For the last time this season, we sat down electronically with another blog to talk about a game - this time we chatted with 7500 To Holte, SBN's awesome Aston Villa blog. Fortunately, we're playing Villa in the final, so the timing on that worked out great! Boy, it would have been awkward to have this chat if Villa weren't involved in the game.
Anyway, Robert Lintott of 7500 was kind enough to answer a few questions, and I did the same for him over there, which you'll see when you click on this here link.
TSF: This has been a challenging year for Aston Villa, which ended with the club successfully avoiding the relegation that many people (outside the club at least) thought was inevitable around New Year's. Does that place an outsized importance on winning the Cup for both the team and the fans, as a way of making the season feel a bit more positive?
7500: This has been a challenging year for us in the same way that 1066 was a challenging year for Anglo-Saxons. But I don't think the FA Cup has too much significance on salvaging this year. If we win: the league campaign was still a mess. If we lose: the league campaign was still a mess. So it's not going to salvage the season much.
But giving us something positive? That's something it can absolutely do. Since Martin O'Neill left days before the season in 2010, Villa have been in a tailspin. That's five years of fighting off relegation and having nothing to cheer for. Simply getting to Wembley was a catharsis for many, and winning the whole thing would be incredible. It's hard, as a fan right now, not to feel that things are going to get better. It's tough for them to get too much worse and Tim Sherwood has already vastly improved the club. So a win tomorrow would be a convenient marker for when the new, brigter era began.
TSF: Is Tim Sherwood at Villa for the long haul, or will he be gone in a year if Villa underperform again?
7500: Yes. To both. He's here for the long haul if he can get results. Somewhere midtable is what Villa should be able to expect, and if he can do that I think he's around for a bit. But if he falters-if, god forbid, Villa are in a relegation fight come Christmas-I think the leash is short and we see him gone.
There is another variable, too: ownership. If Randy Lerner is able to sell the club any time soon, new owners may want to have a clean slate with which to work. I think Sherwood could effectively take this club into the future, but I wouldn't blame new owners for thanking him nicely and bringing in someone different.
TSF: Who has been the brightest light in a dark year for Villa?
7500: You know, my instant reaction to this question was "Tim Sherwood." And I'm not sure it's wrong. Jack Grealish has been a joy (homegrown kid who grew up loving Villa) and Christian Benteke has finally come alive. You've also got Fabian Delph becoming the player we always dreamed of and Ciaran Clark (who, sadly, will miss this match due to injury) doing better than we had ever hoped. But those players were around under Paul Lambert. And they stunk. The team stunk. It was no fun to watch and it was probably less fun to play for.
And then Sherwood came. He brought his massive ego with him, and he brought a sense of swagger. Villa went out and attacked. We did smart things and we did plenty of dumb things. But the club were fun again. As a fan, that has meant the world to me. I actually look forward to watching matches rather than dreading them. And sure, it's the players, but more than that it's the attitude, and that was brought in by Sherwood.
TSF: Fill in the blank: If Arsenal want to beat Aston Villa on Saturday, they must (blank)
7500: Score. And more than the cliché of "you can't win if you don't score." The centre back pairing is likely going to be Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker. The former has been an idiot lately and the latter is playing only his second match after a long injury layoff. We're facing an Arsenal attack who can flip the switch at any moment (they can also not flip it with some regularity) and they're likely to score at least a brace. Villa can't let that stop them. They'll need three. Heck, between Delph, Tom Cleverley, and Benteke, they can get three. But they must score.
TSF: Be honest: do you sometimes root for West Ham or Burnley by mistake?
7500: Never. But, a few years ago I ran an article talking about the midlands derby between Villa and West Ham. Problem is, the midlands derby is between Villa and West... Brom. Boy did I feel like an idiot.
Thanks again to Robert and 7500 for taking the time to answer our mostly not dumb questions!