Survival, Bye Bye Burnley, Wembley & Beyond. #avfc #clarets

And so concludes a terrifying league season.  Villa, in a style we have patented, secured safety last week after making huge strides in our play…by succumbing to an absolute drubbing at the hands of Southampton.  Many paragraphs have been written analysing the root cause of that.  It was quite simply a horrendous day at the office.

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Indeed, it shouldn’t detract from what has been a remarkable turnaround.  A team that I was almost convinced would be relegated at the hands of Lambert has somehow dragged itself kicking and screaming to safety.  We have done it without experiencing an immediate “lift” from a managerial appointment, rather a steady improvement throughout the team.  Terrifying, unpredictable but it’s worked.

Burnley, by contrast, took the other fork in the road.

Goals dried up, their spirit sapped and with the resurgence of teams around them have slipped away somewhat meekly.  Barring a surprise win against Man City and a “too little too late” victory over Hull, they have been on a disastrous run.  It just shows how a teams stock and chances can alter across a season.

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The game will inevitably have an end of season feel to it, but it will serve a few worthwhile purposes.  We obviously have an FA Cup final next Saturday.  It will be interesting to see whether certain figures are risked, or, if included, how much exertion they put in.  This is a tricky one to gauge, as Sherwood doesn’t permit passengers – but – we will need our full armory against the Gunners.  Avoidable injuries are certainly to be discouraged.

It may also serve as the last appearances for Benteke and Cleverley.  Whilst I think we have as good an opportunity as any to secure the latter – I fear this could be last time the exceptional Belgian graces Villa Park in claret and blue.  I loathe the idea of him playing for another Premiership side, but I don’t begrudge him the opportunity to play and win trophies at the very highest level.  He has, single handedly at times, kept us in games and the division for the duration of his time at the club.  I just hope he recognises that playing for a club like, say Liverpool, would be an absolute waste of time.  Look no further than Raheem Sterling’s desperation to flee.

On the other side of the coin Burnley will presumably be playing for contracts and inclusion in next seasons promotion push.  Therefore, I expect this to be a decent contest from the opposition, likely backed by a vocal travelling contingent.  It will be good banter, especially at a sold out Villa Park now relieved of the possibility of relegation…a revelation in itself.

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Whilst a positive result is naturally desirable, it does allow for some reflection on the turnaround, our survival and what an unbelievable job Sherwood and his team have done.

Given where we were, a thrashing last weekend aside, the fact that we have not been relegated is a real achievement.  Arguably miraculous given we conspired to surrender victory to Stoke & QPR and  lost to both Swansea & Newcastle following Sherwood’s appointment.

It’s a real sad state of affairs that this is how low, how poor and how inevitable that at Lambert’s sacking it seemed a foregone conclusion.  On the other hand, it is reasuring that we have figures such as Tom Fox, who willing to make the big calls in both rectifying problems and sourcing the right people to correct them.  This is refreshing.

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Did I think it was too late?  Certainly.  Was I convinced with Sherwood?  Not remotely.  Further evidence if you needed it that sometimes we buy into media rhetoric and, somewhat obviously, see the world through the eyes of a football fan.  The big decisions are now being made by a Chief Exec with both vision and some level of objectivity.

In a welcome twist we are in with a shout of winning the FA Cup.  An amazing achievement in itself.  A run that saw us emphatically dispatch local rivals, beat the Championship winners [at our worst] and hammer a nail into the myth that Liverpool will contend for anything anytime soon.  If Villa bring home the cup, it shouldn’t be understated or played down.  Few have seen us compete for the trophy since 1957, let alone come within 90 minutes of putting it back into it’s rightful place; our glorious trophy cabinet.

And what will the summer bring?  A seemingly inevitable sale of the club by Randy Lerner?  Uncertainty with our new manager before he’s even got started?  Transfers?  All will become clear I’m sure.

Roll on next season, first up Burnley (hopefully in the sunshine…) and then, to Wembley!

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