After a bitterly disappointing defeat in 2018, we were left to
pick up the mess from the Tony Xia regime, following a 1-0 loss to
Fulham in the playoff final. This meant facing up to the prospect of not even
knowing whether the clubs future was financially secure. Eventually, Wes Eden’s and Nassef Sawiris came to our rescue and the first question was whether Steve Bruce was the right man to take us forward. Ultimately, a stray cabbage would mark the end of his regime in October.
Then returned a Holte hero with John Terry coming back as the
assistant manager alongside Dean Smith who took up the managers
vacancy, a man who many had wanted through his impressive strategic
vision with a free flowing Brentford team. Then the new era embarked
on a mesmeric journey capable of captivating any Villa fan. Villa park changed from having a particularly substandard and disorientated feeling surrounding it, to being a cauldron of excitement and
and a resurgent recipe for success.
10 games, 10 wins and the dream was well and truly alive.
Up next, one game, ninety minutes and a heated clash between two
Championship powerhouses battling it out for Premier League Status. The Baggies were forced to go home in tears, after Jed Steer pulled off penalty heroics that will be remembered for years to come.
After beating the Baggies in the playoffs I was confident
heading into the Derby game and the perfect bank holiday weather only strengthened my resolve.
Everything was just coming together so nicely in those final few months with the immense Tyrone Mings at the back, Jack Grealish captaining the side and returning from injury, seemingly leading the pack to glory. John
Mcginn with his incredible energy and tenacious application alongside
the leading talisman Tammy Abraham pulling the strings up top,
registering twenty five plus goals throughout the campaign.
One thing I remember before kickoff was a video that surfaced via one
of the players Instagram accounts. It showed a mass crowd of Claret
and Blue filled tops all around the main club coach as it headed
towards Wembley, with a party and carnival like atmosphere. All the
players if they weren’t feeling the passion from the supporters
beforehand, then they almost certainly would have been appeased and
attentive for the magnificent backing on the day afterwards.
The team news came out at two o’clock and I would say it was the team
that everyone would have expected with no real surprise absentees, and
a full strength team to fulfill the job that was the primary objective
in order to take the club back to where it belongs. The nerves were
then hard to contain, the emotions a complete mess yet I knew that the
team had it in them. The game started as a tight affair with both sides determined not to make an early mare and taking their time to work the opposition out in the opening half hour.
A quick flash of excellence after a tidy interchange from Albert Adomah and Ahmed Elmohamady then allowed the opening goal of the game to be in our favour; Anwar El Ghazi throwing himself at a header, after Elmohamady picked out a pinpoint delivery where the winger beat the opposing player to make the telling
Then after half time, El Ghazi, who had the beating of Jayden Bogle the
entire afternoon found himself on the right hand side; before
finessing the ball into an uncompromising position for Kelle Roos,
where Mcginn then unknowingly had the final touch with Roos spilling
it knocking it onto the Scottish international, the ball trickling into the net.
Limbs, bedlam, pandemonium.
This felt like we had the game in the bag yet with Villa nothing is easy,
Jack Marriot grabbing a way back into the game for the Rams making it
2-1 with ten to go; a nervy ending then came and there was no
immediate respite when Mings had to go off with an injury. I recall
desperately wanting to feel the jubilation of hearing the final
whistle which would all but confirm our place back in the Premier
Then after three years away from the big time we were back, the
whistle went and after a roller coaster ride alongside an immense
effort from all involved. The players had played their
hearts out and the supporters had been behind them eevery step of the way.
Also the owners who gave the club a new found purpose and helped
correct what Tony Xia couldn’t do and build on a solid foundation with
a squad that was able to achieve the required aspirations alongside
appropriate recruitment. A managerial change allowing an attacking
style and a strongly embodied winning mentality to take us all the
When I look back on some of the most meaningful and impactful
experiences of my life then the Playoff final for all the drama and
importance of the day will be right up there. A narrative worth
millions on its own so to turn up and get the job done this time
around; to erase those painful recollections by replacing it with the
jovial nature of being successful is quite timely and fitting.
What a day, what a club.