We’ve said it before and we’ll say it until we’re blue in the face: nothing, or very few things, in football compare to the drama of the Championship play-off final. It’s one of those games that just tends to go above and beyond what we’re used to seeing and ‘feeling’ from this crazy game, because it quite literally all comes down to 90 minutes of football (or 120 minutes of football and penalties, depending on how far it goes).
Yesterday we saw two more teams write their names into the history books of the play-offs, as Aston Villa took on Derby County in a really intriguing final at Wembley. For large spells of the game it felt like both sides were just waiting to break out into that next level, but weren’t quite able to do so. Alas, as reported by BBC and The Guardian, one team was able to stretch their legs and get themselves over the finish line first: and that team was Aston Villa.
Back where they belong
Villa have been absent from the Premier League for a few years now, ever since they suffered what many considered to be a rather humiliating relegation. Ever since they’ve struggled to get back up into the top flight, which included a devastating 1-0 loss to Fulham at this same stage last season.
On the other hand you had Derby County, who haven’t exactly had the best of luck in the play-offs over the last few years. Their most notable appearance (lately) came in 2014, when Bobby Zamora’s late strike sent Queens Park Rangers back to the Premier League at the expense of the Rams.
When looking back on yesterday’s game in the days, weeks, months and even years to come, it’s clear to see that Derby fans are going to feel a little bit annoyed. Both of Villa’s goals were pretty avoidable all things considered, and they themselves had a few really good chance which probably should’ve caused the opposition more problems than they did. There’s nothing more they can do about it at this stage, obviously, and it’s going to be a very interesting summer transfer window for the club – especially with all of the rumours regarding Frank Lampard’s future as their manager.
The sleeping giant
But back to Villa, who are the real headline makers in the wake of this triumph. Their run to end the Championship season was nothing short of phenomenal, and it’s no exaggeration to suggest that they’re probably one of the gutsiest teams in English football today. Now, they can begin to plan for a future back in the Premier League, which didn’t seem all that possible just a few short months ago.
That’s the beauty of the play-off system, and while we understand the pain caused by losing at this level, the joy and ecstasy that comes alongside it really does make us smile. They call Wembley the worst place to lose and the best place to win, and Villa know far too well what it feels like to be on both sides of that coin.