his 18 league goals so far for the season is the most any Aston Villa player has managed in a single Premier League season – Dwight Yorke scored 17 on two occasions.
2. On paper Sunderland’s midfield looked like it was going to overrun Villa’s, but there’s not much they can do if they don’t have the ball. While we’re perhaps still missing a talismanic/experienced head in there, Westwood, Delph and Sylla all were pitch-perfect in their ball-retention, passing and closing down of the opposition. They’re improving game-by-game. Sylla’s performance against Sunderland was a distinct bonus.
3. Matthew Lowton is fast becoming the best right-back Villa have had in ages. The stats boys love him, but he’s better to watch than to read about. He’s starting to show genuine class. A future international, who might one day, not look out-of-place in Spain’s team, nevermind England’s.
4. Gabby – he’s a player who has now played in a few generations of Villa teams. He has his critics, but that’s mainly when he was playing as Villa’s out-and-out striker. He drove Villa at the heart of Sunderland, opening up opportunities and causing havoc. He even tucked away a one-on-one with the keeper (the biggest shock of the night!). With his power and pace, he’s a unique player that not many teams have in their attacking arsenal.
5. The pessimists can officially go on holiday now (shame the weather’s not great for them). Bennett, Westwood, Lowton, Delph, Sylla, Baker, Benteke and Weimann have all taken stick from certain sections of the Villa fanbase, who seemed to overlook the lads were very much learning on the job. The average age against Sunderland was 23. Yes, it has been a gamble going with out-and-out youth this season, but at least Lambert has a plan and is resolute about it, and stubborn enough to see it through. If it works, the short-term pain, could soon make way for long-term gain. The end result could be a proper team that Villa fans can truly embrace, rather than just a bunch of high-wage mercenaries, that many other team’s fans have to support in the modern game.
6. I said a few weeks ago, forget goal difference, it’s not going to figure in the equation. Well, I still don’t think it will, but it’s great Villa have taken out an unexpected insurance policy. After Liverpool bombarded the Geordie nation at the weekend, Villa’s own onslaught against their neighbours has brought Newcastle right back into the mire. A week or so ago, they were 20/1 for the drop. Wish I had a tenner on that now. UTV.
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