The season is coming to the business end and teams now know whether they are in a fight for the top four or scrapping to stay in the Barclays’ Premier League. For the Villans, as we all know, it’s a case of trying to stay in the Premier League and push on in the FA Cup. This obviously makes the next ten games (eleven if we get to the FA Cup final) very important.
Our recent games under Tim Sherwood have been a joy to watch; I haven’t felt this good about Aston Villa for a good couple of years now. However, we cannot assume that this joyful run will continue. Our recent games have brought good results but those games were all against teams in the bottom half of the table. We are still in a relegation scrap and we have not faced a team in the top half of the table under Sherwood yet. This makes the game against Swansea the most important game in our season so far, in my opinion. If we win this, we stay up. If we lose this, we stay in the fight. Our next games after Swansea see us face Manchester United, QPR, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City, Everton, West Ham United, Southampton and Burnley. Only three of those games are against sides in the bottom half of the table. The rest are all top half teams, many of them fighting for a top four finish.
Like the last couple of seasons, safety is not yet guaranteed. This season, if we prove to be good at beating sides in the top half of the table, I would like us to be safe when we meet West Ham. It’s a big ask but I’m sure it wouldn’t do any Villa fan’s blood pressure any good if we were fighting to stay up at the last game of the season against Burnley. If I were Tim Sherwood, my aim would be to ensure safety by the time we face the Hammers. It’s vital we keep our performances going as with the sacking of Gus Poyet, Sunderland’s signing of experienced manager Dick Advocaat could see the Black Cats’ form improve.
Not only are these next ten fixtures important for the club, they are also important for the players. Surely, if you were an Aston Villa player right now and you wanted to prove that you can play in a Premier League team then you would go out and work as hard as you could to prove to Tim Sherwood that you have the ability. Sherwood looks for players who want to win, who try to offer everything throughout the ninety minutes of every game and who show that they want to make fans happy. If they don’t do that then they won’t be selected. Perhaps that’s why Carles Gil isn’t being selected. Maybe he doesn’t work hard enough. It seems most players in the side now are doing what Sherwood wants them to do. It’s now time to keep up that spirit for the last ten or eleven games.
If we beat the Swans, then we can beat most of the teams in the top half of the table. The players need to win on Saturday, not only the fans but for their future careers. Sherwood won’t have slackers in his side. If you work hard for him, he will get the best out of you. That’s why I think Villa signed him up. He has a genuine desire to do well, unlike Lambert.