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Anticipation, nerves and heartbreak: The life of an underdog

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Aston Villa play Sunday in the FA Cup Semi-Final. It's going to be a beautifully nervous day. And we're gonna win. I think.

Villa fans celebrate Scott Sinclair's second in the quarter-final win over WBA.
Villa fans celebrate Scott Sinclair's second in the quarter-final win over WBA.
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Sunday will be a beautiful day.

One game. One chance. One opportunity to make history.

It's a feeling I've only felt a few times in my life.

A couple years ago, my high school's basketball team made it to the state semi-finals. This year, Notre Dame made it to the Elite Eight to battle Kentucky.

Both times? My teams encountered the agony of defeat, falling in one-possession games, with a late-game heave going unanswered.

It's that heartbreak, that feeling that brings us back to sport.

Where Aston Villa are concerned? There's been a hell of a lot of unhappiness over the last five years.

But Sunday? It only represents hope.

I've tried to talk myself into the, "I'm just happy to have our day out," camp. I really have.

But I just can't, man. What a huge, huge game this is for our club.

When kick-off rolls around Sunday, I know the nerves are going to hit. We'll be 90 minutes from the FA Cup Final.

Like, THE FA Cup Final.

The most prestigious cup competition in the world. And Aston Villa are in the semi-finals. This is going to be fun.

But the thing is? We've got a real shot to win this thing. Christian Benteke is being Christian Benteke again. Tim Sherwood is running up and down the touchline like a mad man.

Does anything else matter? Nothing else matters. Definitely not.

Being the big underdog in a spot like this has always been a weird one. You've got that mix of a hope your team doesn't get played off the pitch — like, say, Bradford City did in the Capital One Cup Final a couple years back — and that feeling that, yeah, you're going to win it, that you believe in your boys.

We feel like we've got something to prove as a club. We'll hear in the build-up how we can't contain Liverpool, how we can't possibly compete with the Reds on the pitch in a huge match.

And we know it's wrong.

But our sports fandom is so much of who we are. That's why I'm writing this. That's why you're reading this. That's why we spend a few hours of every single damn weekend watching the usual disappointment of Aston Villa.

Claret and blue?

That's what we bleed. That's what we are.

So when we take the pitch at Wembley on Sunday, we've got something to prove.

Let's get 100% behind the lads. No matter the selection, formation or how imposing the Liverpool supporters are.

It's going to a beautiful day.

A couple hours before, it'll kick in. The nerves.

The worst part? It's almost all out of our hands.

You know that silly meme all those "parody" accounts tweet after a team gets a big win with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street?

"[Insert team name here]'s fans when they walk into work on Monday!" they exclaim.

It's silly, sure, but I mean… if Villa win Sunday, you'd better believe I'm walking into class on Monday in full Villa regalia. There's sure to be a wannabe Scouser in my 8:20 class.

But you know what?

Above all else, I'm tired of Villa being a laughingstock of English football.

When I tell kids I'm a Villa supporter, they laugh at me. They tell me how sorry I am. And I take it because, well, what retort do I have?

Until Sunday evening.

When I'll be able to tell everyone about how my club is playing for the FA Cup in May.

Up the Villa.

(It's the hope that kills us, isn't it?)