Sometimes, substitutions can fail miserably. We've seen some examples of that recently. But when they work and the player brought on makes an impact, it can have a match-defining effect. We've been lucky to see a good example of that just a few days ago. After Tuesday's win, I decided to ask the 7500 to Holte staff about their favorite performances from a player coming off the bench.
Q: Aston Villa beat Birmingham City in the League Cup thanks in part to some halftime substitutions. What is your favorite instance of someone coming off the bench and helping Aston Villa turn around a match?
Marlon Harewood. Say no more.
Is anyone going to be mad if I come at this from an unorthodox angle? I hope not, because I'm going to say Tim Sherwood in the FA Cup against Leicester in February. It turns out that a lot of the reason I loved it may be null and void, but at the time you may remember that Villa were coming off of an embarrassing 2-0 loss to Hull. Paul Lambert had been fired and we knew that Sherwood was the man to take over Villa. There was a bit of hope, but we were going to have to wait one more match to see what Sherwood could do.
And without Sherwood Villa looked just as badly as they did against Hull. Uninspired, boring, and just as likely to lose as to win. Timmy was glaring from the stands and stormed off to yell at the team at halftime. When they came back out, it was as if we had an entirely new squad. Villa played with passion and the played well, and they scored two goals (something they had only done twice that season). Apart from the win, it felt like maybe Villa would be safe and maybe we could even hope for more.
I can't remember any other halftime change so thoroughly altering the way I thought about the team, so that gets the nod from me.
I still have a sneaking affection for Emile Heskey (vague memories of him at his Leciester and Liverpool best) and on his debut in 2010 he helped turn round one of Gerard Houlier's first matches in charge. We were losing against Blackburn in the Carling Cup, he came on and scored almost instantly and helped set up the third goal as well in a 3-1 win. It was a pretty bad time after O'Neill walked out on the club and it didn't get a lot better but it was glimpse of what might have been.
I wasn't even born yet...but the correct answer has to be Nigel Spink coming off the bench in the 9th minute after an injury to starting goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer in the 1982 European Cup Final. In just his second ever appearance for Villa, Spink had a blinder in his 80-plus minutes in between the posts, kept a clean sheet against a Bayern Munich team that had Karl-Heinz Rummenigge leading the attack, and helped Aston Villa lift the European Cup in Rotterdam. Spink would go on to play almost 400 matches at Villa over the next 15 years, but his substitute appearance in that match is folklore for all Villa fans.
I'm going to give my vote to the plethora of amazing sub performances by Aston Villa legend Jordan Bowery. I mean, which one can you even pick?
In all seriousness, despite it coming in a losing effort, mine might actually be Adama Traoré's debut. Maybe this is recency bias, but I've never been quite so amazed by the immediate impact a substitution made. I'm not sure if that says worse things about my memory or about how many recent managers have had trouble figuring out what to do with substitutions.
Those are our answers and now we want to hear from you. Who are your favorite Aston Villa super subs?