If we win the FA Cup we will be playing European football once more.
There are plenty of players and managers who don’t like the Europa League. They see it as a distraction from the league which tires the players out and damages domestic form.
There is no doubt that travelling to Russia on a Thursday night and then playing in Swansea on the following Sunday would take its toll but, if it is taken seriously, I think the Europa League is a brilliant competition and an opportunity for big teams like Aston Villa to get back on the European map.
The teams in the Europa League from England this year were Spurs, Everton and Hull, not including Liverpool who came and went in a flash after being knocked out of the Champions League.
Spurs, who have been in the competition regularly for a number of years and who have become acclimatised were knocked out in the last thirty-two to eventual semi-finalists Fiorentina. They finished fifth in the Premier League, a standing they should not be disappointed with.
The Toffees did better than Spurs in Europe but struggled domestically. They got to the last sixteen and lost to Dynamo Kiev. They ended up eleventh in the Premier League, a significantly lower placing than last year, and they would certainly attribute that to their first year of European football for some time.
Hull managed two rounds of the Europa League before losing to Lokeren and we all know that they suffered relegation from the Premier League.
There are ways to treat the Europa League and it’s not necessarily the case that we would have to forfeit our league form to progress in that competition.
I watched two teams battle out a brilliant match in the Europa League final on Wednesday night. Both teams treated the competition correctly. Sevilla are royalty now, having won four titles in the last ten years. Incidentally, they finished fifth in their league. It was Dnipro’s first final and they were refreshing to watch – totally committed, energetic and a real team. They finished third in their domestic league. I know La Liga and the Ukranian league are not as competitive as the Premier League, which is the main reason why English clubs haven’t done well for a while. I don’t think it needs to be this way though: there must be a middle ground that focuses on both league and European football.
The key is the quality and size of a squad. If we win the FA Cup then Sherwood’s first transfer window becomes even more important. This is assuming the Europa League is important to him, as he may choose to concentrate on securing a solid league standing. He will need to put together a squad of players he can rotate accordingly and who are all happy with spending some time on the bench. That won’t be easy.
It may be idealistic to think that we should take European football seriously next season should we secure a spot in the Europa League. The more sensible approach may be to get a more respectable league position, as we don’t deserve another relegation battle. However, if a place in Europe is achieved, I don’t see the point in not trying to compete. Buy well, do well.
I may be getting carried away with the potential of our club now that we are currently on a high but if we can’t enjoy the good times the bad times become even worse.
The first step is to win the FA Cup tomorrow evening. Once that’s in the bag, let’s keep going!