Aston Villa: Could a good run in the League Cup change Villa’s fortunes this season?
No-one’s getting too carried away but Villa are just two more rounds away from a trip to Wembley – just two rounds.There’s nothing like a good cup run to bring the feelgood factor back to a club and Villa’s win against Swindon Town could be just the ticket.
The League Cup brings back some fond memories for Villa fans, not only because it was the last silverware the club won – a 3-0 win over Leeds United in 1996 – but because it’s a competition teams like ours can realistically win at the start of every season.Villa are five-time winners of the competition, having also triumphed in 1961, 1975, 1977 and 1994, not forgetting a narrow 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in 2010. Villa have been drawn with Paul Lambert's former side Norwich City at Carrow Road in the next round but, with some top teams already being knocked out, the competition is wide open and we have an excellent opportunity to get some silverware in the trophy room again.
There have of course been the horror stories that have followed good cup runs, such as Middlesborough reaching the finals of the FA and League Cups in 1997, losing both games, and then being relegated.But if Villa had put out an under-strength squad, much like Gerard Houllier did against Manchester City two seasons ago when Villa were hammered 3-0 in the fifth round of the FA Cup, it takes the sting out of the whole season.
Suddenly all you’ve got left to play for is Premier League survival and as vitally important as that it is, it can be very depressing praying for salvation and nothing else with only half the season gone.It’s clear Villa manager Paul Lambert sees the cup competitions as an important stepping stone for the club because he could hardly be accused of playing an under-strength side – not that anyone has a clue what his strongest or weakest side is any more.
The game against Swindon also said a lot about the mentality of the squad.When Villa conceded the equaliser it seemed very likely Swindon would go on and get the winner. After the run Villa have been on no-one would have been surprised to see the side fold - and that would have been a disaster for the rest of the season.
Playing poorly and throwing away leads and sloppy goals in the Premier League is one thing, but to do it against a League One side, having been 2-0 up with less than 10 minutes to go, would quite simply have been an embarrassment.The fans are trying their best to get behind the team at the moment, despite some woeful performances so far this season and the very least they deserve is a good cup run.
Lambert has given the fans something to look forward to again and hopefully that team spirit can be transferred into the Premier League where it’s most important of all.With a trip to Sunderland to face Martin O’Neill, followed by games against Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal, a push in the right direction is just what’s required.
You never know, Villa might be saving their best performances for the bigger clubs – it’s unlikely, but you never know.
Plus there’s the FA Cup to come yet.
Calling all Villa fans: Do you believe Villa's name is on the Capital One Cup this season? What do you make of the draw? Would you rather win the cup and be in a relegation battle or lose to Norwich and guarantee a top 10 finish? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
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