HAMBURG, GERMANY - MAY 12: Antonio Lopez of Atletico Madrid lifts the UEFA Europa League trophy following his team's victory after extra time at the end of the UEFA Europa League final match between Atletico Madrid and Fulham at HSH Nordbank Arena on May 12, 2010 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
This is probably an unnecessarily bold way to introduce myself to you, the proud community of Villa fans (and others) that you are. Perhaps I should start over. My name is Gareth Simpson. I’m from Canada. I support Aston Villa (and FC Barcelona, whenever they’re not facing Aston Villa, which is pretty much always.) And I don’t care about the Europa League. Goodness, it seems I’ve made the same mistake twice. Shame on me. At least allow me to explain myself.
There is nothing I want more than the greatest success for our fair Villans. But I have to be practical. I can’t foresee a season in which we go on to win the Premiership, the F.A. Cup, the Carling Cup, and the Europa League (not to mention the much-vaunted UEFA Fair Play award.) So we have to prioritize. We have to balance the title we value the most against our chances at winning it. Based on last season, I believe that the best chance we have of winning anything is in domestic cup competition. That’s fairly obvious, because only the slightest lack of quality and a little bit of dodgy officiating kept us from winning the Carling Cup and appearing in the finals of the F.A. Cup (where I have to assume we’d have bested Portsmouth to lift the thing.)
So, if we’re going to win the Carling Cup or the F.A. Cup this upcoming season, we have to give it our proper attention. What we can’t have is a squad that doesn’t rotate very often appearing in four different competitions and attempting to win them all. We might as well file an official request to have one of our starters injured. Besides that, European national teams will dust off their post-World Cup rust and start playing qualifying matches for the 2012 European Championships. By my count, Aston Villa could conceivably have ten players on their roster playing in European qualifying matches (Richard Dunne for Ireland, John Carew for Norway, Stilyan Petrov for Bulgaria, James Collins for Wales, and any combination of Stewart Downing, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey, James Milner and Stephen Warnock for England.) Besides that, as Kirsten noted, Villa has two players appearing in England’s squad for the European Under-19 Championships in a few weeks. Lest we forget, Robin van Persie was injured last season in an international match, and it put a huge dent in Arsenal’s title hopes.
I would never advocate Aston Villa playing for anything but a win. The supporter’s prerogative is an expectation that their club will never settle for anything less than victory. However, I won’t be broken up if some midlevel Nordic club knocks us out on away goals. That’s all I’m saying.