The pinnacle of a difficult season

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This evening, Aston Villa’s players have the chance to do something that the club hasn’t done for fifty-eight years – win the FA Cup. We have a great history in the competition, winning it seven times, but most of our fans have never seen us lift this famous trophy.

Who would have thought that we would have reached the final for the first time in fifteen years when we entered the competition at the third round stage against Blackpool? We were 66-1 outsiders to win the competition at that stage and I would imagine that the punters who took those odds, myself included, were doing it for a bit of fun.

When Paul Lambert left the club, the chances of us getting the opportunity to lift any silverware seemed to have been lowered, as Premier League survival was the club’s primary objective.

However, Tim Sherwood viewed the FA Cup as a positive opportunity and embraced it as he led us to Wembley with a fine victory over local rivals West Bromwich Albion. His passion on the touchline was refreshing to see and it was clear that the players were with him one hundred per cent.

In the semi-final, a fantastic performance from the Villa team saw us get past Liverpool and led us to today’s FA Cup final against the holders Arsenal.

When we lost 2-0 to Hull City at the KC Stadium in February, the majority of fans believed that all hope was lost. Our chances of staying in the Premier League were slim and we had a squad devoid of any confidence.

In a week in which rumours about the future of Christian Benteke are rife, it is worth remembering that Benteke was dropped to the bench in Paul Lambert’s last two games due to poor form. His return of twelve goals in his last twelve games shows how the striker has been rejuvenated under Sherwood.

The two people who sum up this season for me are actor David Bradley and poet Benjamin Zephaniah. They’re perhaps not the people you would expect to leap out at a Villa fan but their respective videos this season have made a lot of sense in recent weeks.

Bradley was the figurehead for Aston Villa Football Club’s one hundred and fortieth anniversary celebrations last November and one line from his narration of the video has stuck in my mind recently: “The lows only make the highs higher”. I couldn’t think of a better way to sum up the last few years at Aston Villa Football Club if I tried.

As for Zephaniah, his poem written especially for the West Bromwich Albion quarter-final game, ‘An ode to Aston Villa v West Brom’, had a line in it which has since found its way to the Holte End in the form of a banner that reads, “Form is temporary, boys and girls, class is permanent. And you know what? We have class.” That’s another quote which, for me, sums up this season perfectly.

No matter what happens this evening at Wembley, this season has been a journey and as fans we should be proud of the players for producing this phenomenal cup run.

 This is our moment! Enjoy it! Up the Villa!

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