Aston Villa and the growing sense of belief

Villa’s win over Bournemouth has Dave Woodhall dreaming again.

There comes a time, and we’ve seen it on a few occasions, when you realise that something you hadn’t dare think was realistic is, in fact, very much possible, Thee’s been a bit of talk lately about which would be best – fourth and Champions League qualification or winning the Conference League. The correct answer, of course is ‘both’ but looking on the bright side isn’t very Villaesque. After what might prove to be the most significant week in over forty years, that mindset will have to be revised.

Sunday’s match with Bournemouth should have been the most straightforward fixture remaining this season. They’re doing well to be mid-table, with nothing to play for except a few million in prize money. Then again, Villa had that extra-time drama on Thursday night and another couple of injuries to add to the list. I’d say that the team Unai Emery picked was the same as my choice but that’s not much of a claim as there were barely any other options.

Little wonder that Villa started the game at a slow tempo, creating few opportunities and lacking urgency. We’d already survived one penalty scare and Emiliano Martinez had had to make another good save when after half an hour Matty Cash’s reckless challenge led to a penalty that gave Bournemouth the lead.

There might have been a few nerves at this stage but in stoppage time Moussa Diaby made up for giving the ball away in the build-up to the opening goal by winning it deep inside Villa’s half and laying off to Leon Bailey. The sort of defence-splitting pass that’s become the norm fell to Morgan Rogers, who turned his marker to equalise. The timing of the goal was equalled by its execution and from then on there was only going to be one winner.

Twelve minutes after the break Rogers to Ollie Watkins, another strong run and a lay-off to Diaby. Two-one. Twelve minutes to go, Diaby and Watkins combine, the England international takes the ball round the keeper to knock it back for Bailey to get the third. Three points, three wins in eight days and it’s looking good. The looks on the faces of everyone, players and supporters alike, at the final whistle told its own story. The belief is there. We know we can do it.

The only problem I can see now is how Douglas Luiz is going to get back into the team. Much as he’s been an inspiration all season, John McGinn and Youri Tielemans seem to play better without him. Both are capable of genius regardless of who they partner although when they’re together they seem to share a greater sense of responsibility.

Meanwhile Watkins has added a bit of strength to his game, Bailey a lot of consistency to his and Rogers is the bargain of the season. Villa might not be smashing all-comers in the way they were a few months ago, which is understandable given the situation. The rest of the season won’t be about how well we play, all that matters is the results.

I can’t remember the last time Villa were chasing multiple targets so late in the season and this week has proved that the team can cope with anything in their path. Odds-on to finish in the top four, favourites to win a trophy and the last English team left in Europe. Immortality beckons.