March 10th 2019, a day which is clearly imprinted into the memory of every Aston Villa supporter, a day which is always shared, retweeted and commented on by the players involved, and a day which shows, on reflection, just how far Aston Villa football club has come in the past three years.
There are certain football matches that, no matter how much time has passed, we as fans can recall as if it happened only yesterday. Villa's 1-0 victory at St Andrews courtesy of a 67th minute Jack Grealish winner is undoubtedly one of those games. The atmosphere was electric, as it always is for the Second City Derby, but there was something extra special in the air that lunchtime. Unfortunately it was all a bit too much for a certain section of supporters, and in a moment of pure madness, scenes that should never be part of the game played out in front of our very eyes as a Birmingham City supporter attacked the then Villa captain Jack Grealish from behind. Well as the former Villa man himself has already said today, "You know the rest".
As enjoyable as it may be to relive the experience of that game in old tweets, images and YouTube highlights, what is even more enjoyable is reflecting on how far Aston Villa has come since that very day three years ago. Sure, the boyhood Villan who turned hero that day may no longer don claret and blue, but the club is arguably in a better place than it has been for well over a decade, and is in a significantly stronger place than three years ago. It's easy to forget that before that game kicked off, Villa found themselves sitting below the Blues, and even the three points won that afternoon was only enough to take Villa (above Birmingham City) into 9th place in the Championship. Although spirits were high following Grealish's return from injury the week prior in a 4-0 demolition of Derby County, there weren't many Villa fans who could have predicted what came next..
That 1-0 victory would turn out to be the second win in what became a ten game winning run, surpassing a record that reached as far back as 1910. Dean Smith's side would of course go on to secure a play off position, and once again, you know the rest. Since then Villa have retained Premier League status in dramatic final day scenes, destroyed Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool side at Villa Park 7-2, seen the sad departure of Dean Smith, replaced him with Premier League legend Steven Gerrard, and most recently witnessed Philippe Coutinho tare apart opposition teams in Villa colours. Whilst in the same period of time that Birmingham City "supporter", who I've placed in sarcastic quotation marks given a lot of decent Blues fans wouldn't count him as a proper supporter of their club, has witnessed his side continue to drop down the table of Championship obscurity, bare witness to a crumbling stadium that isn't fit for purpose, and also suffer through some truly cringeworthy Peaky Blinders banter which lead to Small Heath Alliance recently succumbing to defeat "by orders of Huddersfield Town".. As tempting as it is, this isn't about burying our neighbors.
Three years to the day, Aston Villa are preparing for an away trip this evening to Elland Road to face the very team who put an end to that ten game winning streak in the most dramatic of ways - Leeds United.. A Leeds United team who shares a recent story not too unlike Villa's. The season following Villa's promotion back to the Premier League, Leeds would of course follow suit, and like Villa, they have also recently parted ways with the manager who took them back to where they feel they belong. Tonight, two big old clubs with passionate fan bases will collide, two fanbases who certainly do not miss their time in England's second tier. Unlike our opponents though, Villa are not in fear of dropping back down anytime soon.
The discussion surrounding tonight's big game mostly centres around whether or not our £27 million left back gets back into the team, and whether Coutinho can recreate his magical display that helped Villa defeat Southampton 4-0 on the weekend, how times have changed huh? It's easy to get caught up in all the negativity when Villa inevitably goes on a poor run, or when Villa lose to the likes of relegation threatened Watford at Villa Park, or even when our hometown boy leaves to join the Premier League champions for a record £100 million fee. But it's in moments like this when we as supporters should really be looking back at the events of three years ago today, to bask in the glory of how far the club has come and how exciting the future still is. Yes, I will continue to relive the events of March 10th 2019 through YouTube highlights and retweets this time every year, and yes, I hope the players from that day continue to remind us all how much it meant to them, and yes I want to keep seeing those images of Jacob Ramsey celebrating in the away end. When we do though, let's also remember to reflect just on how far Villa have come and hopefully how far Villa will go. Hopefully, We all know the rest…
For more on tonight's game with Leeds United, make sure to check out our preview right here: https://www.theavfcfaithful.co.uk/post/aston-villa-vs-leeds-match-preview