Steven Gerrard's FA Cup dreams dashed but will Aston Villa's Libor Kozak have fairytale final?

Trinity Road Stand - Aston Villa

The Czech striker turns 26 on the day of the Wembley meeting with Arsenal, when he could be back in the first-team squad for the first time since January 2014.

Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final proved a cruel reminder for Steven Gerrard that there are no easy fairytales in football.

With the competition’s final falling on his 35th birthday, a Wembley swansong to his Liverpool career seemed the perfect script for the long-serving skipper but Tim Sherwood’s spirited Aston Villa side had other ideas.

His hopes of a Hollywood ending dashed by a 2-1 defeat, the LA Galaxy-bound midfielder will instead be saying his farewell to English football at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium, while Sherwood’s men now head back to Wembley on May 30 in a bid to cause another upset over holders Arsenal.

It may not attract the same amount of headlines as the now-binned Gerrard storyline either, but there could still be a birthday to remember for one battling Villa player, who few would begrudge the chance to celebrate on the afternoon.

Czech striker Libor Kozak hasn’t appeared for the first-team since breaking his leg during a training session over 15 months ago but, after returning to action with the Under-21s earlier this month, he could be enjoying his 26th in dramatic fashion.

Kozak was in fact set to make his senior comeback in October alongside fellow front man Christian Benteke, before complications in the healing process forced him to go under the knife for a second time and put his return date back several months.

At the time, the former Lazio man even feared his football career might be over but he has since made significant progress, moving up from non-contact work to re-joining first-team training and now making it back onto the pitch.

It remains to be seen how far off he is from a long-awaited senior appearance but, with 40 days left between now and the Wembley final, there is certainly enough time for him to make it back into contention to play some part.

The football romantics might have been robbed of the Gerrard showpiece they were hoping for but, in Kozak’s perseverance, they could well still get their fairytale ending.

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch