Why the 2019 Championship play off final was Aston Villa's most important win of the 21st Century
“The fallen giants are back on their feet."
The outcome of the 2019 Championship play off final summed up perfectly by Daniel Mann as it was confirmed that Aston Villa were truly back in the big time.
Jack Grealish, the representative of the Villa fanbase on the pitch, shared the feeling of every fan up and down the country as he portrayed what can be simply described as an outpouring of emotion at the final whistle whilst Dean Smith, John Terry, and Richard O’Kelly embraced like a band of brothers as the win was confirmed. It was over. Villa were back.
Everything about that day was wonderful: The coach journey on the way up went without traffic; the sun beamed down upon us as we made our way up to the bar and the songs started up early with both sets of fans in full voice as we collectively made that famous walk down Wembley Way with the sweet smell of alcohol filling the air.
Almost every fan in the ground waved their flags in perfect symmetry as the players lined up on the pitch. The scene was set. The final act of the season was ready to begin.
The nervous energy around the stadium raced through each player like an Olympic sprinter. If you were to pick a cliché to describe the opening of the match: “a game of few chances” would be the obvious candidate with a long-range effort from Tammy Abraham being the best chance of the opening 20 minutes.
The atmosphere seemed to reflect the match. As both sets of fans seemingly began to relax, it started to settle into a pattern. Villa have most of the possession, Derby sit back and try to counter. Rinse and repeat.
However, as the match reached the 44th minute, that pattern was broken as Ahmed Elmohamady whipped in an excellent cross which bounced off the shoulder of Anwar El Ghazi and past Keller Roos in the Derby goal.
The claret and blue half of Wembley stadium erupted: a noise so loud that it could be heard from the houses of those watching back in Birmingham. Arms flailing everywhere, men, women and children hugging people they had had never even encountered the day before. pure joy ran through the veins of tens of thousands. The other half sat in despair, numb to the bone, just as the opposing Villa fans were just a year prior.
The pressure on the Derby goal continued from the Villa in the second half which reached a crescendo in the 59th minute with Anwar El Ghazi cutting on from the left and unleashing shot a shot which fatefully deflected into the path of John McGinn who was first to react to bundle home Villa’s second goal of the game.
Pandemonium followed as I almost fell onto the row of seats below me.
“It’s going to go in, it’s going to go in from John McGinn” bellowed Daniel Mann.
Villa were dominant throughout the first hour, whilst Derby were full of mistakes as their forward players struggled to make an impact on the match.
“We are Aston Villa; we always do it the hard way” beamed John McGinn after the final whistle
A statement which never seemed truer, when, on 81 minutes, Jadon Bogle guided a header into the path of Jack Marriott, who drilled the ball into the bottom corner.
Thousands of nails were lost that day as the fourth official announced that there would be 7 minutes of added time with thousands of Brummies simultaneously muttering: “where have they come from?”
However, as the clock struck 90+7, those glorious three blows of the whistle echoed around Wembley. It was official, Aston Villa were no longer a second tier football team.
Now, the reason for this article: Why was the 2019 Championship play off final the most important match of the 21st century for Aston Villa?
The simple answer is that it allows the club to compete in the Premier League. I loved our time in the Championship however with a club as big as Aston Villa, the expectation of the fanbase will always be huge, and being in the Premier League gives Dean Smith a great opportunity to fulfil that expectation.
Additionally, the fallout from losing the game would have been massive: Jack Grealish would have inevitably been sold, Tyrone Mings’ loan move would not have been made permanent and the club may also have had to sell John McGinn to comply with financial fair play rules and I believe that, without those three players, as well as the loss of Tammy Abraham and Axel Tuanzebe, we would have struggled to win promotion the following season.
Furthermore, it has allowed Villa to be free of the aforementioned financial fair play rules that the EFL has in place. In fact, the club would have been in danger of breaking FFP if we had remained in the Championship which would result in a potential 12-point deduction. Being under the jurisdiction of the Premier League now gives Villa the opportunity to continue improving the squad on a regular basis.