Up the European Aston Villa

Erika LaBrie’s name won’t mean much to most Villa fans, she’s the woman who in 2007 married the Eiffel Tower, although more recent reports suggest she’s now in love with a fence. Erika’s love for an inanimate object is difficult to comprehend, or at least it was, as I find myself falling head over heels for that shiny silver vase-type thing awarded to the winners of the Europa Conference League. Europe’s third-tier competition has taken a small piece of my heart.

1996 was the last time Villa laid their hands on some silverware, Leeds United swept aside in a 3-0 victory at the old Wembley, but as a 6-year-old it barely registers. Since our fifth League Cup triumph 28 years ago the trophy cabinet has remained firmly locked, aside from our glorious Intertoto Cup success, of course.

Villa fans have witnessed two FA Cup, and two League Cup final defeats during our nearly three-decade-long prize hiatus, even suffering the ignominy of League Cup Semi-Final loss to Bradford back in 2013. So, with our UECL quarter-final against Lille on the horizon, my lust for success in Athens grows daily.

The Conference League is weird and wonderful, it’s a mix of fallen European powerhouses, Ajax, and clubs we’ve never heard of, Zrinjski Mostar, giving it a uniqueness not befitting its more illustrious Europa and Champions League relatives. The competition so far has felt like an adventure, not only that but one which could realistically end with us winning the whole thing!

Villa heads into the last eight as favourites for the competition and despite our recent faltering, with a Champions League place very much within our grasp as the final weeks of the league season come into focus. Most fans see this as a stepping stone, another rung in the ladder as we try to establish ourselves at the top table and hopefully it is, but let’s savour our first season back in Europe for what feels like an age. If we continue our current trajectory we should look back on this European adventure with nostalgia, a whole new generation of supporters experiencing the thrill of weeknights under the lights, fans from across the continent visiting B6, an old name reinstating itself in the consciousness of European football.

Athens is calling, wedding bells are ringing, Erika LaBrie is doing the service, and the drought may be about to end.

Up the European Villa!

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