Are fans under-appreciating our progress?
After Villa’s recent form in April, many fans believe that we’ve lost our touch and is looking like a fairly average season. But what Dean Smith has done for his boyhood club has brought back hope to Villa Park, after year upon year of relegation fights and especially last year when we survived by the skin of our teeth by a singular point in the draw against West Ham. To have to deal with the panic of last season, with many believing we would be in the second tier, it’s a pleasant surprise to know we’ll be watching our team play Premier League football again. So, I’ll look at the positives that have come from this iteration of the Premier League season.
As previously mentioned, Aston Villa fans have been unsure as to what division we will be playing in. Whether it’s in the Premier League or in the EFL Championship, we were always unsure about where we’ll be playing and although it’s exciting and enthralling for the fans, we are a big enough club to not have to worry about relegation and should be a club that is comfortably in the top half and potentially challenging the European places. Dean Smith this season has brought an exciting attacking style of football that has given us hope. After Boxing Day, Aston Villa were 7th in the league and one point of the top 6 places after we easily beat Crystal Palace 3-0 and were looking at a shot in Europe for the first time since 2010 under Martin O’Neill. For his 2nd season in the Premier League, Dean Smith has took a newly promoted side and avoided the ‘2nd season syndrome’ that has claimed another victim in Sheffield United and continued to kick on and become an established mid-table team that have high aspirations to be involved in Europe in the upcoming seasons.
Throughout this season, it has also been shown that the beautiful, free-flowing football is back at Villa Park and here to stay and has been proven in some of the many victories we have had this season. Probably the most famous win this season was the 7-2 battering against the league champions Liverpool, where another day could have turned the match into a cricket score and even Jurgen Klopp applauds our team saying “wow!” as the full time whistle was blown. This was a win that probably won’t be seen again in that the current champions were embarrassed by a team that many feared would have another rocky campaign; but instead showed the world of football that Aston Villa are a massive club and we are on our way to being our very best. Another massive few games were the two results against Arsenal (another one of the ‘Greedy 6’) and how we won 4-0 on aggregate across the home and away match, our first league double since the early 90s against Arsenal. But it wasn’t the score line that shocks the fans, but how we won was mightily impressive and that a team that constantly gets European football is torn apart by Grealish, Watkins and by players that nobody expects to win. It was similar in that we beat some mid-table teams like Newcastle and Wolves by playing quality football and earning our bit of luck at times.
However, our recent results show that we have fell off a bit with many fans wanting Dean Smith out crazily, but without this man we would still be in the second tier of English football, but instead we have a great core team that are hungry to win with one man leading it all.
Villa fans knew back in 2015 that a youngster called Jack Grealish would amount to a great career if he got his act together and conducted himself professionally off the pitch. And since being given the armband in 2019, the boy from Birmingham has become our great leader and was a key part of our ten game winning streak, resulting in us earning promotion via the play off final against Derby County – with Jack Grealish providing goals and assists to carry us to victory. In the first Premier League season since 2016, his personal form continued as he got 8 goals and 5 assists, including a goal in the final game to secure safety and also led us to Wembley for the League Cup final. However, this season has proved to be his best one yet as he’s currently on 6 goals and 10 assists (not bad considering he was injured on February 13th) and has not only shone for his club, but also for his country.
Finally, Southgate came to his senses and picked Grealish in November to represent England, and against Wales in a friendly was awarded with the Man of the Match and getting an assist in his first start. In his professional debut against Belgium, he showed the world he’s here to stay as he flicked the ball cheekily over the oncoming defender. Since then, Grealish has become the centre of our attack, so its no real surprise that our form has dipped since his untimely injury.
As far as Villa are concerned, this is just the beginning. With multi-million owners and Premier League football secured, we can look forward to a team pushing for Europe again with a loyal team behind us. With talks of FFP being scrapped for this upcoming transfer window, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some new faces enter Bodymoor Heath and hopefully the team can push forward and bring some success to one of England’s greatest clubs.