It was a tough afternoon as Aston Villa went out of the FA Cup following a Third Round 3-0 defeat to Swansea City.
Check out our ‘5 things’ below.
1] McGinn example
Dean Smith has compared him to Scottish icon ‘Braveheart’ in the past and it’s John McGinn’s battling qualities that the Head Coach wants others around him to replicate.
It may have been a 3-0 defeat but McGinn never stopped running, never stopped fighting and gave every ounce of energy for the claret and blue cause.
When you consider the way he goes about his business and the amount of matches he’s played over the festive period, it’s a real tribute to the former Hibs man that he can keep producing these kind of lung-busting displays.
Smith wasn’t satisfied with the overall performance of the team and promoted McGinn as an example for everyone to follow.
He said: “I said to the players at the end, the supporters here love John McGinn, and they love him because he plays like every game is his last game. We need a lot more players to show that desire.”
No question that McGinn produces performances to replicate.
2] Lansbury renaissance
Henri Lansbury has had a tough time in claret and blue over the past two seasons.
The former Arsenal and Forest midfielder was only called upon 10 times in the Sky Bet Championship in 2017/18 and has endured a troublesome hamstring problem this term.
The arrival of a new man at the helm in Dean Smith will have given Lansbury renewed optimism and his 30-minute cameo against Swansea, despite the result, was a high point in an otherwise frustrating FA Cup exit.
Lansbury was bright, confident and showed a fine array of passing skills following his introduction.
Something, most certainly, for him to build on as he looks to force his way back into the first XI this term.
3] Championship challenge
It’s the oldest cliché in football but it’s so true. Now we’ve exited the FA Cup, it’s time to “focus on the league”.
Dean Smith made it clear after the Swansea defeat that promotion would now be firmly front and centre of his plans going-forward.
But he also made it equally clear that a Third Round defeat wasn’t in the script.
The Head Coach is a firm believer that you should go all-out in every competition, with 45 chances of success over a 15-year football career – promotion/title, FA Cup and League Cup success.
This will have hurt the gaffer but he knows there’s another prize on the horizon that is still well within our sights.
4] Still in the hunt
It will obviously sting to go out of the world’s oldest domestic cup competition but, let’s not forget how much there is still to play for this season.
We’re currently in 10th in the Sky Bet Championship – and only five points away from the play-off places.
It’s one defeat in 11 games for Dean Smith’s side as we now head to Wigan Athletic looking to bridge that gap to the upper echelons of the table.
It could yet be a very exciting ending to the campaign – and Smith is certainly positive heading into the New Year fixtures.
He said: “I have no doubts we are one of the top teams in the Championship.
“Is the top six still a possibility? Without a shadow of a doubt.
“We have certainly got players who can produce fireworks. We feel there is still a lot of fizz in the team.”
5] Take a break
It’s been a gruelling schedule for the claret and blues over the festive period and now it’s time to spark into life once again as we charge into the closing months of the campaign.
Dean Smith played a first XI he felt could - and should - have seen off Swansea but, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
His changes to the side meant rests for James Chester, Yannick Bolasie and Conor Hourihane.
Chester and Hourihane, in particular, have gone to the well many times this season so they should be full of energy once again as the league campaign kicks off this Saturday.
Bolasie has been beset by injuries over the past couple of years and has an explosive style – so he, too, will have benefited from a break.
We hope to see him blasting past full-backs in the business end of the season now!