With Aston Villa chasing their second successive Championship Play-Off Final, loyal fans will be wondering if this will end their agonising wait for a cup final victory at Wembley since the new stadium opened.
With seven FA Cups and five League Cups in the trophy cabinet, it is hard to fathom why it has been so long since Aston Villa players were able to show off a winners trophy to their adoring fans in the national stadium, Wembley.
Given the clubs illustrious past, it defies belief and is little short of criminal that a club with such a rich cup history has failed to lift the FA cup for over half a century – with the last time being when Peter McParland scored twice in the famous 2-1 win over Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’ in 1957.
Since then Villa captains have lifted the League Cup five times, but only three of those finals were won under the twin towers at the old Wembley Stadium with victories over Norwich City in 1975, Manchester United in 1994 and Leeds United in 1996. The first League Cup victory in the inaugural year of the new competition, 1961, saw Aston Villa claim the cup in a two-legged fixture, home and away, final against Rotherham United. The competition grew in stature and the final was contested at the old Wembley Stadium for the first time in 1967 when Queens Park Rangers triumphed over West Bromwich Albion in a 3-2 win.
Aston Villa’s second League Cup win was in fact at the old Wembley Stadium, where a crowd of 95,946 saw Ray Graydon score the winner in Aston Villa’s 1-0 victory over Norwich City. They were back again two years later when they played out a 0-0 draw with Everton. In those days the final went to a replay which was played at Hillsborough and ended 2-2 after extra-time, with no penalty shoot-outs. The two sides made League Cup history playing out a third game, and second replay final at Old Trafford where Aston Villa lifted the trophy after a 3-2 extra time victory… phew!
Aston Villa fans had witnessed the pain of defeat at Wembley in the same competition too, falling to two goals from Martin Chivers which saw Tottenham Hotspur lift the title.
The two glorious wins when Aston Villa saw off Manchester United 3-1 in 1994, followed just two years later with the convincing 3-0 hammering of Leeds United, seemed to show that Aston Villa were once again dancing with success at Wembley Stadium. Their big chance, and last chance to win a trophy at the old Wembley Stadium came in the millennial year of 2000, where a certain Roberto Di Matteo bagged the only goal in the FA Cup Final that saw Chelsea lift the trophy, and start a number of bitter Wembley final failures for the Villans.
After six long years of cup finals at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff whilst the new Wembley was being built, Aston Villa were nowhere to be seen.
Then suddenly, in 2010, Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa side were there in the League Cup final – with their first chance to lift silverware at the new national stadium. It wasn’t to be, however, and frustration again for the Villa faithful who saw Manchester United take the trophy and gain their revenge for 1994 with a 2-1 win. In 2015, Aston Villa powered past Liverpool in a glorious 2-1 result in the FA cup semi-final, gaining their first opportunity to win the famous trophy in fifteen years. The pain was unbearable as a far superior Arsenal side swept Aston Villa aside in a 4-0, heart-breaking scoreline which sent Villa fans home crestfallen.
The chance to wipe away the cobwebs of cup final misery came last season, as some 40,000 Aston Villa fans poured into Wembley for the crucially important, first-ever promotion Play-Off Final for Aston Villa.
Unbelievably, once again the claret and blue army came away dejected and disconsolate after losing the huge prize of a return to the Premier League with a pitiful 1-0 defeat to a Fulham side who had started the campaign wretchedly, but had powered their way back into play-off contention on the back of a remarkable unbeaten run.
Sound familiar? If Aston Villa were ever equipped to break the Wembley hoodoo and finally lift some silverware at the new national stadium, then this has to be the time doesn’t it?
Two more games to be negotiated, and then a great chance to exorcise the Wembley cup final demons.
Roll on 27th May.