It’s been a turbulent season for Aston Villa. You could call it a dyer and inspirited start to Gerard Houiller’s french claret and blue revolution but there has been a few shining lights, many went unrecognized.
Houiller started his Aston Villa journey with a victory in the league cup. Coming from 1-0 down to beat a stable Blackburn Rovers side overturned by Emile Heskey and an Ashley Young double. Gerard marker his return to the Premier League with a win over Mick McCarty’s Wolverhampton Wanderers thanks to a Stewart Downing strike and once again an Emile Heskey last gasp header.
Things started to turn sour in Birmingham for the first time since the arrival of the Frenchman with losses at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur’s Rafeal Van der Vaart and Sunderland, and goalless draws at Chelsea and bitter rivals Birmingham City. In between came Houiller’s third win against Burnley in the league cup.
The start of November looked brighter even with the winter looming as a draw against Fulham and a victory over Blackpool seemed to restore confidence back into those wearing claret and blue. Manchester United became Villa’s next oppenents at Villa Park which saw Villa see a 2-0 lead come and quickly go all with the help of Aston Villa enemy Fredrico Maceda.
Another four consecutive defeats came after that great showing against the Red Devils showing Villa the wrong end of the table.
West Bromwich Albion came knocking for Villa’s next Premier League fixture where once again Downing and Heskey were on target to give Aston Villa their first victory in five. But then that was dampened by defeats coming from Spurs and a 4-0 drubbing by the blue side of Manchester.
The turn of the year was a welcome sight for Villa after the awful start to the new Barclays Premier League season and a cup exit at the hands of arch rivals Birmingham City. However, the first fixture of the new year wasn’t the easiest. It saw Villa being taken to Stamford Bridge where old memories still laid. Unfortunately for Chelsea, Aston Villa had already put that behind them and nearly snatched a 2-1 win but the result ended at 3-3 after a Chelsea fight back and a Ciaran Clark header clinching a claret and blue point.
After a morale lifting draw at league holders Chelsea, Villa were back at home against Steve Bruce’s Sunderland. Villa looking sharp and ready for the fight, were maybe too ready to fight as Villa’s revived star man Emile Heskey got a straight red for a hit to Jordan Henderson’s face. The result ending in a 1-0 defeat and a three match ban for Big Hesk.
Villa completed the loan signing of Tottenham’s Kyle Walker who was thrown straight into action against boyhood club Sheffield United in Gerard Houiller’s favourite cup. Walker scored on his debut and helped Villa to their first win of 2011.
With next opponents being Birmingham City, Villa were prepared for battle and out to get revenge, securing a well deserved draw after coming from behind.
Aston Villa coughed up £18 million for Darren Bent of Sunderland to help finish the chances Villa had been creating all season from wing wizards Marc Albrighton, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. Villa were instantly repaid some of that massive amount of money against Manchester City. Scoring the only goal of the game and securing all three valuable points. The following Tuesday saw another win in Wigan, Villa’s first back to back win of the season.
Gerard Houiller’s love affair with the FA Cup as he saw his side cruise into the 5th round with a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers with a wonder strike from Robert Pires; who knows what it takes in the FA Cup having won it with Arsenal.
February saw a bag of mixed results with one loss, two draws and an emphatic win with more goals coming from Darren Bent, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing. With March being completely the opposite with two defeats and an exit from the FA Cup via Man City after Houiller produced a weakened team.
April was defiently the turning point, a very belated one but with the team showing great spirit, fight and heart it has showed us the right end of the table. The last two games of the season made most Villa fans question why we hadn’t been playing like this all season and where it could have seen us if we had.
In my opinion my standout performer has got to be Player of the Season Stewart Downing but a great first season in the Premier League for Marc Albrighton has seen him receive the Terrace Trophy and Young Player of the Season. Ashley Young has been superb except for his “off-days” and with the guidance of Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker and defensive rocks James Collins, Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark; I thought we had a stable foundation to build on for next season.