Stiliyan Petrov is confident that the switch from 2008 to 2009 will not bring a change of fortune in Aston Villa’s bid for New Year’s honours.
Villa have the unexpected privilege, upon opening their new calendar today, of seeing their name pencilled in fourth place in the Premier League.
This year also promises more European excursions with Villa’s steady progress in the Uefa Cup setting up a last-32 trip to CSKA Moscow in February.
It is a domestic knockout competition, however, the FA Cup, which offers Martin O’Neill’s ambitious team the chance to start 2009 where they left off in 2008.
Other than perhaps home advantage, Villa could not have asked for a more presentable opportunity of progressing in the tournament than Sunday’s trip to Gillingham.
True, the third-round lunchtime visit to League Two opposition does have the potential to upset the momentum of O’Neill’s Premier League surprise package.
However, having been removed from the competition by Manchester United in three of the last five seasons, Villa will fancy their chances against Mark Stimson’s minnows.
Petrov is relishing Sunday’s tie and believes Villa should be seeking success on three fronts rather than regarding the FA Cup as a distraction from the league and Uefa Cup.
“We went out of one of the cup competitions so this is the next one for us and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s going to be 2009. We hope 2009 will start well and we’ll keep going how we left 2008.
“We’re trying to win every game, that’s for sure, and we’ve got that determination.”
Villa again displayed their penchant for striking late during Tuesday evening’s dramatic Premier League victory over Hull City at the KC Stadium.
The 88th-minute winner came when Ashley Young’s cross was deflected into the net off Tigers defender Kamil Zayatte.
Remarkably it was the fourth own goal Villa have benefited from in the past eight league games after helping hands from Arsenal’s Gael Clichy, Bolton Wanderers’ Kevin Davies and West Ham United’s Lucas Neill. At Hull, O’Neill’s team rode their luck again in the dying moments when referee Steve Bennett awarded a penalty for an alleged handball against Young, only to reverse his decision after conferring with his linesman.
Petrov believes Villa’s ability to score late goals is a sign of the spirit and will to win in the claret and blue dressing room.
“We’ve shown in the last 12 games or so that even if we go a goal down or it’s 0-0 we’re still fighting,” he said.
“We knew that if we kept a clean sheet, we could create something at the other end. It was a piece of magic from Ashley – we were a bit lucky with the goal – but we’ll take that.
“We have shown that if a game is goalless or we’re behind, we never give up and we still fight.
“We want to win every game. We pushed very hard and were determined and I think we deserved to win.
“They didn’t have that many chances either. It was a tight game and thankfully, we got the three points,” he said.