Aston Villa’s 1-0 victory over Birmingham City last Sunday lunchtime will be remembered for being all about Jack Grealish. The still unbelievable, moronic fan attack and then his winning goal. However, the game could hold underlying significance for the remainder of Villa’s season.
The three points were obviously vital to having a late push at getting into the playoffs. With two wins on the bounce, confidence has clearly been boosted. But the Blues game seemed to see a real team spirit being forged and that could be vital heading into the final part of the campaign.
I think there are some key figures in this. Grealish’s return from injury was a clear catalyst for the demolition of Derby County a couple of weeks ago. And his goal against Blues was obviously decisive.
But there is more to it than that just scoring goals. Dean Smith’s decision to give Grealish the captains armband seems to be a touch of genius. He is walking ten foot tall right now. It just maybe played a part in his reaction to being clattered from behind by the coward who ran onto the pitch. He knows he is leading by example and I’m convinced he knew instantly when he was sat on the turf what the best way to get revenge would be. I’m also convinced that every single player in claret and blue wanted to make that a reality for their captain and talisman.
Tyrone Mings influence has been up there along with Grealish. When you talk about people who get what it means to play for the club, Mings seems to have dropped straight into that mindset. It’s hard to think of many others who have made a connection with supporters in the way that he has in such a short amount of time.
The fact that Grealish handed Mings the armband when he was substituted shouldn’t be underestimated. Yes, other candidates for the role are out injured. But for a loanee who has been here for five minutes to be given that honour is telling. It’s hard to argue he doesn’t deserve it.
Mings is clearly influential. He’s got a real rough and competitive streak in him as well and I do think there are signs of that permeating through the rest of his teammates for the last few weeks now. For want of a better word, we haven’t had anyone with that kind of ‘nasty’ edge to them for a while and we’ve been too soft at times. You get the impression that Mings won’t tolerate it.
Part of the pride
Villa peddles the ‘part of the pride’ line all the time. But honestly, there are moments where it’s felt like some of the players haven’t grasped the concept. Conor Hourihane is a good example. He’s had a section of support on his back for large parts of this season. Despite the impressive goals and assists stats, I do think that at times he hasn’t played to the level that he can do or shown enough tenacity and passion.
— Conor Hourihane (@ConorHourihane) March 10, 2019
I really got the feeling from him that something clicked over the weekend. He was straight into the crowd with Grealish to celebrate the goal and was bang up for it in general. I do think he loves playing for the club and it was pleasing to see him make a point on social media of letting people know how honoured he was to have made his 100th appearance for ‘this great club’.
I think there are a few other examples of players beginning to show that playing for Villa means something to them. Tammy Abraham has been scoring for fun this season and likes to pat the badge, but he looked pumped up like never before. John McGinn looked determined to make his mark when he came on as a sub and certainly affected the game to help his best mate Grealish have the last laugh. There is a brilliant picture circulating on social media of Kortney Hause celebrating Grealish’s goal with the expression of a madman!
Tommy Elphick showing up in the crowd at St Andrew’s was brilliant to see. He was seen celebrating as if he’d supported the club all his life and probably aggravated his injury in doing so! Joking aside though, seeing players wanting to be part of occasions like that can only ever be a good thing. It certainly shows that his attachment to the club and desire to have a bond with supporters.
I think in general, events at St Andrew’s can only go towards strengthening what was an already blossoming team spirit. The ‘us against them’ mindset, whichever team it is, is so important. Everyone has to be on board with that. If there was anyone not quite on that page, I fail to see how they couldn’t be now after such a defining moment of the season. Dean Smith must find a way of keeping that feeling and spirit alive until the end of the season. He’ll certainly be helped by the likes of Grealish and Mings.
There are ten games left. Villa are somewhat lucky to still be in touching distance after enduring such a poor spell of form that saw just two league wins in fifteen matches. In three of the last four seasons, the team in 6th position at this exact same stage of the season had amassed at least 61 points by now. By contrast, Derby County who currently occupies the last playoff position has just 55 points. It could easily have been all over by now.
But it isn’t. And the cowardly moron that clattered Jack Grealish just may have been the spark that forges the togetherness in this group of players and sees us snatch promotion.