Aston Villa 3 Hibernian 0 (Villa win 8-0 on agg)
As a precursor to the start of Aston Villa’s Europa Conference League group games, we look back at the play-off round against Hibs.
In a Word
Stroll (down memory lane): ‘A slow relaxed walk, especially for pleasure.’
By Rob Carter
Travelling up from Brighton to Aston on a Thursday afternoon is never fun, but the context of Aston Villa’s first European home game for 13 years made this a must-attend. The National Highways Agency have seemingly decided to repair every road on my 180 mile trip from home to Villa Park (at the same time), so five hours after departing, this weary traveller arrived in Perry Barr.
European nights hold a special place in the memory of my Villa match-going experiences; I’m not of a vintage old enough to have enjoyed our epic early 80s matches (in person), but I am old enough to have experienced us beating Inter Milan (twice) at Villa Park, and countless other memorable European nights. It’s not only the events on the pitch that mark these nights out as special; it’s the atmosphere, the songs of the opposition fans that we never usually hear, the electricity in the air, the thrill of the unexpected, and the focus on regaining our status as one of Europe’s elite.
In truth, after such a comprehensive 5-0 win in the away leg, there was never any chance of Villa not progressing in this tie; this was soon proved as the home side raced into a 2-0 lead, with any semblance of jeopardy well and truly banished.
Despite the dead-rubber nature of the tie, the Hibernian fans had turned out in their numbers, sticking with their team admirably. Their rendition of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ in the second half, despite Villa being even further ahead, was special to hear.
European memories of Villa taking on the continent’s elite may not be comparable to this 8-0 aggregate victory, but the fact that this was a precursor to the Europa Conference League group stages made it an essential experience, an apéritif for greater tastier morsels later in the season.
On the walk back to Perry Barr after the game, our journey took us through the massed ranks of Hibernian fans leaving the Doug Ellis stand. There was no animosity, just a seeming resignation from them that they had come up against an opponent who are at a very different stage of their journey.
Attention now turns to the group stages, where Villa face a difficult test, coming up against last year’s beaten semi-finalists AZ Alkmaar, Legia Warsaw and Bosnian outfit HSK Zrinjski. Bolstered by an excellent transfer window, most will rate Villa’s chances of progressing through the group as high, despite the presence of the Dutch side, who currently sit top in the Eredevisie, with a 100% record.
The late addition of Clement Longlet has strengthened Villa’s defensive options (especially on the left hand side of the centre), with the Frenchman’s European nous likely to come in handy.
The National Highways Agency added to our difficult journey home by closing our junction on the M25, meaning a delightful detour through leafy Surrey, before arriving home at 2:30am with a full day’s work to come on the Friday. It was worth it.
Despite the best efforts of David Cameron, Nigel Farage, and 52% of the population of our little island, there is still one enclave of England that wants to be part of Europe. We are known as the Aston Villa Football Club.
Bring it on.
Value rating: £25 (out of £30)