4-0 vs Derby, 1-0 vs Blues, 3-1 vs Forest, 3-0 vs Boro, 2-1 vs Blackburn, 3-1 vs Wednesday, 2-1 vs Rotherham, 2-1 vs Bristol and 2-0 vs Bolton…
Nine wins. Nine. For the first time since 1910. No living villa fan has ever seen a Villa team in such good form. Over the last 10 games, we are the most in form team in Europe, one point above Manchester City. This has come at the perfect time, with a late charge into the playoff places leaving us with the prospect of battling in a two legged tie against the Baggies for a spot at Wembley.
After the 1-1 at Stoke, Villa were struggling in the bottom half of the table, any hopes of promotion in tatters. I had accepted a seemingly inevitable mid table campaign like that of 2016/17, yet galvanised by the return of beloved captain Jack Grealish, we have pulled off the unimaginable. If anyone had told us on the 23rd of February that in 8 weeks we’d be celebrating a 9th win in a row, any one of us would have laughed in their face. Although at the time it would’ve seemed ridiculous, we now sit in 5th, having all but secured a playoff place.
Dean Smith has more than proven himself as a coach in my eyes, and he and his backroom team have developed a brilliant dynamic, which more than contributes to the behind the scenes mentality of the club. When John Terry was announced as Smith’s assistant, there were more than a few murmurs about whether or not this would impact the staff, especially the duo of Smith and O’Kelly, who have worked with each other for the majority of their coaching careers. Even after a few months, the shaky defence led many to question what Terry was doing behind the scenes.
However, these fears have been proved absolutely and unequivocally wrong. The defence has been shored up, and his 1 to 1 work with the likes of Tyrone Mings has done nothing but boost his confidence. On top of this, his presence is a major impact on the younger players in the squad, such as Tammy Abraham, who knows him from Chelsea.
The backroom team also appears to have a strong camaraderie, and the squad shares this too. This Villa side has such a feel good factor, and Smith’s love of the Villa definitely plays a part in my eyes, knowing that he is well and truly living the dream. It means that his loyalty to the team simply can’t be questioned. I personally feel like we are in a better position now than this time last year, which is nothing short of miraculous considering where we were last summer (cheers Tone).
Now it’s time to mentally prepare ourselves for an emotional rollercoaster. 6 weeks of ups and maybe some downs, but hopefully ending in a successful trip to Wembley. While last year we fell at the final hurdle, our last 9 games mean that whatever happens between now and the playoffs, as long as we’re in that top 6, we’re the team to fear. Nobody wants to face the mighty Aston Villa.
Who will we face? Leeds, Sheffield Utd, Baggies, Bristol or Boro?.. Frankly I don’t give a damn! I would back these boys against any side in this division, and I know there are thousands of others who would also.
So, for the next 6 weeks, the task is clear. Can this squad, arguably stronger, and definitely far better tactically than last year, banish the demons of last May and take the mighty Aston Villa back to where we belong? I sure hope so! Whatever happens, we’re in for another wild ride, if heart can take it.