Season 08/09 Excitement, Elation & Disappointment
Season 2008-2009- Excitement, Elation and Disappointment:
Villa started their season back in July 2008 kicking off Intertoto campaign vs Odense of Denmark. The aim was to reach the UEFA cup. Villa progressed through the Intertoto comfortably and was on their way to qualifying for the UEFA Cup Group Stages. A remarkable transformation some might say. From 16th when Martin O’Neill took over to qualifying for Europe after only his second season. The manager brought in Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan, Nicky Shorey, Luke Young, Carlos Cuellar, James Milner and Steve Sidwell during the summer. The Gareth Barry saga left us all fed up throughout the whole summer but that was concluded and Barry stayed at Villa Park.
The season started brightly with a win over Manchester City but was followed by a poor defeat away at Stoke the following week. The Stoke game seemed to be an early turning point. We went and drew with Liverpool and beat Spurs, West Brom and Sunderland within the first month of the season. October saw a great night of European Football at Villa Park as we dispatched Ajax 2-1. That was the night when we all felt could this be our year in Europe? We were superb that night and I think everyone could feel a bit excited following that match. More wins followed over Wigan and Blackburn. An impressive win in Prague followed after Martin O’Neill fielded a somewhat weakened side. It did the trick though as Villa impressively saw off the challenge of Prague to book their place in the knockout stages.
Villa then had disappointing defeats vs Newcastle and Middlesbrough but we soon bounced back and recorded a terrific win at the Emirates in November. We also somehow managed to avoid defeat vs Man Utd as we drew at Villa Park. The Christmas period was where everyone finally started taking notice of Villa. Villa recorded impressive wins at Everton, West Ham, Hull, Sunderland and Portsmouth before January was out whilst drawing with Arsenal at home and beating West Brom at Villa Park.
February started brightly also with Villa progressing through the FA Cup after beating Doncaster. On February 7th, after Villa beat Blackburn Villa fans were dreaming of a top four finish and it looked a very very realistic goal for the Villa.
Something went wrong after that unfortunately, we lost to Everton in the FA Cup, and lost at home to Chelsea and in a huge controversial way and Villa went out to CSKA Moscow in the Uefa Cup knockout stages. The Russians came to Villa Park and the two sides played out a draw. A decent enough result for Villa to go to Russia and get a result with. But that wasn’t the case. Martin O’Neill decided to put all his eggs into one basket to focus on the Champions League push and left many first teamers back in B6. Up until the 87th minute of the Stoke game, that looked like a good decision. Three points over Stoke would have taken us 8 points ahead of Arsenal in 4th place. Those three minutes messed up our season big time. Stoke pulled it back to 2-2 which in turn knocked the stuffing out of all the supporters and all of the players.
A horrendous run of form started with defeats against Man City, Spurs, Liverpool, Man Utd and then three draws have been produced vs Everton, West Ham and Bolton. We still have Hull City to play at home along with Fulham and Middlesbrough away and we round off with a home game against Newcastle Utd. There will be mixed feelings towards this season all in all. I am not sure any of us expected to put in a challenge for the top four this season. We had a terrific first half to the season and that is why everyone feels a bit deflated at our demise this second half. In my opinion the Moscow decision was a major factor in our bad run. Any defeat knocks your confidence and I’m sure this one did. The young boys did us proud in Moscow that night but I am confident with a full side Villa would have triumphed.
It’s been a rollercoaster season with highs and lows. Overall, Villa have had their best season ever in the Premier League which shouldn’t be forgotten. Yes, it would have been such a big boost if we finished fourth but are we really good enough? We would have been slaughtered in the Champions League. With a few more players and fully fit Martin Laursen this season I’m sure we would have qualified for next season’s champions league but it just wasn’t to be. We haven’t been good enough for it overall and where you finish in the league is where you deserve to finish. I am expecting changes at Villa Park this summer. I’m sure Barry will be leaving, Laursen looks finished and a few other players I suspect may leave. I also think O’Neill will bring in many players but whether they are the type to take us to the next level that remains to be seen. The club is still moving in the right direction and I wouldn’t bet against seeing Aston Villa in the Champions League within the next few years.
Have a great summer…..see you next season……Up the Villa.