A second win in the space of five days over local rivals who had previously lost just once under Tony Pulis was a superb way to keep the momentum rolling under Tim Sherwood after Tuesday night’s late drama. With the booking of a Wembley trip for next month only marred by the actions of a few idiots on Saturday night and the subsequent colossal overreaction of the British media, here’s a look at the Good, Bad and Ugly of Villa’s FA Cup quarter-final win over West Bromwich Albion.
Prior to Saturday evening’s clash, there was an off-field morale boost with the news of Stan Petrov’s return to the club as a coach. Yes his coaching ability has not yet been tested, and yes the timing of the announcement was clearly an attempt to keep the enthusiasm and momentum going after the league win, but it will undoubtedly serve as another lift to the players at the club, particularly those who played alongside him.
Whereas Villa were fantastic in the first half in Tuesday’s league win over the Baggies, it was the second half on Saturday in which they did the business. The pre-game carnival atmosphere – the best I have witnessed beneath and on the Holte End in an age – was starting to ebb away after a dismal first half display before Fabian Delph smashed the ball past Boaz Myhill shortly after half-time. From that point on Villa were away, hardly troubled for the remainder of the game.
Scott Sinclair, maligned by West Brom fans in light of his failure to take off as a loan signing at the Hawthorns last season, was one of the star men of the quarter-final. During the first half he was the only player making runs off the ball and looking to take Albion players on, and although it was Charles N’Zogbia’s pass it was Sinclair who enabled the opening goal, drawing the defence away with a superb run which left Delph free as a bird to score.
Having dragged a chance wide from the corner of the box, Sinclair then took his goal magnificently from an identical position, cutting inside and showing tremendous footwork and composure to elude the covering defender before curling home. Based on his recent performances, he has the potential to be a real asset.
Jack Grealish’s reintroduction into the fold under Sherwood is another encouraging aspect. At only 19 years old, with 14 of his 16 appearances for the club having come from the bench, he shows remarkable confidence and swagger. He demands the ball, demands the opportunity to try and make something happen. Imagine having that confidence, that verve before you’ve even turned 20. We can only hope that he doesn’t let his contentious red card knock him off his stride.
What has been perhaps most fantastic to see this week has been the renewed passion and enthusiasm which Sherwood seems to have brought to the club and the players. Admittedly two local derbies in the same week does a lot of its own motivating, but Tom Cleverley, for example, has looked a much better player under the new boss, with the midfielder finally showing some signs of just how he can contribute to the Villa side if he is motivated enough.
The commitment and spirit of Villa’s entire playing staff – even N’Zogbia, for crying out loud – has improved noticeably since the change in manager, something which heightens the level of regret that the decision was not made earlier. Sherwood’s passion, so highly-publicised in his celebrations from Tuesday’s win, is the polar opposite of what had become customary under Paul Lambert and has clearly made a big impression at the club.
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