Villa Year 2013: Gabby breaks record, Benteke signs and Duke in B6
There were plenty of highs during the year as Paul Lambert guided Villa to safety with a remarkable post-New Year run of form.
There was the 6-1 thrashing of Sunderland - with Christian Benteke bagging a hat-trick and Gabby Agbonlahor breaking the club's top-flight scoring record - as well as vital wins over the likes of Reading, QPR and Norwich during a tense final few weeks.
2013 also saw the arrival of several new recruits for the coming season, including Leandro Bacuna, Antonio Luna, Libor Kozak and Jores Okore.
Villa beat Arsenal at The Emirates on the opening day of the season and the Duke of Cambridge attended his first home match.
For a full recap of the year, see below.
Villa start the New Year with an entertaining 2-2 draw against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, where Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke, with a penalty, are the men on target. The line-up is the youngest in the club's history, averaging 23 years and nine months.
There's also a 2-2 outcome against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns after Villa lead 2-0 at half-time through Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor. But the home games against Southampton and Newcastle United both end in defeat.
On the cup front, Paul Lambert's men beat Ipswich Town in the third round of the FA Cup before going out to Millwall at The Den in round four. Even more disappointing, though, is a 4-3 aggregate defeat by Bradford City in the Capital One Cup semi-final.
The club make two transfer deadline day signings, snapping up midfielder Yacouba Sylla from French club Clermont Foot and taking winger Simon Dawkins on loan from Tottenham Hotspur until the end of the season.
Leading 3-1 against Everton at Goodison Park, thanks to two goals from Christian Benteke and one from Gabby Agbonlahor, Villa have to settle for a 3-3 draw after Marouane Fellaini heads his second goal in stoppage time.
Ciaran Clark scores his first goal for the Republic of Ireland in a 2-0 international friendly victory over Poland in Dublin.
A Christian Benteke penalty and a superb Charles N'Zogbia free-kick clinch a 2-1 home win against West Ham, but Andi Weimann's goal isn't enough to prevent defeat by the same margin at Arsenal.
After slipping 1-0 at home to Manchester City, Villa boost their survival hopes with crucial back-to-back victories over fellow strugglers Reading and QPR.
Christian Benteke scores the club's 1,000th Premier League goal at the Madejski Stadium before Gabby Agbonlahor adds number 1,001, while Benteke's late goal secures a 3-2 home win over Harry Redknapp's men.
Christian Benteke is on target again at home to Liverpool but his goal isn't enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat by the Merseysiders.
Matt Lowton scores what proves to be Villa's goal of the season, a stunning 30-yard volley in a 3-1 win at Stoke City. Agbonlahor and Benteke are also on target at the Britannia Stadium.
After a 1-1 home draw against Fulham and a 3-0 defeat at Old Trafford on the night Manchester United clinch the Barclays Premier League title, Villa go on a goal spree at home to Sunderland. Ron Vlaar's first goal for the club sets the ball rolling against the Wearsiders with Andi Weimann also on target before Christian Benteke hits a hat-trick in the space of 17 second half minutes to become the club's highest scorer in a single Premier League season. Gabby Agbonlahor completes a 6-1 victory with his 61st Premier League goal - a figure which makes him Villa's highest Premier League scorer.
Having broken the club's Premier League scoring record, previously held by Dwight Yorke, Gabby Agbonlahor hits two more in a 2-1 success over Norwich City at Carrow Road.
Christian Benteke opens the scoring at home to Chelsea, only for the visitors to hit back for a 2-1 win. The Belgium international is sent off for a second bookable offence, and Frank Lampard's two second half strikes make him the Londoners' all-time leading marksman. Stiliyan Petrov leads an emotional lap of honour at the end of the game.
Wigan Athletic's defeat at Arsenal, a few days after the Latics' FA Cup final triumph against Manchester City, means Villa are safe. On the final day of the season they draw 2-2 at the DW Stadium, with Darren Bent and Ron Vlaar netting the goals.
Stiliyan Petrov, who had announced his retirement during the build-up to the Chelsea game, is appointed assistant youth coach.
Paul Mytton is appointed grounds manager at Villa Park following the departure of Jonathan Calderwood to Paris St German, with Graham Farmer assuming a similar role at Bodymoor Heath.
Paul Lambert makes five new signings, snapping up Bulgarian midfielder Aleksandar Tonev from Polish club Lech Poznan, Danish defender Jores Okore from Nordsjaelland, Dutch winger Leandro Bacuna from Groningen, Danish striker from Nicklas Helenius Aalborg and Spanish left-back Antonio Luna from Sevilla.
Nathan Baker and Andreas Weimann sign contract extensions to 2016, while Richard Dunne, Eric Lichaj, Jean Makoun and Andy Marshall are released and Brett Holman's contract is cancelled by mutual consent.
Scott Marshall is appointed Villa's first team coach, with Michael Watts arriving as fitness and conditioning coach, alongside Chris Lorkin.
Goalkeeper Jed Steer completes his transfer from Norwich City, while youngsters Samir Carruthers, Graham Burke and Michael Drennan all sign two-year contract extensions.
That sets the scene for a series of contract extensions among the senior players, with Brad Guzan, Ashley Westwood, Ciaran Clark, Christian Benteke and Matt Lowton all agreeing new deals.
Villa embark on a busy schedule of nine pre-season friendlies, starting in Germany and culminating with a 3-2 Villa Park success over Spanish club Malaga on the second Saturday of August.
Chief executive Paul Faulkner is appointed to the FA International Committee.
After beating Malaga in a friendly, Villa open the new Barclays Premier League campaign with a magnificent 3-1 victory at Arsenal. Christian Benteke is on target twice at the Emirates Stadium, with debut boy Antonio Luna completing the scoring.
Villa have to play three times in the first eight days of the season because of Chelsea's involvement in the UEFA Super Cup at the end of the month. They suffer an unlucky 2-1 defeat in the re-arranged game at Stamford Bridge, where Christian Benteke is again on the mark, before slipping 1-0 at home to Liverpool.
A repeat of the 1961 League Cup final sees Villa progress to the third round of the Capital One Cup with a 3-0 home victory over Rotherham United. Andi Weimann opens the scoring, Christian Benteke heads the second and Fabian Delph scores his first goal for 12 months.
Record signing Darren Bent joins Fulham on a season-long loan agreement, while Nathan Delfouneso (Blackpool), Enda Stevens (Notts County), Samir Carruthers (MK Dons) and Graham Burke (Shrewsbury Town) also go out on loan.
Czech Republic international Libor Kozak becomes Villa's seventh summer signing when he joins the club on transfer deadline day. Scottish midfielder Barry Bannan makes a permanent move to Crystal Palace, while Stephen Ireland joins Stoke City on a season-long loan.
Christian Benteke's second-half header isn't enough to prevent a 2-1 home defeat by Newcastle United, and to add injury to insult, Jores Okore suffers anterior cruciate ligament damage, a setback which is expected to keep the Danish defender out for nine months.
Christian Benteke joins the club's lengthy injury list when he is forced off at Norwich with a hip problem. But barely a minute after replacing the Belgian striker, Libor Kozak is on target to secure a 1-0 win at Carrow Road.
After a disappointing Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Tottenham, Paul Lambert's men bounce back with a dramatic home victory over Manchester City. Despite trailing twice, Villa hit back to win 3-2 with goals from Karim El Ahmadi, Leandro Bacuna - his first for the club - and Andi Weimann.
After back-to-back league wins against Norwich and Man City, Villa take a useful point from a 0-0 draw against Premier League new boys Hull City at the KC Stadium. But Paul Lambert's men just can't find the right formula at Villa Park, suffering consecutive 2-0 home defeats at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.
Thousands of fans flock to Villa Park for the club's annual Open Training session.
A goalless draw at West Ham means Villa have failed hit the target in four consecutive games, although Christian Benteke is unlucky not to score with a header which hits the bar. But they end the drought a week later, recording a 2-0 home win in the club's first league match against Cardiff City since 1975.Leandro Bacuna opens the scoring with a superb 76th-minute free-kick before Libor Kozak clinches victory with a fine header.
An exciting derby at The Hawthorns ends all-square as Villa hit back from two-down to draw 2-2 with second half goals from Karim El Ahmadi and Ashley Westwood - his first for the club.
Royal Villa fan Prince William attends his first match at Villa Park but his presence isn't enough to inspire a home victory as Paul Lambert's side are held to a goalless draw by Sunderland.
The club win the award for the best UK marketing campaign at the Football Business awards dinner at Stamford Bridge.
An amazing match at St Mary's sees Villa restricted to just 23 per cent possession and three efforts on target - but, most importantly, three points better off following a 3-2 victory over Southampton. Fabian Delph hits the winner with his first Barclays Premier League goal after earlier goals from Gabby Agbonlahor and Libor Kozak.
Chris Herd returns to the line-up for the first time since New Year's Day as Villa lose 2-0 to Fulham at Craven Cottage - the team's first setback in six matches. But the Australian defender's bad luck returns a few days later. Manager Paul Lambert reveals that Herd would have played again in the home match against Manchester United, only to be ruled out by a facial injury suffered in training.
Marc Albrighton makes his first starting appearance since New Year's Day and produces an excellent performance against Manchester United, despite a disappointing 3-0 home defeat.
Libor Kozak is on target for the fourth time since his arrival from Lazio, although the Czech Republic international's goal isn't enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat by Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
Villa follow up a 1-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace with a useful point against free-flowing Swansea, Gabby Agbonlahor netting in a 1-1 draw.
Make sure you pick up match tickets for Villa v Sheff Utd.
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