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Dave's Villa Blog



Dave Woodhall looks back at a few days which have seen some important games and the prospect of Aston being twinned with Blackburn.

Not a bad few days at all. A draw with Spurs was in truth a bit lucky, but it showed we can battle away against opposition who, on the day at least, were the better team. Then came the FA Cup third round draw, which surprisingly didn’t feature the words “will play Aston Villa.” Bert Millichip’s influence is obviously wearing off at long last and a home tie with Blackburn should be easily winnable. Talking of which....

Portsmouth on Tuesday night was the next stage of what’s turning into a promising cup run. Villa’s sold-out allocation of travelling supporters (over 3,000 down to the south coast three weeks before Christmas; full credit to every one of them) witnessed a comfortable 4-2 win over a Pompey side who didn’t seem to be taking the competition too seriously but still had to be beaten.

This was followed the following night by Blackburn’s surprise win on penalties against Chelsea, a match which gained in importance when we were drawn against the winners, with the first game away. A two-legged semi-final against Blackburn should be equally winnable.

The League Cup might not be the most glamorous of competitions but it’s one which has a special place in the heart of every Villa supporter with even a passing interest in the club’s history. First winners of the trophy in 1961, the semi-final against Manchester United and final versus Spurs ten years later, the Ron Saunders-inspired successes of 1975 and 1977 and the memorable afternoons under BFR and Brian Little in the nineties. Great occasions all.

This season the League Cup might prove equally valuable. Ever since 2008-09 fizzled out things at Villa Park have seemed a bit flat. Irrespective of league placing there’s a body of opinion that suggests Martin O’Neill might have reached his comfort zone and we need some fresh impetus. This doesn’t have to come from a new manager; a couple of big-name signings can do the job perfectly. As can a Wembley final, and a lot cheaper.

The ground certainly seemed livelier on Saturday, when a surprisingly high crowd of just under 40,000 saw Villa get off to a good start with two early goals against Hull. The team then preferred to play within themselves for the rest of the match rather than go flat-out for goals, which is understable given the amount of big games coming up over the next few weeks.

Stewart Downing seems to have settled in already and James Milner may have found his natural role in central midfield. I didn’t think we were good enough to finish in the top four at the start of the season, but I might be changing my mind.



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