Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas has made a bold claim about what he feels “the majority” of Aston Villa fans, plus Villans manager Dean Smith, would prefer in terms of Premier League survival of cup glory (Sky Sports News).
Villa are currently fighting for their top-flight survival, sitting 17th in the table, just a point above the bottom three.
However, Smith’s charges also have a chance of getting their hands on the first major trophy of the season when they take on Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on 1 March.
Over the years, there has been much debate amongst fans and pundits about whether they would prefer their team to win a cup if it meant getting relegated, or remaining in the top flight empty-handed.
Nicholas has claimed that many Villa fans, plus the manager, would opt for the latter – indeed, he feels that they “should” go for the latter, given the Premier League is where the “global interest” is.
Looking ahead to Villa’s Premier League clash with Tottenham at Villa Park on Sunday, Nicholas wrote on Sky Sports News: “It is needs must in the Premier League for Aston Villa, despite reaching the Carabao Cup final.
“If you were to say to Dean Smith this could be the game to keep you in the Premier League, while you would lose the Carabao Cup final, despite being underdogs anyway, I think he would take it. And I think the majority of Villa fans would too.
“A trophy is important to breed winners and confidence, and gain the credibility that Villa are back, but we have seen before that teams have won it and have gone down. The global interest is in the Premier League, so they have to go after it.”
While remaining in the Premier League is crucial for a club’s finances, to say the majority of fans would rather lose a cup final and survive in the top flight instead of winning the trophy and suffering relegation is a bold claim indeed.
Particularly for clubs not expected to challenge for the Premier League, the League Cup and FA Cup represent their best chances of glory, and for most football fans, that’s what it’s all about – the glory.
Birmingham City, Villa’s rivals, famously won the League Cup in 2011 with victory over Arsenal, but were relegated from the Premier League at the end of that same season, and have not been in the top flight since.
How many of their fans wish they had remained in the Premier League for perhaps a couple more seasons, and forfeit the memories of that cup victory? Not many, I’d guess.