Welcome to Boxing Day! The Villa Underground hopes you are having a pleasant festive period.
We’ve brought together some casual reading for anyone feeling a little delicate, as well as putting together an Ultimate Villa Boxing Day Quiz.
7 THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO
- Gerrard’s Progress In 2022
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.
2. January TransfersEmbed from Getty Images
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.
There is plenty of transfer rumour already, with tabloid speculation that Gerrard will raid his former club Rangers. The question also is; which peripheral figures might go the other way to make room?
3. Emergence of YouthEmbed from Getty Images
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.
Will 2022 be the year that Cameron Archer and Louie Barry break through? And can Villa match Carney Chukwuemeka’s ambitions and convince the midfielder to sign a long term contract at the football club?
4. Villa Park FaceliftEmbed from Getty Images
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.
5. Silverware: A Cup, perhaps?Embed from Getty Images
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.
6. New Season, New Kit Supplier?Embed from Getty Images
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!
7. World Cup: QatarEmbed from Getty Images
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: