Regardless of what happens this evening against Manchester United, it’s been a momentous week for Aston Villa, But not momentous in the way fans would like.
Their last gasp win at Swindon in the Artist Formerly Known As The Carling Cup followed by the slightly surprising win away to Sunderland means that for the first time since the ecstasy of beating Hereford in the second round of the Carling Cup one magical night in August 2011, they have won two competitive games in a row. Here’s a look at that run.
To somewhat defend the Villains, the ‘two wins in a row’ stat does hide the fact they won a few games in a short spell, but not actually in succession. To immediately snatch away that crumb of comfort, they’ve won just 12 of their 52 games since winning those two games in a row back in August of last year. That’s not good enough.
It’s hard to do justice to how big an indignity it is for Villa. They’ve had plenty of lean spells in the recent past, but going thirteen months without managing back to back wins must be deeply unpalatable for a club that only a few seasons back were dreaming of a Randy Lerner sponsored tilt at the Champions League.
That dream looks to be have been abandoned with the owner apparently less enamoured with pumping money into the club. Although last season’s flirt with relegation was considered to be a once-off anomaly, already it looks like the unwanted relationship is about to be rekindled. You have to go back to the Gerard Houllier reign and the end of the 2010/11 season for the last time they won two league games on the bounce.
That’s incredible. For football fans of a certain age, it’s probably worth pointing out that the star on the club’s logo refers to their European Cup win, not the club’s fondness for astronomy. Yes kids, that’s the European Cup, more commonly known as the Champions League. Villa won it in 1982. OMG! LOL! SMH! and other text speak it feels kind of like ‘grooming’ to use.
Possibly more frustrating for fans is the inconsistency. They gave Chelsea a sound thumping at Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Eve last, but undid that good work by losing at home to Swansea three days later. Even this season they went to the Etihad Stadium and beat Manchester City. Yes it was the league cup, but they all count when you’re clutching at straws.
When they duelled with Manchester United for the first ever Premier League title down the closing stretch of the 1992/93 season, Aston Villa had the same number of league titles as their rivals (7). Twenty years later, there’s a difference of 12 and only the feeling that number will increase.
Tonight, even with home advantage, they are big underdogs and a win would be considered one of the shocks of a season. That really will feel criminal for the Villains’ faithful.