Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has called on his players “to create a new history” as the club seek to end 24 years of hurt and win another domestic trophy.
Although Villa won the much-maligned Intertoto Cup in 2001, you have to go back to 1996 for the last time the club lifted one of English football’s sought-after pieces of silverware, beating Leeds 3-0 to claim the League Cup.
In 2010, Villa had another chance to win the competition, only to lose 2-1 to Manchester United despite opening the scoring via an early James Milner penalty.
Ahead of the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final at Leicester on Wednesday night, manager Smith has his sights set on Villa winning the trophy for the sixth time.
“It has been a long time,” said Smith, when asked about Villa’s trophy drought.
“I thought we were very hard done by in that game with Manchester United. I think (former Villa manager) Martin O’Neill still talks about it when (Nemanja) Vidic should have been sent off in the (fourth) minute. James Milner took the penalty, but it is what it is.
“Our job is to create history. We’ve done that by winning the (Championship) play-offs in May. That’s what our role is now, to create a new history for Aston Villa.
“At the moment the Premier League is a tough battle but we believe we’ve got enough to come through that, and there is an opportunity now to win a cup semi-final and get through to a final.”
Lifelong Villa fan Smith recalls heading to Wembley for the 1977 League Cup final, aged nearly six, when the club were held to a goalless draw by Everton before prevailing in a second replay, and again in 1994, beating Manchester United 3-1 to deny the Red Devils a domestic treble that year.
He also stood in the Witton Lane End of Villa Park for the astonishing 6-4 semi-final triumph over Blackburn, for a 7-4 aggregate victory, ahead of the 2010 final.
Recognising that opportunities such as the one now in front of Villa do not come around too often, Smith added: “No they don’t, because it’s tough.
“There are some really tough teams out there to play against, with a lot more resources than we have at this moment.
“What we are trying to do is establish ourselves as a Premier League team, to become one of those teams with the resources of the Manchesters, Liverpools and Chelseas of this world.”
Smith goes into the game without goalkeepers Tom Heaton (knee) and Jed Steer (Achilles), strikers Wesley (knee) and Keinan Davis (hamstring), and defender Matt Targett (hamstring).
New signing, former Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater, who has arrived on loan from Chelsea for the rest of the season, is cup-tied after playing in an earlier round while on loan at Burnley.
Smith has not ruled out returning to Chelsea to sign Olivier Giroud, who has been heavily linked with Villa given the desperate need for a new striker.
“All our options are open in terms of centre-forwards,” said Smith. “We’re obviously short in the forward area. It’s top priority. I’d like to try and get one in before Sunday (the Premier League game at home to Manchester City) if we could.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P