A week after the battling draw at Stoke, Jack Grealish returned and whilst we told ourselves not to get too carried away, we knew things could now improve and they did in astonishing fashion.
Frank Lampard’s playoff chasing Derby were the first in line for a resurgent, hungry Villa and were blown away in one of the most dominant first half performances ever seen at Villa Park – a 4-0 win and a Grealish wondergoal marked the return of the good times.
Saturday 16th April 2016. A painful date etched into the minds of all Villa fans; the day that a solitary Marcus Rashford goal confirmed Aston Villa’s relegation from the top flight for the first time in 28 years leading Joleon Lescott to infamously describe it as a “weight off our shoulders”.
Combined with Randy Lerner’s increasingly remote, seemingly apathetic ownership, a succession of failed managers and a scattergun mass recruitment drive of players that never gelled into a team (many of whom have since built successful careers elsewhere) and Villa’s once touted “bright future” looked like a distant, crumbling memory.
Finally the last day of the season has arrived and it’s not for the faint hearted nor for any fan who who can’t tolerate the chaotic and frantic tension that will surely be increasing all of our heart rates.
In recent times, any day that includes a ‘y’ has brought stress and anxiety to many Aston Villa supporters but this Sunday will bring nerves and tension to living rooms and pubs, the likes of which won’t have been experienced since recent second-city derbies or play-off matches. This one is huge!
Summer 1987. Like in 2016, we’d been relegated as the worst team in the top flight. Promoted 12 months later on goal difference, Villa were back and looking to re-establish themselves amongst the very best.