By Adam Keeble
Villa secured their place in the semi-final of the FA Cup with their second win over WBA in less than a week. What can Aston Villa fans learn from a week which has ended with Villa splashed all over the back pages – for the right and the wrong reasons?
JACK AND CHARLIE
A week ago if you had said you wanted N’Zogbia to stay at the end of this season when his contract runs out, you would have been laughed out of Birmingham. But after a solid, if not particularly memorable, game against the Baggies in the league, he was far more dangerous in the second half of the cup game.
He played like he had been inspired to do what he did best before we signed him and without a manager nagging in his ear to chase back and defend. His passing in the final third was what the team has been begging for and his pass to Delph reinforced Villa’s bright start to the second half leading to the opening goal. It’s much too early to sign him up now, and he was never going to have the fans forget the sight of Ashley Young in full flight, who he was signed to replace. But if can continue to get his confidence back and find those passes that no other midfielder has been able to this season, he could be a big plus in the remaining games this year. And if he’s given a starting berth, he might even be in the mood to renegotiate his contract to hang around a bit longer, just like his fellow bomb squadder Alan Hutton.
Jack Grealish was promised more playing time with Tim Sherwood offering to nurture him and the young winger realise his full potential. His rare outings under Paul Lambert were stifled by him obviously being instructed to help out in defense, quite often playing just yards from Aly Cissokho at left back. It’s probably no coincidence his new role coming on for N’Zogbia led to his first senior career assist and he was only on the field for barely 15 minutes. His first booking was harsh for a nothing-foul on McManaman, but the second was extremely unlucky (it wasn’t a dive) and even with the game out of reach for Albion, it was a blow to the young player. But already a fan favorite, Sherwood could be the best thing that has happened to Jack’s career so far.
TOM AND GIL-LY
Tom Cleverley was heralded by Sherwood with the gaffer saying “the goals will come” for the on-loan midfielder. Hmmm. Some of his passing was very loose in the FA Cup game and the closest he came to a goal was flicking the ball on from the corner to the Baggie’s defender Lescott who missed his powerful header by a few feet.
Sherwood has talked about giving him a free role and maybe with his defensive responsibilities toned down he will find some more inspired form. With Everton constantly linked to make the move for the player they barely missed out on when he signed for Villa at the death of the transfer window, he could still be heading away from Villa Park. But Sherwood seems to be a fan and he seems to have been full of praise for Tom and the rest of his squad, if you don’t count him reportedly dropping Ashley Westwood against Stoke for being too short.
If Cleverley could find five goals during the rest of the season, again fingers will point to who was responsible for his pretty tepid form until Sherwood came along.
Carles Gil has found himself with a lot to do after thrilling fans in his first couple of games as a Villa player. He picked up a niggly injury at a bad time and now with N’Zogbia and Grealish ahead of him in the pecking order – on the back of two good performances – and Joe Cole waiting in the wings too, Gil has been limited to an hour against Stoke, no time at all against Newcastle or Albion in the league, and eight minutes against Albion in the cup game.
Surely Gil can flourish in this attacking style Sherwood has implemented, if he gets the chance and really shine, although the thinking is Gil will now be a player more for next season.
SCOTT AND STAN
Scott Sinclair is fitting right in as a Villa player. He provided a well-taken goal and is looking better in every game with his beauty to seal the cup win was a run and strike from a player full on confidence – a word that hasn’t been used to describe a lot of Aston Villa players for several seasons.
“Missing link” might be a bit of a stretch but what he has done is find a position that suits him and replaced Weimann or Agbonlahor who couldn’t hope to look as comfortable as he does on the left wing. Once Benteke is back, and with N’Zogbia/Gil/Grealish on the right, it’s an attacking line-up full of promise.
The re-signing of Stylian Petrov to the coaching staff was a terrific move by Tim Sherwood. It was a nod to the fans, staff, history and just the pure class of Aston Villa to bring the former midfielder back where he belongs and in doing so, Sherwood made it clear this wasn’t a token move, just as when he appointed Kevin McDonald as his assistant. “Why shouldn’t we open our arms up to him?” asked Sherwood. “There is not point bringing (him) back to be (a mascot). You need to bring them back if they can contribute.” There’s no doubt he means every word.
There were lots of reasons for the on-pitch celebrations at Villa Park during and after the cup win. The handful of players that got on the field to celebrate with Delph set the tone, the dozens that rushed on to the pitch mistaking the ref’s whistle to be the final one, but the storming of the field by the thousands at the actual final whistle made sure Villa would have many questions to answer to the FA.
Pundits can point to the fact the game should never have taken place so late in the day with seven hours of potential for drinking in what was always going to be game where fans would be fired up. Certainly while not justifying fans rushing on to the field to celebrate a morale-boosting win and a trip to Wembley Stadium, this was passion at work, not some pre-meditated sinister plan.
Aston Villa were considered a lot of fans’ second team when Ron Atkinson had them chasing Manchester United for the title in the 1990s but after years of mediocrity and flirting with relegation, the institution is not the media darling it used to be. Again, this is a reason Villa have been slaughtered in the press with some pundits calling for the game to be replayed or Villa Park demolished to teach the hooligan fans a lesson or whatever.
This is not the first time there has been a mass on-pitch celebration at Villa Park, and every ground in the football league has during their history seen such scenes of celebration. Certainly Tony Pulis didn’t seem to mind Stoke City fans celebrating on the pitch their FA Cup quarter-final win that sent them to Wembley in 2011.
Lets hope the FA sees common sense and also acknowledges their role in the proceedings too.
Follow Adam on Twitter – @
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid