Possibly the greatest ever “outside of the shin” strike on goal started what became one of my best ever memories to date as an Aston Villa supporter.
Oh Dalian, son of Ron, why did you ever leave us?
Aston Villa have made it, all the way to Wembley for their first tournament final since the Peace Cup victory over Juventus. In more sensible terms, since the dismal defeat in the 2000 FA Cup match, the last of its kind at Wembley`s old incarnation.
Thousands of Villans will be taking to their cars/coaches/trains/horses/magic carpets or piggybacks on fringe squad players to London for a grand day out, and let us hope that lightning can strike twice, albeit not via Dean Saunders and Stan the man Petrov can lift the famous trophy once more.
LEAGUE CUP FINAL! (Nobody cares Terry/Bridge, nor about your marriage Ashley)
It`s the kind of quote craziness you would naturally expect from such a momentous occasion. Everyone past, present and perhaps future have been discussing their views on the game and I`m not sure I could accurately cover However, naturally, we will crack on with the League Cup expert Martin O`Neill. The boss spoke to the official site, and still found time during a special occaision to be classic O`Neill:
“We are going to try and win the game – that would be lovely.”
Yes, yes it would Martin. I`m glad you`ve noticed.
“Winning a trophy is obviously the ultimate. There’s no getting away from that. It would be fantastic to do so.
“I hope getting to these stages of competitions will become a regular feature. It’s not that easy but it’s something the players are striving for.
“If you saw their performances recently, they are putting everything into the games. And they are playing very well. It’s great to see. They are doing everything possible for this football club.
“I would just love if the scenario which is happening to us at this moment could become a regular February, March, April thing at this football club.”
Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov, who should be fit for Sunday, has told his team-mates to enjoy the occaision. The dude that will clearly be lifting the League Cup trophy on Sunday again spoke to avfc.co.uk:
‘I think the boys are really relaxed,’ said the captain. ‘Obviously they know the importance of the game.
‘The boys are going to have time together before the game, they are going to relax and they are going to enjoy it.
‘Manchester United will be tough but it is a one-off game and anything can happen.”
An experienced cup winner having played for a Glasgow team (although we all know that Scottish titles don`t count for much,) he added:
“It will be a proud moment for me. A lot of good players have been through their careers and not had the chance to play in a final or to win things.
“It doesn’t matter where you play – in every cup it is hard for teams to win something.
“I’ve won things in Bulgaria and Scotland. If I can win something in England, it will be really great.”
Ok, so it will be lovely, and great. I can think of a couple of better ways of wording it but nevermind!
Now for a blast from the past. I`ve had a few to pick from, but I`ve gone for the man with the greatest hairdo in sport, with the exception of perhaps Brad Friedel and Jason Lee (it really was a pineapple you know!)
Tony Daley said of the chance to re-live Wembley history:
“The final was fantastic. It was incredible. We were the complete underdogs and went out there at Wembley with no fear.
“Big Ron made a couple of surprise inclusions on the day. He left out a few players who you thought might have been playing, like Ray Houghton and Dwight Yorke.
“I am still Villa through and through and in my opinion this season has been unbelievable. What Martin and his coaching staff have done is incredible. Martin has really turned the club around. There are superb players here now playing to their peak. I am so impressed with them.
“Villa are just awesome at the moment.”
Ok a brief word about Manchester United I believe it is required by Fear for some form of impartiality (COME ON VILLA!)
Well seemingly Sir Alex hasn`t said anything worthwhile yet, so here is Graham Taylor instead! From a BBC blog:
“If Rooney does start alone up front, then I would expect Ji-Sung Park and Antonio Valencia to provide some support going forward. Park is a manager’s dream. When I saw him play against AC Milan, he was absolutely first class.
A lot of the work he does is the kind that can go unnoticed. When Milan had possession, he looked to mark Massimo Ambrosini. When United had the ball, he was free to go where he wanted.
Park does exactly what Ferguson asks for – and if he is needed to fulfil a hard-working role, then not many players are better than him. With Young and Downing looking to attack at every opportunity, he will have another chance to prove his worth on Sunday.”
That`s enough talk of the losing finalists I think!
Manchester Untied Team News:
United are technically the home team, so it seems best to speak about them I guess. United are struggling with a few injuries and suspensions. Anderson and Ferdinand will miss out, as will Nani who is currently suspended after trying to murder Stan Petrov in the league fixture between United and Villa recently.
Ryan Giggs also has a broken arm having run into steely Steve Sidwell!
Player to watch: Shrek
Nobody can look at anything other than Shrek himself to cause a mischief. Preferably if perhaps someone can kick him, or sit on him, anything, it`d be brilliant!
Aston VIlla Team News:
A couple of dilemma`s aside, Villa have a reasonably full-strength side. The usual long-term absentee`s are around. Stan Petrov should be fit despite the fact he has been suffering from a virus.
The main issues I guess are who plays in goal, who plays right back and who plays upfront! The Friedel/Guzan, Cuellar/Young and Big/Bigger debates will rage all the way through to Sundays game. If I was a guessing man, I would er…well guess: Friedel, Warnock, Dunne, Collins, Cuellar, Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing, Heskey, Agbonlahor.
Player to watch: All 11
It has been an awfully long time since glory, COME ON VILLA BOYS YOU CAN DO IT!
Match Facts & Stats
I thought I would bring back a classic for such a big occasion, the sing-a-long version:
Villa are looking to go to within 1 win of becoming tied for the all time winningest League Cup winners. For both Manchester United and the winners, Sunday will be their 8th final appearance in the tournament.
Manchester United have won an awful lot more than Villa in recent years, however have never won the Inter-Toto Cup.
In your face Sir Alex!
Wembley Stadium can officially fit 90,000 supporters in for a game of football. On top of this they can also include 9 trillion prawn sandwiches.
Roy Keane isn`t a fan.
The last time the two clubs met in the final, it was notable in the absence of Peter Schmeichel, who was suspended. Rudolph later went on to play, and indeed score for Villa.
Kevin Richardson vied with Shaun Teale for Aston Villa “top tache” 1994, a feat that hasn`t been matched by a Villa squad member since.
I don`t think in all my time writing these previews I`ve ever described a referee as ‘showy,` however Phil Dowd certainly is the most dramatic if you should search Google Images for him! Never afraid to pose him it up, Mr Dowd has 3.4 yellow cards a game! He regularly books at least 6 players!
It`s time for me to be serious and remind everyone of my dream. The score is 0-0, it`s the 89th minute and we`re heading for extra time and potentially penalties with a tiring squad. The ball bounces kindly 25 yards out, centre of goal and is rocketed past Van Der Sar by none other than Emile Heskey to win it.
Who cares, come the final whistle we`ll be too busy celebrating.
Well, that`s it folks. The talking from me has been done. We can all enjoy our Saturday of doing nothing in preparation for the greatest weekend in Villa for years.
UP THE VILLA!