It’s been a while since I’ve written a piece for the blog, but I figured a semi-final appearance was good enough reason to get back behind the keyboard and more importantly right behind the Villa.
It might be premature to start dreaming of Wembley at this stage, but the way the League Cup has panned out this season I’m starting to get a feeling our turn might have come round again. Brad Guzan’s heroics at the Stadium of Light were the moment when I started to think, ‘hmmm maybe, just maybe.’
Last night that ‘maybe’ escalated right up to a ‘surely?’ I watched the draw with that usual feeling of doom in the pit of my stomach. I had been following the game at Ewood and knew that Chelsea were not only trailing but had shot themselves in the foot by using all their subs and then collecting an injury. Blackburn were on target to beat the league leaders and arguably the strongest side left in the competition.
Surely we couldn’t luck out and draw Blackburn? I mean come on. Really? After all, this was a hat that still contained Man Utd. We usually manage to draw them with over 60 teams still in the pot, let alone three. But yes we got Blackburn or Chelsea. And Blackburn or Chelsea away. The ideal situation playing the crucial second leg at Villa Park.
But Blackburn weren’t over the line yet. They still had another 20 minutes to play against one of the finest sides in Europe. David Hoilett twice had excellent opportunities to seal their passage to the semis. Twice he fluffed. And then it looked as though Blackburn had choked. Robbo flapped, Chelsea struck. There was a God after all. And he was back to his normal service.
Yet it was to be Blackburn’s night. Robbo twice saved Chelsea’s spot kicks. Firstly an excellent stop from Germany penalty king Ballack. And then decisively from Gael Kakuta. Cue eruptions of joy at Ewood and eruptions of hope in every Villa fans heart.
I mean no disrespect to Blackburn. I truly don’t. But I’m sure over 99% of Villa fans would have chosen this draw before a ball was kicked in the quarter finals. Ironically we’ve lost to Blackburn already this season and beaten Chelsea. And yet over the two legs, we’ll fancy our chances. Make no mistake. We’re going into a semi-final as favourites.
The last time that happened, we duly reached the final. And proceeded to play out the direst FA Cup final in living memory. I wasn’t there that day; I failed to get a ticket. Nor could I secure tickets for the two League Cup triumphs of the 90s. As a consequence I’ve never seen Villa at a Wembley final.
Intriguingly the last time (and only time) I have seen Villa at Wembley was the semi-final against Bolton in that FA Cup run; and the manager of Bolton that day was none other than current Bolton manager Sam Allardyce.
I remember it well but for all the wrong reasons. I was incredibly sick that day with some kind of food poisoning. But nothing was going to stop me going. I got stuck behind someone much taller than me (I was only 14 at this time) and could barely see the game. But by all accounts it wasn’t much better than the final that followed.
It’s fair to say my health has improved considerably since that day whereas poor Big Sam seems to have got worse. I hope for his heart’s sake that he was watching anything other than events at Ewood Park last night!
This time round if Villa are going - I’m going. Whether I have to beg, borrow or steal in order to secure tickets. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. We have two difficult games to negotiate first. But I can’t hide my excitement. So it may only be the League Cup, and yes we may not even reach the final and if we do we may meet a full strength Man Utd side.
But I’m getting excited because if I don’t get excited now then when will I? I still remember the home defeats to Leicester and QPR and the humiliation up at Doncaster.
I don’t know about anyone else but I can smell Wembley.
Actually screw it – I’ll go one further. I don’t consider myself particularly malicious but I keep getting images of Barry sat exhausted on the famous turf while Petrov lifts the cup high above his head having received it from Villa fan Prince William. It might be a wild fantasy, but hey, Villa are in a semi-final. If I can’t dream now then when can I?George has the user name Mowgs on the site and like him, I'm getting excited too!