Tim Sherwood is naturally delighted to lead Aston Villa to a first FA Cup final since 2000, but won’t be celebrating such an achievement just yet.
Villa were underdogs as they took on Liverpool in the semi-final at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, and it looked as though the bookmakers had called it right when Philippe Coutinho put the Reds ahead on the half-hour mark. But the in-form Christian Benteke levelled for the Midlands club just six minutes later, and Fabian Delph fired them in the lead after 56 minutes.
Despite a couple of close-calls Brendan Rodgers’ side were unable to find an equaliser, and the final whistle was met with scenes of unbridled joy from the Villa fans who had made the trip to the capital. And whilst these celebrations are likely to go on until the early hours, Sherwood won’t be joining in as his thoughts return to the task of keeping the club in the Premier League.
“For now we have to put thoughts of the final on the backburner,” Sherwood said of the clash against Arsenal, which will be played at Wembley on Saturday 30 May. “There is a lot of hard work between now and that game. It’ll be a great occasion for the football club but nothing is won yet. We need to secure our safety and then come back and take the game to Arsenal.”
The date with the Gunners will be Villa’s first FA Cup final in 15 years, when they lost to Chelsea and a Roberto di Matteo goal in the last final at the old Wembley Stadium. But this is a club with a rich history in the competition, having lifted the trophy on seven occasions – a number bettered only by Arsenal and Manchester United (both on 11) and Tottenham Hotspur (eight times).
However, they haven’t won the cup since 1957, when Peter McParland scored twice in the space of five second half-minutes for Eric Houghton’s side to defeat Matt Busby and Manchester United 2-1. Prior to this, they lifted the famous old pot in 1887, 1895, 1897 as part of the double, 1905, 1913 and 1920. As well as their loss to Chelsea, Villa also lost the cup final to Newcastle United in 1924 in the second ever final at Wembley, and in 1892 to West Bromwich Albion at Kennington Oval.
As for Villa’s prospects of avoiding relegation to the Championship, they are currently in 15th place in the Premier League, just four points clear of third-bottom Leicester City who have a game in hand, albeit against champions-elect Chelsea. Sherwood’s side have five matches remaining, beginning with the tricky trip to Manchester to face champions City on Saturday evening.