Dean Smith has urged Aston Villa’s players to make history ahead of the club’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City this weekend.
Aston Villa head into their first major cup final in five years against Pep Guardiola’s side at Wembley on Sunday with the club rank outsiders to lift the trophy against a City side who have won the League Cup four times in the past six seasons.
Smith is well aware of the task facing his side and admits the Midlands outfit are “massive underdogs”, but is hopeful his side can make the most of their opportunity as they bid to bring silverware to Villa Park for the first time in 24 years.
“It’s an opportunity. Nine years ago I was becoming manager of Walsall in League One looking to keep them up,” he told the media at his Friday afternoon press conference.
“If someone told me in nine years on, I’d be sat here as a Premier League manager with Aston Villa, leading them into a domestic cup final, I’d have said they were crackers.
“The lads have done ever so well to get to a final and now we have a chance against one of the world’s best teams.
“Football is about winning things, sport is about winning things and now we have an opportunity now where we will be massive underdogs but I can only name one or two team that would not be underdogs against Manchester City.”
Smith added that Villa will not simply be there to enjoy the occasion, and says winning at Wembley is all that matters ahead of the biggest game in the club’s recent history.
“You have to win because winning is the only good feeling when you are there.
“It’s an opportunity for our players to go and etch themselves into the history of the football club.”
Having emerged triumphant from their most recent visit to the national stadium in last season’s Championship play-off success, Smith is hopeful the experience gained from such a huge occasion will help his players this weekend.
“The experience the lads gained last year from winning in the play-off final will stand them in good stead.
“Players like Jack (Grealish) who has been here for a while, has played at Wembley a number of times.
“He helped beat Liverpool in the semi-final when we were massive underdogs in the FA Cup. He then lost to Arsenal in the final and lost in the play-offs in the (2017/18) season.
“We have got an awful lot of players there who are internationals and know what it is like to play in these big one-off games and are thoroughly looking forward to it.”