After beating Liverpool FC, Aston Villa will have a rare chance to revive their glory days when they meet holders Arsenal in the FA Cup final on May 30 but, win or lose, new manager Tim Sherwood has given the club back its self-belief and pride.
Sherwood, who has been in charge for two months, out-thought counterpart Brendan Rodgers as Villa deservedly beat Liverpool 2-1 in Sunday’s semi-final at Wembley after coming from behind to overcome a Philippe Coutinho goal after 30 minutes.
He not only praised his players for their efforts but also the Villa fans, who, he said, “dragged us back into the match after we went behind. They never stopped believing in us.”
Goals by Christian Benteke, the Belgian’s ninth in his last seven games, and skipper Fabian Delph gave Villa victory over Liverpool in the FA Cup for the first time since 1897 when they became the second English club to win the league and Cup double.
They now have the chance of winning the Cup for the first time since their then-record seventh win in 1957. It will be their first final since 2000 when they lost to Chelsea in the last FA Cup final at the old Wembley.
Villa’s past triumphs not only include a double and seven FA Cup wins but the European Cup in 1982 and seven league titles. Although they are still in a lowly league position, current form suggests Arsenal will have to work hard to beat them.
Sherwood said he thought his tactics of playing Charles N’Zogbia and Jack Grealish as twin playmakers “bamboozled Liverpool and caused them a lot of problems.”
Even when Liverpool went ahead they never took control of the game and Sherwood was delighted the whole club could at least dream of some overdue success.
“It’s a great occasion for the club. Obviously we haven’t won anything yet, but not a lot of people gave us a chance against Liverpool,” he said.
“But we believed it and when we stepped foot on that pitch we realised our fans did as well.”
Aston Villa had a poor first half of the season and were 18th and in the relegation zone when Sherwood took over in February.
They had gone 10 league matches without a win, had not scored away in almost 8-1/2 hours and banners demanding the sack for former manager Paul Lambert were unfurled at Villa Park.
“There is no magic wand here” said Sherwood, although some of his magic is clearly rubbing off on a famous old club devoid of glory for so long.