Villa fans know only too well what a poor start to the season can do for your fortunes across the following nine months-or-so after the debacle of last term.
A few wins early doors can do wonders for a side’s form and confidence and could be the difference when things get tough around the all-important Christmas run.
The pressure is now on Steve Bruce and his backroom staff to deliver in their first full season after a woeful 13th placed finish last season. After a summer in which most fans are still trying to get their head around the landing of Chelsea legend John Terry, fans have every right to look forward to the new campaign and with high expectations indeed.
If those expectations are to be met, however, a fast start is the order of the day. Last term, under Roberto di Matteo, the Villans managed just one win in their first 12 Championship games, a 3-0 win over Rotherham in their second league outing the only light in the darkest of runs.
A similar spell at any point this season will do away with any hopes of a Premier League return at the second time of asking, however, hit the same run of form in the opening weeks again and all morale will be shot to pieces from the word go.
That said, with the fixture list handing Bruce a tough start, it’s naïve to expect that every game will yield three points. Therefore we’ve picked out three early season games which could well shape their season.
Hull City (H)
It may seem obvious given that this is the season’s curtain raiser, however it offers much more than that.
Hull were relegated from the Premier League despite a late battle under Marco Silva last season, playing some exciting football at some times. If Bruce’s men can make a statement, which they are currently with odds of 11/10 to do, against one of the relegated sides so early in the new season it will serve as a huge lift to the squad and fans while also putting a foot in the right direction in what is a rough opening run.
The Tigers are under the guise of new manager Leonid Slutsky, a close friend of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, meaning they could well throw a few surprises on the hosts at Villa Park. However, should Terry & Co. manage to deal with such a side so early on, under the pressure of the home support, it could do wonders for the start of the season.
Bruce’s side should have one aim and one aim only this season, a return to the top flight. If they are to reach such heights, much like with their opponents on the opening day, they are going to have to topple the best.
The Royals may have fallen in the play-offs last season, however, second only to promoted Brighton & Hove Albion they boasted the best home form in the league across the campaign, losing only twice (Chris Hughton’s side lost three).
Jaap Stam’s men pose a formidable challenge, however, meeting them so early in the season before they have had time to settle in to a run of form at the Madejski Stadium is an opportunity too good to turn down.
Should they pick up a result against the Tigers early on, and follow it up with a strong performance and result to match in Berkshire confidence should not be an issue for Bruce.
Bristol City (A)
Early last season the Villans paid a visit to a Bristol City side who would spend most of the season battling the drop, only to blow a 1-0 lead and be sent packing 3-1 with their tails between their legs.
Once again the two have been drawn against each other early in the season and, despite a change in management and a host of new players, there will undoubtedly be a desire to get one over on City.
Not only would such a win bring the precious three points but it would also bring with it another boost in confidence.