Steven Gerrard arrived as Villa looked at genuine risk of nose-diving into a relegation dogfight. Whilst it was a big call for the club to make, parting ways with Dean Smith was ultimately the right decision made at the right time. Smith, who will always be held in high regard amongst supporters for getting the club out of The Championship and miraculously keeping us up, went straight into a job at Norwich City.
Gerrard instantly turned Villa’s fortunes around, winning every single game since arriving from Rangers, aside from defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City.
2022 will be an intriguing second half of the season, with the opportunity to disrupt the lower upper order of the division on the cards if we can avoid injuries, Covid isolations and maintain form. It’s certainly all to be played for.
January is never the best time to buy, but it will be interesting to see what Villa and Gerrard opt to do in this window.
The squad has plenty of talent and potential, but club CEO Christian Purslow has repeatedly stated the mantra of “continuous improvement”. It’s reasonable to deduce that if the right player emerges, for the right place, that Villa’s ambitious owners could green-light a move.
This blog and it’s writers have been baffled over the years as to just how little Villa’s academy has produced in terms of first team regulars. Indeed, you can almost count on one hand the players who have established within Villa’s starting XI, and from amongst them, only Jack Grealish can truly be considered a genuinely top class footballer who was the envy of others.
Things are changing though, with the clubs regular acquisition of emerging talent domestically and across Europe resulting in Villa finally having something to get excited about.
Whilst Dr Tony Xia’s “Theme Park” never materialised (shock! Horror!), Villa Park is increasingly in need of a face-lift. Whilst few can fault the views and atmosphere of our great stadium, it would be deluded to suggest that there are a number of tired spots around the ground.
Most important is redeveloping the North Stand, last improved in the 1970’s. If Villa Park is to count itself amongs the finest stadiums in Europe and realisitically host major competitions again, then redevelopment needs to occur.
This has and continues to be a protracted matter, with at least the last 3 regimes pondering improvements. It appears that finally to be happening, with planning applications expected imminently, with a view to lifting the ground capacity to around 50,000.
This season Villa have been dealt a tough hand, with a 3rd Round FA Cup draw to Manchester United in early January 2022. It’s a trophy that increasingly few supporters can sadly say they’ve seen Villa win, with our last victory all the way back in 1957. However, stranger things have happened, and with replays for this seasons 3rd Round scrapped due to Covid, we might as well give it everything.
With demand for kits, including retro never higher, we will soon learn of Villa’s intentions in terms of kit supplier.
It’s been a mixed bag in terms of brands, dubious sponsors and kit quality issues over the years. For every perfectly designed Luke1977 shirt there has been a dreadful Hummel monstrosity to bring you back down to earth.
Early rumours seem to suggest a departure from current brand Kappa, and a move to relative newcomer Castore. For now, we shall have to watch and wait!
The winter of 2022 will see football’s most prestigious national team event take place in Qater. The hugely controversial World Cup will take place in winter and result in a mid-season pause of the Premier League (and other major leagues) to accomodate.
The competition will begin on the 21st November and culminate with the final on the 18th December. It marks the first time the lucrative competition will be played in the middle east.
Whilst the details and choice of venue are in places completely unpalatable, it remains the most important and key competition in world football. England have of course infamously not lifted the trophy since 1966 and will be looking to kick on from the anguish of losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy.
The question is, who will be on the plane from Villa’s squad? Tyrone Mings has become a regular under Gareth Southgate but Ollie Watkins doesn’t appear to have cemented himself in the former Villa defender’s thinking. Might anyone else cause a surprise and force their way into the squad? We shall see.
BOXING DAY QUIZ
50 questions to test your Aston Villa knowledge:
#1. In 2021 Matty Cash switched to which European nation and won his first international cap?
#2. Ollie Watkins scored a debut goal for England against which country?
#3. Danny Ings scored an overhead kick against which side in August 2021?
#4. Villa beat Barrow in the EFL Cup earlier this term. What was the score?
#5. Conor Hourihane is currently on loan to which Championship side?
#6. Which defeat proved to be Dean Smith's final match in charge?
#7. Which of Dean Smith's backroom staff remain at the club under Gerrard?
#8. Steven Gerrard won the SPL title with Rangers. How many points did they get?
#9. Academy prospect Cameron Archer began his youth career at which club?
#10. In what year did Villa last lift the League Cup at Wembley?
#11. What did former Villa owner Dr Tony Xia promise to build?
#12. In which US city have Edens & Sawiris registered a new franchise?
#13. Marvelous Nakamba plays for which African nation?
#14. Which Villa defender crashed their £180k Lamborghini in 2021?
#15. Who was the last Villa boss to lose to Birmingham City (2005)?
#16. Steve Bruce had which vegetable thrown at him in October 2018?
#17. Which Villa goalkeeper was at the centre of the "Hawk-eye" incident against Sheffield United (June 2020)
#18. Who is the clubs current record signing? (£35 Million)
#19. Who infamously said about Birmingham City: "I just feel, I've got the feeling, that I just don't like them, that's just the feeling I get from the whole club and the fans.".
#20. Which former striker was so nervous on his Villa Park debut that he vomited on the pitch?
#21. Which midfielder, whilst still a Villa player, owned a double decker bus used exclusively for parties?
#22. Who is the oldest player to have appeared for Aston Villa? (40y 6m)
#23. Who is the youngest Villa player to have appeared in the Premier League? (16y 176d)
#24. Ashley Young now has more Premier League assists than any other Aston Villa player. How many assists has Young managed?
#25. Who scored Villa's first Premier League goal in 1992 in a 1-1 draw with Ipswich?
#26. Which Villa loanee was ruled out for the season after tripping over a sprinkler, at a cost of £1 million?
#27. Which Villa signing never made an appearance for the club?
#28. Which former Villa player was appointed Hibernian manager in December 2021?
#29. Villa beat Crystal Palace on Boxing Day in 2020 - what was the score?
#30. What object was reportedly thrown from the crowd during Villa's European Cup win over Bayern Munich in 1982?
#31. What is the last "trophy" that Villa won?
#32. Stilyan Petrov scored a goal from the half-way line against which team? (2008)
#33. Which manager was in charge for Villa's heaviest defeat (8-0) to Chelsea in December 2012?
#34. Who has the lowest win rate of any Aston Villa manager (10%)?
#35. Villa were top of the Premier League on Christmas Day (1998) - Who was in charge?
#36. Which outfield player went in goal after an injury to Nigel Spink at Highbury in 1991?
#37. Which player has the most appearances for Villa? (414)
#38. Mark Bosnich controversially signed for which club in 1999?
#39. Dwight Yorke left Villa for Manchester Utd, for what transfer fee?
#40. Villa bought Ross McCormack from Fulham for what Championship record fee?
#41. Which player scored the decisive penalty to send Villa to the playoff final in 2019?
#42. How many consecutive league games did Villa win to reach the Championship playoffs in 2019
#43. Villa beat Liverpool 7-2 in October 2020 - Which player scored a hat-trick?
#44. Villa joint owner Wes Edens owns which American basketball team?
#45. What is the net worth of Villa's joint owner Nassef Sawiris?
#46. Steven Gerrard captained Liverpool to a Champions League Final win in which city?
#47. Villa defeated which side to win the Intertoto Cup in 2001?
#48. Villa signed Juan Pablo Angel for £9.1m in 2000 from which club?
#49. Benito Carbone signed on loan from which Premier League club in 1999?
#50. How many times have Villa been English league champions?