It was a source of considerable annoyance to the Aston Villa hierarchy that their impressive top six finish in the Premiership last season was not rewarded with a place in the Uefa Cup.
The perceived injustice still rankles with chairman Doug Ellis, but at least Villa now know they will definitely qualify for Europe next season if they finish sixth again this term.
That appears unlikely with David O'Leary's side languishing 11th, but they have every incentive to match their barnstorming end to last season after the Premier League confirmed yesterday that Chelsea's Carling Cup triumph will free up another berth in Europe.
Chelsea, who beat Liverpool 3-2 in the final of the Carling Cup last Sunday, are effectively guaranteed a place in the Champions League next season because of their dominant position at the top of the Premiership, so the Uefa Cup place normally reserved for the Carling Cup winners will go to the sixth-placed team instead.
Middlesbrough currently occupy that position, just behind fifth-placed Liverpool, but Villa are only seven points adrift with ten games remaining and they host Boro on Saturday.
Consequently, Villa's players have not given up on replicating last term's league position in May despite their deflating 3-1 defeat at home to Everton last Saturday.
Striker Darius Vassell hopes his comeback can aid Villa's European aspirations after he returned from a broken ankle with a 62nd-minute substitute appearance against Everton.
"Hopefully I can give everyone a bit of a boost," said Vassell, who had not played since breaking his ankle against Fulham last October.
"Saturday was a poor game for us and we've got ten games to try and put a few things right.
"We've got a lot of catching up to do but I know what I'm looking to do now I'm back in action and if I do that, it should give everyone a lift.
"Sometimes it's nice to have players back from injury, particularly if they've been out for a long time, they can feel like new signings.
"I'm definitely raring to go again and I'll try to salvage the end of the season. We've got a few more games left, so hopefully we can give it one last push."
When Vassell was carried off against Fulham, the initial reaction among supporters was that the 24-year-old would not be greatly missed.
However, Villa have really struggled without Vassell as Juan Pablo Angel and Carlton Cole never gelled up-front. Angel has netted just seven goals all term, while Cole, who is out with an injured knee, has only scored twice.
Villa are now hoping Vassell's return can bring the best out of Angel, who hit 23 goals last season, and together they can propel the team up the table.
Vassell, who has missed 19 games through his injury, is anxious to put one of the most miserable spells of his football life behind him.
He added: "It's been one of the most frustrating periods of my career, no doubt about that. It was an unfortunate time for it to happen, because I just felt I was doing well in the game against Fulham.
"The injury was a shock. None of us thought it was broken and when I found out it was, I couldn't believe it. I was told I'd be out for at least 12 weeks and in the end it was 14.
"I've been out for a long time and had to be patient but the ankle is fully healed now and I want to help the team badly.
"I'm not happy watching the games. I want to be a part of it when we win and try to do something about it when we lose."