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.
This is it! After 36 games played in the Premier League Aston Villa host Arsenal for their final home game of the season; a fixture which holds paramount importance in deciding which league Villa will be competing in next season.
With project restart now in full swing and June 17th being the date for Villa’s first match since our 4-0 loss against Leicester, football will be different with the new circumstances. Behind closed doors, certain games being at neutral venues, 5 substitutes per game, expanding the number of players in the squads? With all these rules yet to be confirmed it’s worth considering how we could use them to our advantage in the fight for survival.
Facing two potential relegation rivals next, in a tough fixture at Carrow Road which precedes a home clash against Brighton and Hove Albion, followed by a difficult run, it’d be fair to say that the fate of relegation hangs in the balance of the next two matches.