Aston Villa qualify for Champions League for first time in 41 years

An image of Villa Park from the Holte End steps
Villa Park will be home to Champions League matches from next season. Credit: Rosie Cowell

Aston Villa qualified for the Champions League on May 14 following Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Villa were relying on Tottenham to lose this game with the London side their only adversary in their race for fourth in the Premier League table.

The Birmingham side are now five points ahead of Spurs with just one game remaining and so are guaranteed qualification to the top echelon of European football. 

This is a magnificent achievement as the club had not qualified for the competition for 41 years having last done so in the 1982-83 season when it was known as the European Cup.

They won the competition in 1982, beating German side Bayern Munich 1-0 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. 

The competition was rebranded to the UEFA Champions League in 1991-92 with Villa finishing second in the Premier League the following season, though back then only first allowed progression to the Champions League. 

Villa’s tides have turned under Spanish manager Unai Emery with the club languishing in 14th when he arrived in the West Midlands, a mere three points above relegation.

Ollie Watkins has scored 27 goals this season, an impressive tally for the Torquay-born striker and was named Villa’s Player of the Season at their end of season awards.

It seems almost impossible to believe that Villa were relegated to the EFL Championship in 2015 and only made their return to the top-flight in 2019, following a 2-1 win against Derby County in the play-off final at Wembley.

Then they survived by just one point in the 2020-21 season, which was marred by the coronavirus pandemic where football games were postponed.

Villa’s fortunes have almost certainly been revitalised and the fans are more than happy to live in the moment.

James Williamson (25) from Lichfield, Staffordshire said: “I can’t believe it. It’s a great time to be a Villa fan right now and Emery has been a key part of transforming the team. 

“The players want to play for him and his philosophy has been an almost rebirth for the team.

“Watkins has been unbelievable this season. He has found form when he was struggling for goals and was a key part of Villa’s success, domestically and in Europe.”

Villa will be looking to impress in the Champions League this year after getting knocked out of the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final to Greek side Olympiacos.