When Aston Villa midfielder Robert Snodgrass struck a 90th-minute winning goal with finesse and precision, it only added to the drama of Villa’s win over Sheffield United at the end of January. As a result of the victory at Bramall Lane, Villa sat on the cusp of an automatic promotion place. Not quite in dreamland, but Villa fans felt the right to dare to dream.
When Aston Villa travel to The Den on May 6, who knows what will await. A Tim Cahill inspired and resurgent Millwall? Maybe. Automatic promotion in the balance? Quite possibly. The margins are too thin to be certain of anything. But if Villa is to remain in the race, the form of certain players is essential to remain as solid as it currently is.
Possible promotion for Steve Bruce’s side would be replete with positive’s, but aside from the elevation to the Premier League, securing top-flight football next season would add heavily to the possibility of Sam Johnstone signing a permanent deal at Villa Park.
Dr. Tony Xia, the Villa chairman, is hopeful the Manchester United loanee will sign a permanent deal in the event of possible promotion. In the short term, Xia and Bruce had to ward off interest in the goalkeeper from Alan Pardew’s West Brom side in the January transfer window. A sign as to the esteem in which he is held outside of the club.
John Terry had to be patient in his recovery following an injury at the start of November. Breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, meant a sustained period out of the side. Despite some initial rustiness following his return to the side, Terry is back marshalling a defence showcasing much-needed resilience that was amiss during his absence from the side. In turn proving Bruce’s decision as the correct one in making him club captain on his arrival.
Whether Terry would be interested to extend his one-year contract remains to be seen. Perversely, if Villa were to gain promotion, it is less likely he would stay, such as his reluctance to face his old side. A problem Villa can deal with closer to the time. His current form is the only real relevance now.
The Icelandic international midfielder was far from central to Bruce’s plans up until recently. However, in the absence of Glenn Whelan and Mile Jedinak, the 29-year-old proved more than an able deputy and his tidy, defensive displays and aerial prowess has earned him a regular run in the side.
Even if Whelan or Jedinak were to usurp him, the fact that he is so reliable an option would be quintessential in an intense league run-in.
Steve Bruce held firm when David Moyes came looking for Robert Snodgrass to return to West Ham early from his loan deal. A £2 million fee would have been required to break the agreement in place and Moyes held back.
Clearly, this was good news for Villa. Snodgrass has been in impeccable form and as one of the sides most consistent performers, it’s understandable that Villa is now even money in the Championship to gain promotion.
Grealish has had injury problems of his own this season but since his return has looked increasingly comfortable. He is now at the juncture where he is controlling a lot of what happens in Villa’s attacks.
The 22-year-old is no doubt a threat in his own right. But it is his ability to hold up play and find space that is giving the side the options to press that is coinciding with their current fine run of form. His innate ability and guile will have a large part to play in Villa’s promotion aspirations.