Once in a lifetime

Do not adjust your set. Dave Woodhall really is smiling after a Villa game.

I think it’s compulsory when writing about the FA Cup to add a touch of wistful regret about the decline of the tournament so I’ll get mine out of the way immediately. What’s worse – the fact that many people expected Villa to lose a home tie to a side from a lower division, or that the opposition in question could bring 6,000 supporters to the ancestral home of football but leave most of their first team at home?

That aside, Sunday was that rare event, a good day all round for Villa. The scene was set with a mysterious announcement that something big would be revealed ten minutes before kick-off. Speculation ranged from signing Tom Cleverley to the more optimistic new contract for Ron Vlaar. Nobody dared predict that Fabian Delph would be signing for another four years; testament to the fact that there is still some loyalty in football as well as a bit of evidence, however circumstantial, that things aren’t as bad as they might appear.

This boost was followed by a game that was, also, not as bad as it first appeared. Bournemouth looks bright in the first half but Villa gradually got on top and once Carles Gil had marked his debut with a goal best described as spectacular then there was no real doubt about the result. Andreas Weimann (who I think should be given an extended run up front) got another, there was a bit of mild panic when Bournemouth scored in stoppage time but the final whistle came soon enough after.

It wasn’t a particularly brilliant performance but many’s the time I’ve seen visitors to Villa Park soak up early pressure then step up before killing the game off without any fuss. Villa did just that and for a change the positives outweighed the negatives. Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore seem to be maturing together, bringing out the best in each other while even Tom Cleverley had a decent game. Then there was Gil, who in less than two hours has got the crowd off their feet more often than any other player has in the past four years.

Looking at the wider picture, beating a Bournemouth XI doesn’t prove very much. But on a weekend of unprecedented shocks Villa eased into the FA Cup fifth round. A decent draw on Monday night and we’ll be looking at the quarter finals, 90 minutes from Wembley and at that stage anything can happen. If nothing else, after years of unrelenting misery we deserve a day out and a big occasion.