Players like distraught on the pitch, fans desperately trying to reconnect with fleeting figures at Wembley Stadium amidst raucous celebrations.
Welcome to the first day of the rest of your existence, Aston Villa.
The Championship play-off final was a matchup that both Villa, and their counterparts, Fulham needed to win. If Fulham had failed to beat AVFC, they’d have lost their coach, Slavisa Jokanovic, their star men - Aleksander Mitrovic, Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon. If Villa lost the game, they wouldn’t have just squandered key players, their current identity would again lay in tatters. At the very least, Fulham have a base to build from, with Villa’s loss in the play-off final - I’m pretty sure there’s no base to build upon. Apart from Jack Grealish, who at this point has a strong argument for leaving the club within a season. There’d be a foundation here - but how steady is it going to be?
Truth be told, despite what the club has said about this season being a challenge when it comes to fitting within financial fair play requirements, I can’t help but think that the dream is in tatters. Losses need to be covered in a season where promotion isn’t just a nice thing for us, but a must for the club.
Managerial change is the pressing issue of the day - and for once, I have no idea what the correct idea is. Do you turf out Steve Bruce and the culture he has built? Do you potentially trade that spirit for good football, yet more turbulence behind the scenes? I don’t know. I wish I knew. I wish I could have been as so bold to work with Alex on building a list of 75 managers I’d like, again, but I don’t even know where to start.
As for the players? We’ve instantly lost a number of performers that we can’t replace. I’m not sure how the club will be able to cope within the constraints of FFP. I’m glad some people have an idea as to how, but for me? I’m a religious zealot in the age of Galileo. I have no clue and this is all beyond me, and it scares me. There is no meaning that I can dig out of any of this.
Where do we go from here? Don’t ask me. I’m not even sure the club know, just yet. That Tom Cairney goal was a gut-punch that we all suffered. I’m still reeling.
What do I have to hold onto? Not just the team spirit that this club has built behind the scenes, but also the growing camaraderie of Aston Villa fans, willing to chip in and support each other. These defeats? They will only make success taste greater. May that taste live long on our tongues.