Here we are, the quiet before the storm. Tickets and travel plans. Cautious optimism, nervous anticipation. The week before Villa’s second consecutive Championship Playoff Final. And you can’t say it hasn’t been engrossing, these Championship seasons, whatever we might have thought of the football at times.

Three of them, along with three owners (just), three managers, and now two playoff finals. Near financial collapse and a sudden and unlikely rescue from the brink. A record winning streak, the emergence of a star. Loan players who’ve worked their way into the hearts of Villans, the slow exodus of youth as the academy’s role is re-imagined. A fateful cabbage.

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. A side that doesn’t quit. A side that’s mentally tough and finds a way to win. A side that tries to play on the front foot. A side that doesn’t buckle. A side that looked dead in the water and went on a late run, the kind of run we’ve seen from others and envied. A side that stared into the abyss and didn’t blink or just collect their cheques.

Like Dean, I was annoyed we didn’t win. Seems like we should’ve, with 40-some minutes against 10 men. But Albion are no pushovers and they’re local rivals who were looking to bounce right back up, and do it at the expense of Villa. The Hawthorns was a cauldron of energy driving them on, giving them legs and resolve. A hostile environment, you might say. Trailing 1-2, they’d already lost and so really had nothing to lose.

And Villa were on the ropes, make no mistake. Nerves were on display everywhere and everything they’d worked for looked to be unraveling before our eyes. We were rattled.

So for Villa to not go to the canvas, and instead summon up the composure and self-belief necessary to dash the yam yams’ hopes in their own house, one at a time from the spot under the spotlights…Well, I’d have been celebrating, too. That was a pressure test and they passed.

They’re not perfect, our Villa, by any means: If we go up, there’ll be many changes. If we don’t, same thing. As it stands, this side will only be together for one more match.

But I like this side. I like players that have responded to new methods, tactics and expectations. Players that have wormed their way back into favor. I like that Glenn Whelan proved critics like me wrong, because we needed him to. I like that Neil Taylor rediscovered some confidence. I like that Jed Steer emerged an unlikely hero after it seemed like he was inevitably going to do something to cost us the match and the season. I like that when we fall behind we keep playing. I like that we keep looking to score in the 93rd minute.

I like Mings. I like Axel. Kortney, too. Jack and John. Tammy, who gives his all even when starved of service and chances. I like that Kodjia has accepted a limited role, and still comes on and scores. I like the way Albert has also weathered storms and criticism and does what he’s asked. Jedinak coming on with ice in his veins to score from the spot. I like El Ghazi’s arrogance even when the talent it derives from doesn’t always produce results. I like Conor’s willingness to sit behind Whelan and, like Kodjia, come on to save games instead of pout.

I’ve no idea what happens in the final. Well, not anything I’m willing to put down in words just yet. I’ll save that for closer to the main event.

So while everything’s quiet and the anticipation builds, seems like a good moment to thank the players and Dean Smith for getting us here.

It feels good to be a Villan again. Feels good to believe we have a solid set-up whatever happens. Feels good to have a side we can believe in, however wobbly it might look at times. Feels good to see one of our own finally beginning to fulfill his promise, and one of our own at the helm. Feels good to see some fight and, at times, some really lovely football.

So thank you, Dean. Thank you, Villa. Thank you, Compass.

One more win, and you’ll have etched a spot in the club’s proud history and be part of a side that will be remembered: one that gave long-suffering supporters their club back—and some pride, as well.

That’s what the players and staff were feeling at The Hawthorns: That they’d been asked the hardest question yet, and had an answer. That they might be part of something special. That their destiny is in their hands and they’re capable of seizing it. I’d have been celebrating, too.

Over to you.

Comments 119

  1. JC – All of this from the wreckage purchased by Compass. When a team gives everything and falls short, the fans are forgiving. We must not forget that WBA gave everything over both games and their fans were so proud of them.

    But they lost. Had they played like that for several weeks beforehand, it would have been automatic promotion. Their players left everything out on the pitch. Running on empty at the end. But we won.

    Now there is one hurdle to clear. Our fans are going to invade North London in full regalia. If our players leave everything on the pitch there will be pandemonium next Mon evening.

  2. So true, Plug.

    Give it your all, that’s all we can ask. And I really hope the intensity of the whole game serves Villa well. That felt like a cup final all on its own, so in terms of how much was on the line, and away, I’d like to think it was a great dress rehearsal.

    And Compass really have done a nice job, putting Dean in place, doing the money stuff and just getting out of the way. They made a tough call, and it turned out to be a good one.

  3. So thank you, Dean. Thank you, Villa. Thank you, Compass.

    And thank you AVL. It has been more than a few depressing years followed by the almost unbelievable place we are in now. And this blog really helped us vent and bond (while losing a few on the way). I know its been a challenge to keep it running JC and we are grateful for your efforts.

    Whatever happens on Monday, onwards we go.

  4. Cheers, Villalore.

    It’s always been a pleasure. When circumstances have been challenging in whatever way, AVL has been a good thing for me, too. The cast, like the team sheet, will inevitably change, but perhaps unlike Villa, it’s never been anything but a top-flight side.

  5. And speaking of onwards…

    There’s that funny bit where the Championship has actually been fun. It’s competitive top to bottom. Each season has been meaningful, and there’s a prize that can actually be won.

    I’ll be happy for Villa to be back under the bright lights where we belong. It will happen sooner or later. But as far as purgatories go, I can think of worse.

  6. Speaking as an outsider who only started following the championship and the EFL a few years before Villa went down, I have to agree. The longer season with mid week matches is a leveler for even the better teams, look at Leeds who looked a shoo-in after the first few months.

    We need the PL money but wouldnt it be nice if the top 6 were not a part of it anymore.

  7. Thank you JC,

    A truly superb leader and summary.

    AVL may be down to its bare bones at the moment, but it is great that the few have stood strong and continued, just like our club at one time, but now is strong once more, with the fans standing firm and cheering from start to finish with a sell out stadium. Now, I hope that we will do the same, and maybe, before long, we will have a great support here to continue the humour, discussion and banter that makes this site such a good one.

  8. Villalore, I echo your thoughts. You do a great job JC, always an enjoyable read & great comments to follow. I will try & make more of an effort to add mine. It has been a truly amazing season for us a real rollercoaster but since Dean came in I always believed something special could happen. Whoever we are playing & whatever the scoreline I always believe we will score & it seems the players do too. It’s great that we will see 2 good footballing sides competing in the final & I can’t wait. Whatever happens in Dean we trust. UTV!!!!

  9. There’s a lot of talk between Villa fans about the stats surrounding the play off promotion success rate of those finishing P3, P4, P5 and P6. Final positions P3 and P4 are significantly more successful than P5 and P6. This worries some people.

    Looking over the last 12 games (final quarter of the season) the table would be as follows:

    1) Villa
    2) Norwich
    3) Sheff U
    4) Leeds
    5) WBA
    6) Derby

    So no worries. But on the big day, it could go either way.

  10. Thanks, Costa.

    I have to say, incredible set of comments, every time. I truly enjoy reading through and always learn something. And although a lot of folks don’t comment, there are a lot of readers (from the stats).

    I always encourage anyone and everyone who reads to have a say, positive or negative.

  11. Plug,

    I find the conversation/history of success and placings pretty funny. I mean, it makes some sense, but unless you’re a Leeds who choked down the stretch, I don’t think there’s much to be drawn from it.

    All about when you’re hitting form, really, and how much you want it…the psychology. Dean’s got a good side—it’s just about getting them to be free and go play their best football. Fear is almost always the thing that undoes a team.

  12. The chaos of sin!
    In this case the sin bin, being introduced in the football league.
    Even the goal keeper can be sin binned.
    It’s so ridiculous thatI hope it disappears without trace.
    It’s going to make the game a lottery.

  13. Tension building yet for anyone?
    Had our own little award through work earlier this week which started the week well . . . . . and now hoping by that Villa will finish the week with another win.
    Didn’t manage to get tickets but hoping that all those Villa fans who did will be walking down that avenue away from Wembley with smiles on their faces and uplifted hearts on monday!

  14. r0bb0
    Absolutely mate.
    We’re the Villa, we win!
    Tension? No, only at penalty shootouts, but I knew we were not going to lose, just a bit wearing.
    I expect us to win.

  15. IanG, was talking to a fellow Villan today and he said that he didn’t understand why he was feeling confident. . . . it’s a new experience!
    Not sure if it’s a good or bad thing!!

  16. 4-2 seems a lot more likely than 0-1. Dunno what Derby might be doing differently, but after 0-7 over two matches, I don’t see them keeping a clean sheet.

  17. Hello all. Sorry I don’t contribute much. For some reason I can only log on via my phone via Facebook. Tried several times resetting my password to no avail. As John says there are still several people like myself who constantly read but don’t contribute. Always found this the best site. Never go on TVB as cant stand the owner.

    Looking forward to a Monday although a little nervous but unlike last year a lot more confident. It’s been an absolute joy watching Villa under Dean Smith. Even when we lost we played to win which was so refreshing after the previous manager. As much as we need to go up I must admit I have enjoyed the championship. Just wished the top Four in the premiership would join a European super league giving more a chance to compete. I had the conversation with a friend about it. The bottom 2 from each country would get relegated regardless of their position. Could be in 3rd and 4th in the league and still get relegated.

    The team basically speaks for itself Monday except DM & RM positions.

    Have a great weekend all and let’s hope we are even happy come 5pm Monday. UTV (fingers crossed).

  18. IanG,

    The good news is that Prutton’s predictions will not influence proceedings on the day. He can swivel.


    Last year Spud didn’t set the team up to attack. This year Deano most definitely will. We have a better chance this year because of it.


  19. Haggis,

    Good to see you. I’ll see if I can reset your account, and then send you the details.

    And for anyone else reading who has problems logging on to the site, please let me know and I’ll try and do the same.

  20. Plug
    Last year I was hopeful but not confident, mainly due to Bruce, & the final proved why.
    This year I am expectant rather than hopeful, & feel very little doubt.
    Even if we make a mistake I expect the team to rectify it, as they did at the Baggies by winning the penalty shootout.
    The energy seems to be unified & going in the right direction.
    Also there are a few little trolls, but they are ineffective, & far more positives coming from all over the place, not just Villa supporters.

    JC – when I sign in the process stops on a blank page every time, & I have to restart the page to get the process to continue to fruition.
    It doesn’t make any difference what computer I use, & has been like that since I started posting.

  21. Mings interview on YouTube is amazing. Really intelligent guy. You can only say so much on loan, but he said I love it here…you should know that…I’m still learning as a CH. He made some more comments that if you read between the lines..he’s wants to stay

    Obviously Tuanzebe doesn’t feel the same, but play well on Monday and good luck

    El Ghazi wants to stay and I like him

    Tammy, yes for 25m

  22. IanG…

    Guessing that’s down to permissions…? I can check. I’ve never quite figured out why some links post, for example, and others don’t. Not sure what rules are operating there. Sort of an inscrutable back end, and I’ve never been a WordPress pro.

  23. IanG.

    Yes, and it does that for me, as well (though I think it’s stopped). Never known why. However, I do want to update the theme. If I can get that accomplished over the summer, it might take care of a lot. This is pretty old by now, not sure how well it’s playing along anymore. And I do something new, I’ll know a lot more about it from the off.

  24. VillaMD,

    Do like Mings. And it’s a great situation for him. Getting coached by one of the best, finally getting a run of games, seems genuinely happy and sold on the club.

    Axel I can see wanting to prove himself at United, and fair play. Very curious as to whether Tammy’s worth £25m at the PL level, though I guess that isn’t necessarily “a lot,” anymore.

    I’d keep El Ghazi, as well. A lot of talent, and he’s got pace and power. If he keeps getting coached well and some of the players are upgraded around him…He seems to have gotten more consistent down the stretch.

  25. JC
    Word pro is an antique program, very clunky & the only logic is ancient computer logic.
    The problem is that a new one could alter the whole feel of the site without an enormous level of improvement.
    But it could make innovation a lot easier, more like joined up writing.

  26. IanG,

    Yeah, I’ve tried recruiting a couple guys I know to help, they want nothing to do with WP. But I’ve got another I can try.

    As you say, don’t want to make changes for the sake of changes, but wouldn’t mind a better user experience, places to more easily see/access different kinds of content. If I (or others) manage to generate more stuff about transfers, etc.

  27. JC
    I actually like the simple plain format, & it’s not too busy which keeps the focus on the comments & the fans actual views rather than the wind up of the fake news, especially in the constant clickbait BS in the transfer speculation, as it would take away from the space we currently have.

  28. JC,

    Still never solved the profile picture problem. i.e. I cannot get one to load. It always says that it has done so, but never happens. The delete is the problem, as it seems irreversible.

  29. Thanks John. My phone is ok but poor eyesight fat fingers and predictive text make it a pain to comment on.

    Does AVL have a face book group page where we can post pictures, links , videos etc. That way it’s not all down to you to do the leaders.

    I’m sure the likes of Runtins, SW Villain etc are still reading this site. Sometimes life gets in the way, that’s why I’m grateful for those who still post to keep this site alive. It puzzles my why TVB is so popular when it’s clear that most on there can’t stand the owner.

    Not going to the match The local social club are playing it on a big screen so might go there. Other mates are watching it in Lichfield which was a fantastic atmosphere when I watched the Villa blues game there.

    Where ever you are all watching let’s hope that Villas coming home.

  30. Hello folks back from hols with that need another holiday feeling, must admit as much as its been fun my eyes have been on the Game tomorrow.

    Croatia a strange place as the aftermath of the Balkan war lingers on in hearts and minds, some are happy to have their own country some want the old Yugoslavia and tito’s communism back, One explained that Bosnia has three presidents, we think we have problems? all in all they are mostly taciturn in demeanour like many east Europeans but good people all the same and in the Adriatic. Food good, prices not the worst, weather a bit iffy this may still in 20’s but good in the summer, get yourselves over their they need the money, some parts in the EU some not, youth unemployment at 80% in some place but little crime that I saw, even stand up for their elders on buses 🙂

    No Ticket for Wembley the lad I know could only get one and I think one of the other lads in the Gym supports Derby, the only one I know so reckon he got the nod on a first come first serve basis.

    Off out to eat as got in at 3am and stock up at aldi catch you all later.

  31. Michel Owen has put his oar in, reckons Derby will win.
    About a bad a record at prediction as Prutton, I’m not a fan.

  32. Haggis
    Most of us have a computer or a phone, but a lot more don’t do facebook for a variety of reasons, not least that they’re dangerous at the moment.
    Some links work here, others don’t, so improvement is a good idea if it is possible.
    It needs to be in one place where we can ALL join in, otherwise fragmentation will happen, with the accompanying weakening of groups like this.
    If someone wants to do what you suggest, maybe do another site themselves.
    As this is so good you say, I think we should treasure it not weaken it.
    Also I have had a problem as you with the messages, as some don’t connect at all.

    I had the same problem as PP, as have others in the past, although Mr Seagull appears to have no problem.
    Maybe it’s my picture.
    If you can find someone to play with the software, if it’s a money issue maybe we can all help.

  33. Those with avatar issues. Try saving it on a computer as bmp file. If the size is over 2 MB then some software packages won’t load images due to space restrictions. Try the lowest resolution possible.

  34. Haggis,

    There is an AVL Facebook page, but the geniuses over there have blocked it as they try to clear up the actual bad actors, and my appeal is still pending. Happened once before, and got sorted almost instantly. I’ve only used it to post articles and redirect to the site so that, as IanG says, we don’t get two communities going and everyone going past each other.

    But what you’re saying makes sense. This platform has a functionality for users to create groups, but I had it disabled because it was getting hacked, massively.

    So, as I look around, I’ll see if I can’t find something that balances what I’m hearing from everyone.

    I’ll take a deeper a look, see if I can’t sort some of these things out, or at least understand why they’re wonky/broken. I’ve never had a problem changing my picture, for example, so it’s hard for me to reconstruct. I could see the Facebook login forcing that picture on you.

  35. Oh, and on logins…If you know your previous password, I think you’ll have to send it to me to see if I can reset. I went in to check on yours, Haggis, see if I could change it and send you a new one, doesn’t look like anything’s stored, so I couldn’t put that in to give you a new one. (Or I don’t know how/where to look.)

    I can probably always just delete the account, let you create a new one. Might also work for you, PP. If you send me an avatar, I’ll see if I can load that for you. But I might need your login, as well.

  36. Cheers on the offer, IanG.

    A mate of mine will do it for free…My only fear is losing a bunch of stuff in migrating. I think he’ll have to do a bit of homework first. I should do more homework, as well, obviously.

  37. Hi all, can’t wait for tomorrow. I’m living back in Solihull now & have reserved a couple of tables in O’neills so if anyone is in the neighbourhood pop in. It’s going to be a nerve racking day but I really believe we have enough talent & desire to get the job done. Wherever all the lifers are tomorrow have a great day.

  38. I don’t know a great deal about the web and its workings but might be worth trying different Browsers, I use Opera, pictures no problem but have to refresh page when logging in. Would be nice to have the facility to easily post pictures etc or know that someone’s answering or still alive 🙂

  39. As for the game we have won every must win thrown at us to be here when near full strength, we are at full strength. I know it won’t win us the final but I feel we have the owners, manager and core to do better than Derby would on face value.

  40. Mark
    I tried to put a picture up a while ago on Safari but it didn’t work, & I now use opera so I’ll try that, & I also have to refresh the page again on login.
    Derby fans appear to have wound themselves up like the Leeds fans, such insecurity.

  41. IanG – We have become the Manure or Liverpool of the champs without actually winning anything, they just love to hate us. Wouldn’t mind if we were a load of cheats like some teams I could mention.

    I listened to both managers and the difference for me apart from their differing experience in the role or in football careers is the mental side. Frank wants his side enjoy the Wembley experience while Dean has the exact same approach he always has, keep a level head whether winning or losing so as not to forget your training and lose the plot, its seen us through an awful lot of scenarios lately.

  42. PW- or after 60 with tired legs? Hourihane playing might have some say in alberts selection for a bit more structure, green does disappear at time too.

  43. Not sure Taylor is quite on it today
    Perhaps being left a bit exposed by El ghazi?
    All seems to be coming down that side

  44. Lampard will be telling them to do what they did in the second half against leeds
    We’re going to have to be right up for it at the start of this second half

  45. Fantastic for the owners to be thwre today.
    They have the 3rd highest assets in the premiership behind them and now they will feel the emotion . . . . for Villa!
    It could get exciting

  46. Just watching the scenes…How great for Deano. And all of us. Been so long since there was something to celebrate.

    So very pleased for the supporters today.

  47. Cheers, Paul.

    Was just telling the missus, that’s 144 games in the wilderness, and everyone on here has been fantastic. Huge credit to the club.

    And it’s always an absolute pleasure…

  48. Pam Lard was going ape shitt when Villa managed the game. Dunno why, he got 7 minutes of added on time. Where did that come from? Mings was down for 2 minutes. We must have seen 10 subs!

  49. Well we did it!!!! Have been quietly viewing without posting since the turn of the year. It seemed every time I commented after a good game, we would slip up, so I made the decision to stop jinxing our playoff hopes, then when we made the playoffs didn’t want to jinx that either. Watched the West Brom games on holiday in Egypt with a Scottish lad who supports Man U. He has an app you guys might want to try who have android phones, that he got every game on and its free. Its called Red Glory, I cant get it to work here yet, but then I have an I-Phone and he warned me it might not. Next renewal and its goodbye Apple!!!
    Anyway, I found out my own Mom knows Deano’s Mom they see each other every now then at the Scott Arms Shopping area when they go to the post office, I guess pension day. It really is special having a lad from Great Barr return us to the promised land. can’t wait to see the changes that happen during the summer, and at last we will see the last of dick Turpin too!!!!
    August can’t come quick enough now for me!!!!!

  50. Surely Compass can’t fail to see the possibilities. Thank you again Compass. One year ago today, this was most definitely not in the script.

  51. Haha, Plug.

    Happy days, indeed. Right owners, right manager for the challenge.

    And not to cut things short here, but got a post-match leader up.

  52. Who’s gonna stay and who’s gonna go?
    There’s going to be some fond farewells—Alan and Miles, Adoma and kodjia, Wehlan and Taylor. Most of the rentals and a couple goalies.
    I see the midfield starters for this match staying. Maybe Chester.
    A new back four coming in and an academy bench.
    £174 mil should cover the rest.

    A rebuild of parts of the stadium too.

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