There I was hoping that 2019 would be the year that Aston Villa finally had a cup run again, the first proper one since they got to the FA Cup final in 2015.
Villa fans of a certain generation – my generation – still have one itch they can’t scratch. We’ve seen Villa win everything from the League Cup to the European Super Cup, the only thing that is missing is the FA Cup.
The last time Villa won the last of their seven FA Cup triumphs was 1957. As a kid, we’d won the trophy the most times of any team. Then Spurs caught us up, then as the years passed, the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United left us for dust.
I just want to see Villa win it before I die, alas, based on the attitude of the team in the last couple of years in particular, I don’t think I will.
It’s three consecutive seasons now that Villa have bowed out at the Third Road stage with barely a whimper.
Conceding two late goals away at Spurs in a 2-0 loss in 2017 you could stomach, but the 3-1 reverse at home to Peterborough was an embarrassment. Credit to the Posh, but the attitude and effort displayed by the Villa team to their own supporters was a disgrace.
The Posh game was a defining reason why many season ticket holders decided not to take up the offer of a free ticket to see the Swans game, in spite of what Head Coach Dean Smith said in the lead up to the game to try and rally interest.
The 3-0 loss itself was instantly forgettable and barely worth mentioning here.
Five Reasons to be Cheerful…
1.Lasted Longer Than the Blues
Thanks to the FA and TV companies completely destroying the tradition of FA Cup third round Saturday by carving up the fixtures to multiple time slots, the Blues played their game against West Ham and were knocked out the cup before Villa had even kicked a ball.
I’m not really taking anything from this, I just wanted to make a point about how the FA have destroyed its own tournament.
2. We Can Now Concentrate on the League
I hate the phrase ‘we can now concentrate on the league’. It’s probably the lamest football cliche there is. It suggests that your team will now produce great results in the league and will finish the season in glory – in Villa’s case, win promotion.
It hasn’t worked out in the past couple of years of Championship football for Villa and never worked under past managers – the most memorable example being Martin O’Neill jacking in the Europa League (UEFA Cup) to concentrate on the league and then going weeks without a win.
Judging by Villa’s abject performance against the Swans, confidence for the rest of the season isn’t particularly high.
In terms of the modern day Villa fan, they seem to look at the FA Cup as something of a friendly and dismiss it. Yet, ask any teenage Villa fan what their best memory supporting the club was and they’ll probably say the FA Cup semi-final win against Liverpool (the quarter-final against the Baggies was great fun too).
I’ve seen Villa win a bunch of trophies (ok, five proper ones) and that FA Cup win vs Liverpool is right up there.
Cups give people real memories and excitement, and it’s a massive shame that English football has demeaned them to the point of irrelevance.
We’re in a time where most teams in football do nothing more than exist and try to run as successful businesses, while the players are only interested in their bank balances.
Winning things as a focus, has seemingly become a thing of the past.
It’s a shame.
3. Magic Doubters Proven Right
The concept of magic helps elevate the mundanity of existence. The thoughts of returning to work on a Monday, having to pay bills and that schlep out to Villa Park on a freezing day to watch an FA Cup tie, can all dissolve away with a little bit of the magic from the FA Cup…
Does the ‘magic of the FA Cup’ actually exist though? Based on the evidence from the last two seasons of FA Cup action at Villa Park, it doesn’t for a Villa fan.
So, if you don’t believe in magic, you’ve been proven right.
4. Lansbury Return
While an ageing Glenn Whelan is an option, there’s still issues with the Villa midfield, but Henri Lansbury showed promise after coming on as a substitute against Swansea. He was one of Villa’s very few notable performers in the game.
Lansbury has been poor since he’s been at Villa, but we saw enough in his Forest days to suggest he can be a proper player. If Lansbury can get his act together, then he will save Villa needing to buy.
Fingers-crossed the 28-year-old can get his season up and running.
5. Keeper Debut
I suppose if you’re going to get an unimpressive debut out of the way, you might as well do it in a cup competition that very few of your teammates seem interested in.
Lovre Kalinic on a good day would have probably have saved all three of Swansea’s goals.
On a good day, he’d also probably have a decent back four in front of him, that doesn’t include Alan Hutton as a centre-back.
Let’s hope the game settled him into the team for the away trip to Wigan, so the FA Cup this season hasn’t been a complete waste of time.