Villa are finally rediscovering that winning feeling after years of relentless defeats.
James Milner scored the winner from the penalty spot the last time Aston Villa toasted three successive league victories. In the 83rd minute, in front of a bating Villa Park crowd, the England international slammed home from 12 yards to consign local rivals Birmingham City to defeat and keep Martin O’Neill’s side in contention for a Champions League berth.
How times have changed. Six and a half years later, an Aston Villa team lying 10th in the second tier under Steve Bruce have the chance to repeat the feat and seize nine points from a possible nine.
That is easier said than done however. Leeds United have won eight of their last ten Championship fixtures heading into Thursday’s crucial clash at Villa Park, battering Preston 4-1 on their most recent away trip.
They also emerged victorious in the previous league meeting between the two sides earlier in December, the 2-0 scoreline epitomising the difference in quality between one side firmly entrenched in the play-off battle and another desperately aiming to throw their hat into the ring before it’s too late.
As it stands, Villa are six points off sixth though narrow wins against QPR and Burton either side of Christmas have raised hopes that they can bridge the gap. Snapping their six year wait for three successive league victories would not be a bad place to start.
And it’s worth remembering that Villa had won just once under Roberto Di Matteo. Any remaining members of the anti-Bruce brigade will surely fall silent if the genial Geordie celebrates another three point haul on Thursday night.
The Champions League may be some way off but three wins in a row would represent a giant leap forward in a season of small steps.