Merry Christmas 2021: Villa Unwrapped – Smith, Grealish, Gerrard & New Beginnings

Christmas

Merry Christmas & Seasons Greetings from The Villa Underground!

2021, a strange year I’m sure you’ll agree, marked the tenth anniversary of our website and social media channels. Through this time we’ve charted the highs and lows of following Aston Villa football club, whilst ensuring that nothing is taken too seriously at the same time!

Thank you for visiting, reading, replying and subscribing in 2021.

This was also the fourth year of Ugly Christmas Jumpers. What started as a bit of a joke, became a reality that annually now results in many a Villa fan sporting the worst festive attire known to humanity. The Villa Underground (unfortunately) now runs this competition each year, ensuring that dreadful AVFC sweaters are raising eyebrows around the Christmas dinner table from Aston to Alabama.

This year was no different and proved to be another sell-out year as well as including another (un)lucky winner.

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2021 sadly felt like a protracted playbook for 2020, with many supporters end of year travel plans disrupted by Covid. Despite the impact of the pandemic affecting fixtures, The Villa Underground managed to catch up with The Arctic Lions ahead of matches against Liverpool and Norwich. If the last couple of years has taught us anything, it’s under-lined the importance of keeping closer ties to friends, family and the Villa.

Spotlight: Arctic Lions: No Pyro, No Party

ALL CHANGE

2021 saw a big change in the psyche of the club, which following promotion had enjoyed a resurgence of a much needed connection to the local fanbase. It wasn’t all plain sailing.

Jack Grealish joined Manchester City for a domestic record fee of Β£100m. It proved to be the inevitable outcome of a distracting saga and one which divided supporters on his return to Villa Park in December.

Dean Smith struggled for form and to adapt Villa’s system to new arrivals. The lifelong Villa fan and man who lead the club out of the Championship fell foul to tinkering, injuries and being surrounded by a multitude of voices in the dugout. Smith was sacked after a run of dismal performances, 5 straight defeats in all, culminating in a dour defeat to Southampton, which proved to be the end of his tenure.

Smith can be credited with turning around a side that was truly woeful under Steve Bruce, securing promotion via the playoffs after a 10 game winning streak and miraculously retaining PL status the following season.

Villa moved swiftly to secure a replacement, plucking former England international and European Cup winner Steven Gerrard from Scottish Champions Rangers. Gerrard joined Villa having guided Rangers to an undefeated SPL Championship the previous season that included a 100+ points haul. It’s certainly a case of so far, so good.

The Villa Underground maintains a strong Scottish contingent through Dundee Villa:

Spotlight: From Ward End To Wembley (via Dundee)

2022 & Beyond

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The remainder of the season brings both opportunity and uncertainty in equal measure.

Covid continues to impact fixtures, as well as our daily lives. How this ultimately pans out, is anyone’s guess. The Villa Underground continues to watch this closely, as whilst we all love our football, it cannot come to the detriment of supporter or player safety.

For Gerrard and Villa though, the future on first impressions appears bright indeed. The new manager has brought not just the needed upturn in league form but a welcome winning mentality too.

The likes of McGinn, Ramsey and Nakamba are early beneficiaries of the former Liverpool captains style of management.

It will be exciting to see where Gerrard can take Villa this term and also how the club chooses to use the January transfer window as a springboard for success.

CHRISTMAS PODCAST PART 1

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a festive instalment of the MOMS podcast.

Part 1 is available just in time for the big day – we hope that you enjoy!

Also available on Apple Podcasts and other places you get your podcasts!

THANK YOU (AGAIN)

Thank you again for your support since 2011 and for stopping by these pages in 2021. It never ceases to amaze just how many reach out with a funny comment, seek out an Ugly Christmas jumper or make the effort to meet and share stories over a beer.

Merry Christmas, stay safe and Up The Villa!