2012 in words: Hanks watches, Lambert arrives and support for Stan
Rob Bishop looks back at claret and blue events over the past 12 months.
After beating Chelsea 3-1 on New Year's Eve, the start of 2012 is an anti-climax for Villa as they slip 2-0 at home to Swansea City just 48 hours after the superb victory at Stamford Bridge.
The first hurdle of the FA Cup is safely negotiated - a 3-1 win away to Bristol Rovers - but Villa fall at the second fence. Two-up at half-time through Richard Dunne and Darren Bent, they slip to a 3-2 defeat by Arsenal in a fourth round tie at the Emirates Stadium.
Irish full-back Enda Stevens joins the club from Shamrock Rovers and there's another new Irishman in the ranks as Robbie Keane arrives on a six-week loan from LA Galaxy. The Republic's leading scorer makes his debut as a substitute in a 1-1 home draw against Everton - and a week later he is on target twice in the second half against the club where he started his career as Villa beat Wolves 3-2 at Molineux.
Villa's U19s, having reached the quarter-finals of the NextGen Series, make their exit from the competition, losing 2-1 at home to Marseille despite a late Gary Gardner goal which takes the tie to extra-time.
Darren Bent scores his 100th Premier League goal - and his 18th for Villa - as Alex McLeish's men hit back from two-down to force a 2-2 home draw against QPR. Charles N'Zogbia's second-half equaliser is his first goal for Villa since his transfer from Wigan Athletic the previous summer.
Robbie Keane's goal isn't enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle, and there's also a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Manchester City, whose goal is scored by Villa fan Joleon Lescott. Richard Dunne suffers a fractured shoulder against his former club and is expected to be sidelined for at least eight weeks.
Keane makes his final appearance in a goalless draw at Wigan before heading back across the Atlantic to re-join LA Galaxy. The even more depressing news from the DW Stadium, though, is a serious ankle injury sustained by Darren Bent, who is told he is likely to miss the rest of the season.
Eamon Deacy, one of only 14 players involved in Villa's 1980-81 title-winning squad, dies in his native Galway after suffering a heart attack.
Charles N'Zogbia opens the scoring against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, the home side hitting back for a 1-1 draw with a late David Dunn equaliser.
Substitute Andreas Weimann scores in stoppage time against Fulham to secure our first home win since November, but that morale-boosting victory is followed by two defeats, 3-0 at Arsenal and 4-2 at home to Chelsea.
The match against Chelsea is overshadowed by the news 24 hours earlier that skipper Stiliyan Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia. The 19th minute applause tribute begins, however, which will prove to be a source of inspiration for the skipper in his time ahead.
Australian international Brett Holman agrees to join Villa when his contract with Dutch club AZ Alkmaar expires in the summer.
The Easter weekend brings two points from 1-1 draws, against Liverpool at Anfield and at home to Stoke City. Chris Herd scores his first Villa goal in the Liverpool match, while Andreas Weimann's superb effort is later voted Villa's goal of the season.
After a 4-0 defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford, Villa draw 0-0 at home to Sunderland in a match which sees manager Martin O'Neill's first return to Villa Park since he resigned as Villa boss.
Despite taking the lead through Stephen Warnock, Villa concede two goals in as many minutes to lose 2-1 at home to Bolton Wanderers as the pressure intensifies in the lower reaches of the table.
After 11 weeks on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, Richard Dunne returns to action in a goalless derby against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
Midfielder Stephen Ireland wins the supporters clubs' Terrace Trophy.
Villa effectively secure Barclays Premier League safety with a 1-1 home draw against Tottenham Hotspur, courtesy of Ciaran Clark's deflected 30-yarder.
A 2-0 defeat by Norwich City at Carrow Road brings down the curtain on a disappointing 2011-12 campaign. Less than 24 hours later, manager Alex McLeish is sacked after just 11 months in charge.
There's disappointment, too, for striker Darren Bent, who is omitted from England's Euro 2012 squad after battling his way back from an ankle injury.
The club announce that Carlos Cuellar, Emile Heskey and Brad Guzan have been released.
Villa confirm that Norwich City boss Paul Lambert has been appointed the club's new manager, although his unveiling is delayed for a few days by the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Chief executive Paul Faulkner is elected to the FA Council.
New signing Brett Holman is voted player of the year by Professional Players Australia.
Coach Kevin MacDonald, who had been Villa's caretaker manager at the start of the 2010-11 season, ends his 17-year association with the club.
Manager Paul Lambert adds two new players to his squad, signing Feyenoord midfielder Karim El Ahmadi and Sheffield United defender Matt Lowton. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, meanwhile, returns to Villa on a three-year contract, having been released under the previous management.
Hollywood megastar Tom Hanks watches Villa in live action for the first time, taking in the friendly against Portland Timbers, which Villa win on a penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 draw. There are also wins against Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire during the pre-season USA tour.
There's another recruit from Feyenoord as manager Lambert snaps up central defender Ron Vlaar from the Dutch giants. James Collins, meanwhile, ends his three-year stay at Villa Park by returning to West Ham.
Injury-hit trio Richard Dunne, Gabby Agbonlahor and Marc Albrighton are all ruled out of starting the season.
Villa Park hosts English football's traditional curtain-raiser, the Community Shield final between champions Manchester City and FA Cup-holders Chelsea.
There's a disappointing start to the Barclays Premier League campaign as Paul Lambert's side open with a single-goal defeat at West Ham and then lose 3-1 home to Everton. Karim El Ahmadi becomes the 20th player to score on a Villa Park debut with his second half consolation goal.
Tranmere Rovers were beaten 3-0 in a second round Capital One Cup-tie at Villa Park.
Four more new signings arrive during transfer deadline week - Joe Bennett from Middlesbrough, Jordan Bowery from Chesterfield, Ashley Westwood from Crewe and Christian Benteke from Belgian club Genk.
There's a mixed bag of league results as Villa follow up a well-earned draw at Newcastle with a 2-0 home success over Swansea City, Matt Lowton netting his first goal for the club before Christian Benteke marks his debut by scoring the secondafter going on as a 71st-minute substitute. Darren Bent's first league goal of the season isn't enough to prevent a 4-1 defeat at Southampton but his second, eight days later, earned a 1-1 derby draw with West Bromwich Albion.
An outstanding performance at the Etihad Stadium is rewarded by a 4-2 victory over Manchester City in the third round of the Capital One Cup, Gabby Agbonlahor netting twice with Charles N'Zogbia also on target and former Villa midfielder Gareth Barry conceding an own goal. Marc Albrighton gets his first action of the season at the Etihad after recovering from a broken metatarsal.
Left-back Stephen Warnock joins Bolton Wanderers on a three-month emergency loan.
It's a tough month for Paul Lambert's team, who suffer consecutive defeats in London at the hands of Tottenham and Fulham, and have to settle for a 1-1 home draw against Norwich City after going ahead through Christian Benteke. In the end, it's a hard-earned point against Lambert's former club, Villa being reduced to 10 men when Joe Bennett is sent off early in the second half for two bookable offences.
Bennett is also one of Villa's injury victims during October, along with Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker and Chris Herd.
A thrilling fourth round tie at the County Ground sees Villa progress to the Capital One Cup quarter-finals with a 3-2 victory over Swindon Town. Having led 2-0 at the break through Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor, the visitors are pegged back to 2-2 before Benteke hits a late winner.
Gabby Agbonlahor's first league goal for 12 months secures a 1-0 success over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Andi Weimann is on target twice as Villa go two-up at home to Manchester United, only for the visitors to hit back and win 3-2. A week later Weimann's "phantom" hand ball gives Manchester City a controversial penalty in a 5-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium.
After a hard-fought goalless draw at home to Arsenal, Villa field the youngest league line-up - average age 23 years and nine months - for the Villa Park clash against Reading. Christian Benteke's late header clinches a vital 1-0 win.
Former Villa wing-half Ivor Powell dies at the age of 96. Only two years earlier, he had still been coaching at the University of Bath.
The Villa Academy emerges as the best in the country as it secures Category One status following an independent audit of the club's youth developments programmes.
Brett Holman scores his first competitive goal for the club in a 1-1 draw against QPR at Loftus Road, while a 0-0 draw at home to Stoke City extends the team's unbeaten Barclays Premier League sequence to four games.
Villa defeat Norwich City 4-2 in the Capital One Cup quarter-final at Carrow Road before seeing off Liverpool 3-1 at Anfield. Both performances are equisite, with Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann proving star men in the duo of games. Weimann's goal at Anfield is a delight to see, with a backheel from Benteke providing the backdrop for a wondrous effort.
Villa are drawn with Bradford City in the Capital One Cup semi-final over two legs, first at Valley Parade and then at Villa Park. Villa are also paired with Ipswich Town in the FA Cup third round.
However, there's end of year frustration with a trio of defeats to Chelsea, Tottenham and Wigan.
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