Positivity can be a weird feeling when you’ve been starved of it for several seasons, but Villa have a real opportunity of a genuine turning point in their fortunes now. A new manager to relieve us from the malaise of the Lambert regime is in place, but just as important is the fact that despite everything, the club will still be in the search of honours come March with a FA Cup quarter-final against West Brom. Tim Sherwood’s reaction to the Villa win was partly winning a football match, but also the fact that he was taking over an on-going concern that had things to play for.
The lift and excitement that such a cup run has will have a knock-on effect to the league campaign, and the player’s will now be able to approach the important league games ahead with refreshed vigour.
Also, in terms of ambition, Villa should be chasing honours and for them to be in the mix three games away from qualifying for Europe is a return to how it should be in the Villa universe.
Here’s five reasons to be cheerful as Aston Villa fans after a week of heading in the right direction.
1. One Out, One In
Of the manager comings and goings in the past week, the main feeling was the relief of finally being shot of Paul Lambert (the last Scottish manager left in the Premier league). His dour presence (and football) has been replaced by a man who has only managed 28 Premier League games more than you and I (unless you happened to be a current or ex Premier League manager reading this), but in the short-term at least Sherwood should re-energise B6.
Supporters are right to be suspect of the proposed wind of change under the new Villa boss, as there are no guarantees that the cavalier approach of Sherwood will work long-term. But as he states himself, there is a job to do in the present, which is different to the one he will undertake come the summer.
For the months ahead, the support will be able to get behind the team without reservation and that should have a good knock-on effect to the on-field fortunes of the club.
2. Midlands Final
Apart from a home tie against a lower league team, a Villa Park clash against the Baggies was probably the best FA Cup quarter-final tie the draw could have come up with. As well as giving the team home field advantage, it’s something of a ‘Pride of the Midlands’ cup final with the reward of at least one trip to Wembley. It should be a great occasion for both sets of supporters who have been through the wars recently.
3. Clever Effort
Watching down from the Upper Holte on Sunday, I kept one eye on Tom Cleverley following his play with interest during the game. Having been recently dropped and even booed when his name was read out over the tannoy before the Leicester game, it was always going to be interesting to see how he responded.
The first half was far from inspiring and typified Villa supporters disillusionment with him, but the second half brought a more effective contribution from his hustle and bustle in the centre of the park, that never allowed Leicester to get a proper foothold in the game.
As other fans have said, it was perhaps Cleverley’s best performance in a claret and blue shirt, something he can hopefully build on under Sherwood.
4. Crunching Improvement
The thing about Clark is for 95% of a game he is generally excellent. Fearless in the tackle and a real presence at the back, but as at the end of the Cup game, when he switched off to give Kramaric the freedom of Villa’s 18-yard box for the Foxes’ consolation, there’s evidence he’s not the complete package just yet.
Still, contrast fans’ feelings about him from last season, and you have one of the most improved Villa players of the season. One moment to typify that claim? That TACKLE in the second-half! Even God himself approved, with Paul McGrath taking to Twitter to call it the ‘tackle of the season’.
5. Mood Change in the Stands
We played Leicester a couple of months ago in the league and achieved exactly the same result (2-1). I also sat in a similar position in the upper Holte, but the undertone of the atmosphere was completely different. It was a good vocal crowd both times, but in the league game a lot of fans would snap at players when things went wrong, whether it be misplaced passes or a lack of running off the ball.
This time, although the standard of play hadn’t really changed that much, there was more encouragement and almost a complete absence of that toxic feeling that’s been felt in the stands recently.
Of course, this might be down to the fact it was a cup game and it’s a one off, but you get the feeling it was more to do with the fact that things can only get better and there now is a chance that they actually will do. UTV