This season should be an exciting prospect for every fan, but for young Villans it promises to be the most significant season yet.
Victory in the play-off final is the only real success I’ve ever seen my club have; such is the case for most Villans that are my age. I’d loved to have experienced being a fan when Villa were either competing in or for European football or winning domestic competitions, but this just hasn’t been the footballing journey for younger Villa fans. I am hesitant to echo the same tiresome rhetoric that is wheeled out after every transfer ever, but Aston Villa on grounds of historical context and the strength of its fanbase alone would qualify as being a ‘big club’. So, it’s time for younger fans to see this matched by our ambition for success and progression in the Premier League.
Imagine yourself as a part of my Villan generation, a child of the early 2000’s. The best football you can actually remember watching Villa play in the premier league? Embarrassingly for me it’s probably Tim Sherwood’s side of 14/15. Yes, that same team with such footballing icons as Charles ‘Lifestyle’ N’Zogbia and Kieran Richardson. By some kind of miracle that team stayed up, if carried slightly by a certain Belgian and reached an FA Cup final. Granted they would then get lamped by Arsenal but it’s still the most exciting season I can remember before the present and the closest recently we’ve been to winning a top-tier trophy.
Although Villa were in European competition most recently in 2010/11, I have no real sustained memory of Villa being successful in the premier league, as my footballing memories start around the time of Alex McLeish’s fateful appointment in the summer of 2011. The club hasn’t won a major trophy in my life and although I knew at the time Villa were challenging for Champions League football in often in the 2000’s, I never saw or appreciated it as a young lad. As great as they are, the tale of the 2001 Intertoto Cup win or the recent play off final trophy aren’t close to the major accomplishments of bygone eras. Don’t get me wrong I was ecstatic when El Ghazi shouldered in the opener against Derby and even more so at the final whistle. But the club itself signalled with a lack of any sort of parade that it was expected of us to be back, being a large achievement in terms of the club’s progress but not relative to its history.
Ever since I’ve been of an age where I could follow Villa properly, we had been in gradual decline under Paul Lambert, culminating in a more embarrassing drop than that of Nicholas Helenius’ shorts. Of course, a football club doesn’t have to be winning anything to inspire a connection between fans or to be successful, but forward progress is vital and in the years before this season the club was only going backwards in a disheartening slide. Coming out of a troubled period with the promise of investment along with a capable manager with a clear ambition to compete, new generations of Villans can look forward to hopefully some of the success previous generations have experienced instead of ruefully looking back on former glories.
Get carried away - imagine it:
Les grandes équipes
The mixed language anthem rings out in all of its orchestral glory. It’s Champions league final day, right at the end of the 2021/22 season.
A towering Wesley stares menacingly into the distance not moving his mouth to sing, as Jack Grealish looks on. An aging Lionel Messi looks over at the Villa captain as the teams get in position for kick off. The VAR integrated Robot Referee plays a whistle sound effect from his speakers as he wheels into position and the game begins.
‘Trezeguet; Targett prepared to venture down left. There’s a great ball played in for El Ghazi. It must be. It is! Wesley!’ The BT Sport commentator screams in an uncanny delivery. Chris Purslow grins, as he thinks to himself how good that quote would look, plastered around his new expansion to Villa Park.
Tony Xia’s befuddled words of Villa being a top six team within 5 years now seem like that of a cautious and unambitious man, in fact Villa had made it into Europe’s elite with time to spare. The phrase ‘doing an Aston Villa’ unlike ‘doing a Fulham’ is synonymous with a rapid upturn in footballing success following shrewd and logical transfers. Aston Villa are for the second time after a long wait champions of Europe, as Smith and Grealish hold the trophy aloft from either side.
Obviously, this would be slightly ridiculous!
Ambitions should be tempered in order to avoid another Xia- esque blunder, younger fans shouldn’t and don’t expect a stunning run of domestic trebles and occasional champions league wins within our first years back in the top flight. However, with the right people in place and the right investment, Dean Smith’s side of the next era should be one to remember. Not just for younger fans but for everyone who suffered through the most troubled period in Villa history, a successful first season in the Premier League would serve to keep the optimism around the club’s future going strong. After three seasons in the championship after years of stagnation, even the hope of eventually recapturing former glories means it’s a time for fans to be excited again.