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Aston Villa’s Diary of 2018

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Aston Villa’s Diary of 2018

We take a look back at the last 12 months for the claret and blues.

Here, we chart 2018’s highs and lows.


The year gets off to a flying start as Villa record their biggest win of the season – a 5-0 victory over promotion rivals Bristol City at Villa Park.

By the end of the month, the team have chalked up three more Championship victories, beating Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United away, and Barnsley at home.

The only setback in January is an early exit from the FA Cup following a shock 3-1 third-round home defeat at the hands of Peterborough United.

The club make two loan signings, taking defender Axel Tuanzebe from Manchester United and striker Lewis Grabban from Bournemouth for the remainder of the season.

Richie De Laet, Tommy Elphick and Aaron Tshibola link up with Royal Antwerp, Reading and Kilmarnock respectively on loan deals.

Villans mourn the passing of Nigel Sims, our goalkeeper in the 1957 FA Cup final, and defender Alan Deakin from the 1961 League Cup-winning team. Former striker Cyrille Regis dies suddenly at the age of 59.


Steve Bruce is named Championship manager of the month for January in recognition of his team’s 100 per cent record.

A 3-2 home success over Burton Albion is followed by a 2-0 victory in the Second City derby, Conor Hourihane clinching victory over Birmingham City with a magnificent dipping volley. The win takes Villa to second in the table.

Those results extend the team’s winning sequence to seven – the club’s best run since Graham Taylor’s side reeled off seven straight victories during the 1990/91 season.

The run comes to an end with a 2-0 defeat by Fulham at Craven Cottage on a day when key players Albert Adomah and Jack Grealish are ruled out by injuries.

Villa are soon back in the groove. Grabban scores his first goal for the club in a 1-1 home draw against Preston and is then on target twice in a 4-1 success over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.


After winning 3-0 at Sunderland, Villa produce their best performance of the season, demolishing runaway leaders Wolves 4-1 with goals from Albert Adomah, James Chester, Lewis Grabban and sub Birkir Bjarnason.

After the euphoria of such a convincing victory over their local rivals, Villa struggle for the rest of the month, suffering surprise defeats at the hands of Queens Park Rangers and Bolton Wanderers before having to settle for a point in a goalless draw at Hull City.

Andre Green signs a contract extension, securing his future at Villa Park until the summer of 2020.


After comfortably beating Reading 3-0 at home, Villa slip to a 3-1 defeat by Norwich City at Carrow Road but bounce back with consecutive 1-0 home wins in the space of four days to guarantee a place in the Championship play-offs. Jack Grealish’s superb late volley secures victory over Cardiff City in a game attended by HRH The Duke of Cambridge, while Grabban’s header delivers three points at the expense of Leeds.

A convincing 4-0 win at Ipswich Town is followed by an exciting 1-1 draw against Derby County in the final home game of the regular Championship campaign. Grabban’s second-half equaliser takes his haul to eight goals during his loan spell, and the match is watched by 41,745 – our highest attendance since Manchester United’s visit in August 2015.

A special long-service award is presented to Gabby Agbonlahor, the club’s record Premier League scorer, in recognition of his 12 years as a first-team player.

The football world mourns the death of former England midfielder Ray Wilkins, who had a brief spell as Villa coach under the management of Tim Sherwood’s management.


It’s celebration time for the U21s, who win the Premier League Cup by beating Swansea City on penalties after the final ends goalless at the Liberty Stadium. The youngsters follow up by winning the Hong Kong Sevens tournament.

Villa’s regular season ends with a 1-0 defeat at Millwall before they settle down to the play-offs. Mile Jedinak’s header in the first leg at The Riverside is enough to secure a semi-final victory over Middlesbrough after the return match at Villa Park finishes as a tense goalless draw.

Unfortunately, Villa miss out on promotion, losing 1-0 to Fulham in the final at Wembley despite the backing of 37,181 supporters.

The game at Wembley is the final Villa appearance for former England skipper John Terry.

Former Villa midfielder Neale Cooper dies at the age of 54. The club were also rocked by the death, at 37, of Jlloyd Samuel, who was killed in a car crash.

Spanish midfielder Carles Gil makes a permanent move to Depotivo La Coruna following his loan spell.


Goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini signs for Italian club Atalanta after spending a season-and-a-half on loan in his homeland.

Villa announce the return of 32 Red as kit sponsor for the 2018/19 season.

Mile Jedinak, Ahmed Elmohamady and Birkir Bjarnason are all involved in the World Cup finals in Russia, but the tournament ends early for all three, with Australia, Egypt and Iceland failing to qualify from the group stages. At least Jedinak has the consolation of scoring both the Socceroos’ goals, converting penalties in a 2-1 defeat to France and a 1-1 draw against Denmark.

The club announce that season ticket sales for the new season have passed the 20,000 mark.


Villa part company with Director of Football Steve Round.

After warm-weather training in Portugal, the pre-season schedule gets under way with a 3-0 win at Telford and a 1-1 draw at Kidderminster on the same afternoon.

The warm-up continues with wins at Walsall and Burton, a 3-1 defeat by West Ham in a “home” friendly at Bescot and a 2-1 success over Dynamo Dresden in Germany, where Andre Green scores two second-half goals.

After a summer of uncertainty over the club’s financial position, the issue is resolved by a significant injection of funds by businessmen Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.


Villa move into the transfer market to sign Norway international keeper Ørjan Nyland from Bundesliga club Ingolstadt and Scottish midfielder John McGinn from Hibernian, while a season-long loan deal is agreed with Atletico Madrid keeper Andre Moreira. Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe returns on a similar basis following his loan spell last season.

Manager Steve Bruce also brings in Anwar El Ghazi from French club Lille, Yannick Bolasie from Everton and Tammy Abraham from Chelsea, all on loans until the end of the season.

Gary Gardner moves across the city after agreeing a season-long loan at St Andrew’s, while Tommy Elphick (Hull City), Andre Green (Portsmouth) and Jordan Lyden (Oldham Athletic) also go out on loan.

The 2018/19 campaign gets under way with a 3-1 victory at Hull City, where Tommy Elphick and Ahmed Elmohamady score their first Villa goals.

Birkir Bjarnason’s stoppage-time effort ensures dramatic 3-2 victory over Wigan Athletic in the opening home game but Villa then have to settle for three consecutive Championship draws, against Ipswich Town, Brentford and Reading.

A Conor Hourihane goals ensures a 1-0 Carabao Cup win at Yeovil before Villa go out by the same score at Burton Albion in the second round.

Christian Purslow is announced as the club’s new CEO.


Anwar El Ghazi’s first goal for the club is only a consolation as Villa’s unbeaten Championship start comes to a halt in a 4-1 defeat by Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

Conor Hourihane’s last-gasp free-kick earns a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, where Abraham and Bolasie both make their debuts.

The new boys follow up with a goal each on their home debuts in a 2-0 victory over Rotherham United, but John McGinn’s spectacular volley against Sheffield Wednesday four days later isn’t enough to prevent Villa’s first home defeat of the season.

Birkir Bjarnason’s header on the stroke of half-time earns a 1-1 draw against Bristol City at Ashton Gate.


Sub Yannick Bolasie’s stoppage-time goal salvages a point from a 3-3 home draw against Preston North End but it isn’t enough to prevent Steve Bruce from being relieved of his duties the following day.

After a 2-1 defeat at Millwall under caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald, Villa appoint Brentford manager Dean Smith as the club’s head coach, with John Terry and Richard O’Kelly as his assistants.

It’s a bittersweet afternoon as the new coaching staff take charge for the first time.  A minute’s applause to mark the passing of former chairman Sir Doug Ellis is followed by a 1-0 victory over Swansea City, courtesy of Tammy Abraham’s early goal.

Smith’s first two away matches both end in narrow defeats, 2-1 at Norwich City and 1-0 at Queens Park Rangers.


Jack Grealish scores his first goal of the season to inspire a 2-0 home win over Bolton Wanderers, with James Chester adding the second, before Villa record their first away win under Dean Smith. John McGinn, Tammy Abraham and Conor Hourihane are all on target in the final 16 minutes at Pride Park in a 3-0 success against Derby County.

Two amazing Villa Park games in the space of four days produce a total of 16 goals. Villa come out on top 4-2 in the Second City derby, extending their unbeaten league sequence against Birmingham City to 13 with goals from Jonathan Kodjia, Jack Grealish, Tammy Abraham (penalty) and Alan Hutton.

That’s followed by an incredible 5-5 draw against Nottingham Forest, featuring a quartet goals from Abraham – the first time a Villa player has scored four in a single league game since Tony Hateley in March 1966. Villa trail three times before going ahead through sub Anwar El Ghazi, only to be pegged back by a second goal from former Villa loanee Lewis Grabban.

The funeral of Sir Doug Ellis takes place at Aston Parish Church. Among the mourners are former Villa players Brian Little, Ian Taylor, Andy Townsend, Steve Staunton, David Platt, Ian Ross, Jimmy Cumbes and Bobby Thomson, plus former England captain Bryan Robson.


Goals from James Chester, Tammy Abraham and sub Glenn Whelan give Villa another impressive away win as they overcome Middlesbrough 3-0 at The Riverside.

A controversial stoppage-time by Jay Rodriguez – who handles the ball at least once as he diverts it over the line – denies Dean Smith’s men victory after they lead twice in an exciting derby against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns. 

Trailing twice at home to Stoke City, Villa hit back for a 2-2 draw, thanks to a Tammy Abraham penalty and a Jonathan Kodjia header.

Despite leading 2-0 through Tammy Abraham and Conor Hourihane, Villa suffer a 3-2 defeat at home to Leeds United, whose win takes them back to the top of the table.

Conor Hourihane’s 65th-minute header, combined with a penalty save from Ørjan Nyland, secures a 1-0 Boxing Day victory over Swansea City, while Abraham scores our last goal of the year in a 1-1 draw at Preston.

Abraham’s prolific scoring earns him the Sky Bet Championship player-of-the-month for November, while Alan Hutton’s solo effort against Blues earns him the November goal-of-the-month award.

The club announce that Croatia international keeper Lovre Kalinic will be our first signing of the January transfer window when he officially joins us from Belgian club Gent today. Defender Tommy Elphick, meanwhile, is recalled from his loan spell at Hull City.

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup pairs Villa with Swansea City, with the tie scheduled for Villa Park next Saturday, 5th January.

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Rob Bishop
By @robbishopavfc 1st January 2019