Whatever happens a week on Monday, this season has marked a huge turning point in the recent history of our great club. Pride, passion, purpose – the platitudes which flash up on the screens before every home game – are finally appropriate and relevant. They actually mean something.
Although last season was the best for some time, and a trip to Wembley saw us agonisingly close to a return to the Greed League, I think most of us can agree that in hindsight, it was a huge blessing we didn’t make it.
For if we had gone up at Fulham’s expense, who knows where we would be right now? Would our financial situation have worsened? Premier League riches are not granted instantly upon promotion, so would we have had the capital to keep going through this season just gone? Would we now be in administration, or worse?
All ifs, buts and maybes. Now we have the chance to go up fit for purpose: restructured ownership; a footballing hierarchy properly in place; a number of crippling contracts are at last at an end; we have in place a progressive coaching staff; and we have the core of very decent side, despite our heavy reliance on loan players such as Abraham, Mings and Tuanzebe.
We showed in the winter window that our recruitment is streets ahead of what has gone before, so you’d imagine a summer window, whichever league we are in, will leave us much stronger than before. Hause and El Ghazi could (and probably should) become permanent signings whatever else happens. And if we do go up, the aforementioned trio of Abraham, Mings and Tuanzebe could also join on a permanent basis.
Certainly, in the case of Mings, we apparently have a right to match any other offer made this summer. The situation with Tammy and Axel is less certain: Chelsea have a transfer embargo and at Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to undertake root and branch reform of the squad and will look far more closely at Axel than perhaps he might have done had United qualified for the Champions League.
Wherever we find ourselves in August, this season has been a success. Although it could be argued that we are Aston Villa and we have to be at the top table, we had lost our way badly under the previous manager, and promotion (automatically or via the playoffs) was fast becoming nothing more than a pipe dream.
After an excellent start under Dean Smith, we lost our way at the end of 2018 and through the start of this year, coinciding with a serious injury to Jack Grealish and a defensive crisis which saw us regularly playing right backs across the whole of the back four.
We sat 14th at the start of March. Less than three months later, we will contest the Playoff Final with the chance of redemption and a return to our rightful place in the top division of English football. Sell-out crowds at home, a massive following away – this club is built for success.
Pride. Passion. Purpose. And, dare I say it, a Proud History, Bright Future.
I’ll get my coat…
UTV! HEITS! It is our time.