A Villa win and a new manager. Dave Woodhall is smiling at last.
Well, who’da thought it?
This time last week Villa were in deep trouble, about to sink into the bottom three and with a manager who seemed as secure in his job as he was bad at it. Now they’re ninety minutes from Wembley. They shouldn’t be, of course. They should be ninety minutes from Old Trafford or the Emirates and Wembley should be reserved for finals but it’s got to be paid for eventually so there we are.
After the surprising news that Paul Lambert had been sacked and the not as surprising subsequent news that Tim Sherwood was to be his successor, there was the small matter of an FA Cup fifth round tie with Leicester to get past on Sunday afternoon. Scott & Andy Marshall, just about the only two senior coaches left at Bodymoor, put out a side that in the words of Alan Shearer had a goalless draw stamped through it and for 45 minutes he seemed right. A nation snored as two representatives of the richest and, apparently, strongest league in the world laboured in an attempt to provide anything worth remembering. They failed.
Sherwood had a word at half-time and the impact was immediate. Leandro Bacuna, who was about to be substituted, opened the scoring and the man who eventually replaced him later than expected, Scott Sinclair, made sure with a goal a minute from time. Villa, naturally, then let one in to make the end of the game a bit more exciting than it should have been but there were no further scares and the dream is, incredibly, still on.
Villa’s last home FA Cup quarter-final was in 1960 and since then we’ve played nine of them away, losing seven. The odds are surely in favour of a home draw but we’ve been saying that since about 1977. All we can do now is hope, and keep fingers crossed until about 7.40 this evening.
As for Sherwood, he was by no means the popular favourite for the job, but given the circumstances and the timing he was probably the best candidate. Credit to the board that they, for once, dealt with the matter swiftly rather than hanging around as they so often do.
The resemblance to John Gregory has been noted – there’s a cocksure, cocky Cockney swagger about both men. Gregory still divides opinions and while I was far from his greatest fan the immediate impact he made when he took the job was undeniable. More of the same from Sherwood would be welcome but I also think he has something in common with a far greater manager than either of them.
Both Sherwood and Ron Saunders had a case for feeling bitter about the way their previous clubs got rid of them – in fact, it’s been said that Saunders nursed a grievance against Manchester City from the day they sacked him until his team were crowned the best in the country. While I don’t think Sherwood will emulate the great man’s achievements or come anywhere near them, it wouldn’t be a bad ambition to aim at.
And of course, should Villa fail to beat Stoke next Saturday he should be sacked immediately.