Top flight football isn’t a choice for Aston Villa; due to the size of the club, they are expected to be playing their trade within the English Premier League. However, despite finishing the season strongly, they are going to have to go through the Championship playoffs to achieve their goal.
The playoffs aren’t like regular season football. It is similar to that of casinos online. Where one mistake could see the club losing everything that they have worked hard for this season. However, the rewards are enormous; both financial and for the players in the squad. But what reasons will Villa fans have to be confident?
The most significant factor for any team heading into the playoffs is momentum. Teams who have ended the season with consecutive defeats tend to do worse than others, while sides who have strung together a run of victories do better. The biggest example of this was Blackpool during the 2009-10 season. Their success at Wembley against Cardiff City in the final of the playoffs was their ninth win in eleven fixtures. Their end of season form ensured that they snuck into the playoffs by finishing sixth.
Aston Villa can claim that they have the best recent record of all the teams within the playoffs; with West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United both losing at least twice in their past six league games. Villa meanwhile have only lost once in their last 13 fixtures; that defeat coming on the final day against league champions Norwich City.
On paper, Aston Villa should have been among the automatic contenders. Their squad is bursting with quality; with many of the players in their ranks of Premier League quality already. Tammy Abraham who is on loan from Chelsea has scored 25 goals this season, meaning only Teemu Pukki has scored more than him this campaign. Meanwhile, the addition of Tyrone Mings in January has ensured that their defensive situation has improved. The on-loan defender along with James Chester is already a defensive partnership that could flourish in the Premier League.
Jack Grealish has enjoyed another excellent season for Villa, scoring six goals throughout the Championship season. The young English midfielder was approached by Tottenham Hotspur last summer, but the North London club was priced out of the move for Grealish. Fortunately for Villa, their captain settled back into life in the Championship, and the partnership he has with Abraham has flourished, and Dean Smith will be hoping that the duo can fire them back into the Premier League.
Much of the squad that led the Villa to the playoff final in 2018 remain in the team, and their 1-0 defeat against Fulham at Wembley could be used as an incentive to spur them onto success this year. History shows us that this can be the case, with Fulham being one of the clubs that have fallen in the playoffs only to put that to rest the following year.
Dean Smith is yet to experience the playoffs as a manager, but the influence that John Terry could have on the team will be invaluable. Terry led the team out at Wembley at the Championship’s showpiece event in 2018, and being a serial winner; he will have all the experience to pass on to this young Villa squad.