I'll be honest; I know very little about Aston Villa's 3rd Round FA Cup opponent Bristol Rovers. I know that Nick Frost was wearing a Rovers shirt in Hot Fuzz, I know they just fired their manager and I know Ian Holloway spent 11 non-consecutive seasons playing there. They play in League Two and they've been members of the Football League since 1920 (though they've come close to relegation to Conference on a few occasions.) They presently sit 19th of 24 teams in League Two, and they've lost four consecutive league games by a combined score of 14-5. They're a bad team even within the context of the fourth tier of English football, in other words. And that's about all I know of them.
But with all respect due to Rovers and their fans (who have a reputation as some of the most loyal and exuberant in England) that's probably more than any of us need to know in order to form our expectations. This team is, in every sense of the word, a minnow and though Villa aren't exactly giants at the moment a failure to advance here would be a pretty massive embarrassment. Even the most pessimistic of Villa fans (and good lord are they out there) cannot realistically expect anything other than a comfortable victory, especially given Alex McLeish stating that he would be bringing a full-strength side to Memorial Stadium. That doesn't mean we're going to see a fully first-choice staring XI, but it does mean we'll be seeing numerous first-choice players and several others that have spent a fair amount of time on the pitch.That means (hopefully) we'll see players like Barry Bannan, Nathan Delfouneso, Ciaran Clark, Gary Gardner and -maybe, just maybe- Enda Stevens get a run out. That's a big part of the reason games like this are so much fun, assuming they go well; Villa's first match of last season's FA Cup was where we got our first look at Kyle Walker, for example. The second-round League Cup tie against Hereford gave us this divine moment. But given the way things are going right now, that's a lot less important to me than seeing Villa beat the everloving crap out of a League Two side. This is just an unpleasant time to be a Villa fan, for numerous reasons, and the one unquestionably great feeling of the season was wiped away less than 48 hours later. I'm more than okay with being the big, mean bully in this case.
And that's what we should expect. Anyone saying anything about how Villa are somehow ripe for a giant-killing is off their nut. Could it happen? Yes, of course it could. Anything can happen. But it's not anywhere close to being at all likely, and I have a hard time believing anyone that's intelligent enough to work a keyboard really thinks so. This kind of thing is called "hedging" and it's something doomsaying sports fans down all the time. It's beyond annoying.
So, here's to a romp. It wouldn't mean all that much in the long run, but it sure would feel good. Even if it makes Nick Frost sad.