It is painful to read the words Birmingham City other than in obituary form, but please allow for some artistic license in this preview of Villa’s trip to Eastlands. Because this week the unthinkable happened. Birmingham City won a trophy, albeit the League Cup, but they won a trophy nonetheless. This, as every Aston Villa fan will tell you, is not acceptable.
That same trophy counts amongst our most recent “major” honours and it is worth stating at this point that nobody should dare utter the words Intertoto or Peace Cup in the same sentence as the European Cup when referring to our glorious history.
And allow me to go a little Kevin Keegan on you all – I would love it if we won the FA Cup.
That is because the FA Cup is the one true trophy that top sides and big clubs crave. We Villa fans remember fondly our trips to beat Manchester United in 1994 and the demolition of Leeds in 1996 – they were great days out – but ultimately for an inferior trophy. Since then the competition has waned massively and it has become a true micky mouse competition, need I reference the Blues victory further? In short, every sane Villa fan would trade their
fat, whiny lovely wife in for a shot at a superb FA Cup win. The defeat against Chelsea in 2000 still gives me nightmares and our capitulation against that same opposition just last year angers me still. But the true infuriation is that this is the longest period (post-war) that Aston Villa, founders of football, have gone without a trophy.
And what better way to ram the Carling Cup up the rears of every Bluenose than by winning the FA Cup? Because, if we beat Manchester City – we stand to face either Everton or Reading at home. And let’s not forget that Blues are still in this (facing Bolton) – sweet revenge in a real competition may be on the horizon.
Villa head to Manchester City much improved on our last trip north and having beaten them on their recent visit to Villa Park. We also comprehensively despatched of Blackburn in our last Premiership game and displayed a ruthlessness that has been all but foreign to us since, err, we appointed a foreigner and brought a few of our own. We have goals, pace and a blend of youth and experience. Things are certainly not doom and gloom.
And our opposition are not firing on all cylinders. They were frustrated, much like we were, against a resilient and combative Fulham side in their last Premiership outing. But whilst I think that Mancini has his work cut out in gelling a team of individuals, they still ooze talent. Dzeko though, for me, hasn’t yet found his feet. Having seen him play against Villa and in City’s recent demolition of Notts County he looks like he’s a bit off the pace.
City have also looked lacklustre in the Europa League – perhaps the challenges of managing a medium sized squad and competing in multiple competitions has taken its toll. Which is where my optimism rests. Villa are fresh having played just once in 17 days, we are in form and scoring goals. Plus we have the mental advantage that we know we can beat this team.
It is not for one second saying going to Eastlands and beating a team of players of the calibre of City’s is straightforward. That would have been as stupid as, until yesterday, imagining that Arsenal would lose the Carling Cup final. But, these are the types of game and indeed competitions that Villa must begin to win again if we are to ever harbour greater ambitions. As you see, there was honestly in Alex McLeish’s post match words when referring to Birmingham as a small club. They are. That’s as good as it’s going to get for them. Villa are a massive club, it’s time we acted as such.
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