I’ve seen Villa mocked a bit for their celebrations following the dramatic shootout victory at The Hawthorns. But when you think of all that’s happened, all that the players and supporters have been through, you can’t begrudge them one bit. It was a feat worth celebrating. A moment worth cherishing. No, we didn’t win any silverware, didn’t claim promotion. But what we did celebrate on the night was long overdue.
It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but Aston Villa found a way through Albion’s bus-park to gain a critical 2-1 advantage in leg one of the playoff semifinal. Another fightback, and a return to winning ways in a game that counted. This team doesn’t have much quit in it. In days past, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see Villa walk away on the wrong end of an 0-1 scoreline.
Here we are again, three games between another season in the Championship or a return to the big stage. And if Villa want it enough and go play like it, I’d not bet against them.
Eleven games back, I don’t know that anyone would’ve said we’d be playing this last fixture, never mind the one before, safely ensconced in the playoff spots. But we’re back where we were last May, and what looked an intimidating way to finish the season has instead turned into a management exercise for Dean Smith. Expectations. Momentum. Sharpness. Albion. These will be the things on Smith’s mind, and no doubt the players’.
A juicy enough fixture today, and Dean Smith is fielding a full-strength side, with the exception of Tammy Abraham.