January began in the worst possible fashion. A New Years day 1-0 defeat away to Charlton Athletic where Fredericks side looked for want of a better word, hungover. Bristol City arrived at Villa Park four days later and the home side reacted to Fredericks outburst to get back to winning ways. In doing so, however, lost key central defender Trevor Chalobah for the remainder of the season. The on-loan Chelsea man broke the lower part of his leg in a horror tackle.
The FA Cup third round would see The Villains travel to last seasons nemesis Crystal Palace. The Eagles had ‘swooped’ late to steal the title and knock Villa into the now much-maligned play-offs. Liam Mandeville wanted more game time so would start this match, three goals later Fredericks had received the message loud and clear.
Barnsley and QPR were both swept away on the pitch as off it Fredericks battled to keep hold of both his full backs.
Borussia Monchengladbach and Bournemouth were incredibly keen on Walker-Pieters and Johansen but Larry wouldn’t be budged and made it clear to his Chairman that neither was for sale.
The fourth round of the FA Cup brought last seasons playoff victors Brentford to Villa Park. Having already knocked The Bee’s out of the league cup earlier in the campaign Fredericks was hoping for a similar result. He probably made too many changes and although they were the better side a 1-1 wasn’t too harsh a result.
Recruitment and Larry had managed to avoid selling his two fullbacks. Both players were integral to how he set his side up and due to the size of the squad he had no ready-made replacements. Tiago Macedo was unsettled by bids from Deportivo and Mainz but neither reached the valuation Fredericks was looking for.
Scott Hogan finally left the club, Bristol City agreed to take on the £35k a week player who to be fair still has a lot to offer but that amount of money on a fifth choice striker isn’t ideal.
He did add to the squad on deadline day though as Tom Osbourne (DR) joined on loan from Everton and he secured the services of Tashan Oakley-Boothe from Spurs for a further 12 months loan.
With only a few hours to go Fredericks denied one more late bid from Stoke of £12 million for Walker-Pieters and added Swansea defender Mikel Villaneuva on loan until May.
February would see Villa start with a 3-0 home victory over Ryan Giggs’s Hull City side, David Stewart scoring a superb Hat-Trick.
The Cup replay was next and after dominating for 119 minutes of the tie Brentford stole it with the last kick of the game.
Villa had squandered chance after chance and for the third year running were out of the FA Cup at the 4th round stage.
A trip to south Wales saw Fredericks men mount a comeback and claim a 2-2 draw after trailing 2-0 to Cardiff City with just 18 minutes remaining.
The injury to Trevor Chalobah probably causing more problems than Fredericks expected it to.
This was summed up even more by a 2-1 defeat in the final game of the month at home to Nottingham Forest.
March was a month with only three fixtures which was bizarre as it would leave the Champions elect with a ridiculous eight games to play in April.
Aston Villa weren’t playing as well as they had been and Fredericks was having a tough time keeping them focused.
The first game of the month would be a trip to third-placed Preston North End, a real test of the boys metal. The incredible 12 (twelve) goal thriller ended 8-4 in favour of ‘The Villains’.
Fredericks side then vanquished Coventry City at Villa Park 3-0 and David Stewart bagged his fifth hat trick of the campaign. The third and final game of the month left Larry scratching his head as Middlesbrough won 3-1 in a game Villa dominated from start to finish.
April – Eight Games, Four wins needed for the title and considerably less for promotion. With the team still not performing to its maximum, Fredericks made a few changes for the visit of Millwall in a bid to turn things around.
It’s happening again!! Larry felt sick, the memories of last seasons collapse, the play-off agony and given their current lead in the table surely it wouldn’t happen this time around. Millwall left Villa Park with all three points, as Fredericks said in his postmatch interviews they should all be wearing stripy jumpers and masks as that was as clear a robbery as you would ever see.
As injuries and suspensions mounted a trip to the Madjeski witnessed another poor performance but a very late winner and the second of two goals from Tashan Oakley-Boothe was enough to claim the victory.
Fredericks was a single point away from promotion.
Villa Park, 9th March 2022. After six long seasons out of English top flight football, Larry Fredericks had delivered what two and half years ago he promised to do. Not only had he delivered promotion but he had saved a football club that was spiraling out of control and possibly out of business.
Sheffield Wednesday were blown away. It was 3-0 before the twenty-minute mark thanks to goals from Scott, Mandeville, and Macedo. The game ended 5-0 and promotion was secured. The stadium and the team erupted but Fredericks held off on his own celebrations for now. His job wasn’t done yet, he wanted the title firmly in his hands before the cigars were broke out.
His side over the past two fixtures had been back to their best, when it really mattered they had come to the fore and eased over the finishing line. The trophy was presented to them after their next home game, a 3-1 victory over Ipswich Town.
Larry and his purple shoes were heading to the Premier League.
From that point, the season drifted to a close with the manager giving a few of the fringe and youth players valuable game time. Villa under Fredericks were record breakers in all kinds of departments. A record number of goals scored, a record number of wins and a record number of points were just some of the awards dished out to the Midlands team.
As the season came to a close Larry and Terry knew this would be the biggest summer of their careers together. They had a huge decision to make and that was to stick or twist. Larry had seen this team grow and develop. The young lads he had brought through hadn’t let him down and he was worried that if they went out and signed 4/5 big players this would not only disrupt the great atmosphere in the squad but also stunt their growth as players.
David Stewart had been a fantastic signing, With Sterling spending huge parts of the season the injury list the young on-loan striker had taken his chance with both hands and scored 38 times. Unfortunately for Villa and Fredericks, he would be returning to local rivals WBA and there was no way to get him back for next season.
They looked to the players they had out on loan and there was some very promising talent on the list but a few of them were still awaiting a work permit so would probably spend another year out on loan.
Fredericks also managed to convince Dr. Xia that due to the current pathway from youth team to the first team working so well they needed to improve the youth setup. The Villa Chairman agreed and funded £2.7 million improvements to the Academy. On top of this, the first team training ground will be overhauled at a cost of £4.9 million. The premier league money was already seemingly improving life at Aston Villa.
Finances had improved dramatically from the day Fredericks arrived. The debt was gone, the wage bill now half the size it was for probably double the quality of players in the squad.
As mentioned before he had secured a new training ground and youth facilities and still the club was in a healthy financial situation. He thought everything was going smoothly and come the next few months would have a bit of financial muscle to bring in one or two key targets.
The Chairman had already seen his club nearly go under due to poor financial management. Not content with seeing them rise from the ashes he had now signed a deal that once again left Fredericks scratching his head. The club plummeted into the red and would now face huge monthly loan repayments as Aston Villa would be moving to a new home. Dr. Xia’s ego had gotten the best of him and put everything back up into the air.
On the pitch, What a campaign it had been. After over a decade of heartbreak and torment, Aston Villa was once again a club its fans could be proud of. Larry Fredericks had brought everyone together so the players, staff, and supporters were one.
In a few months time, he would be the manager of a Premier League club leading his side out in the first game of the season, when it dawned on him.
He would need some new purple shoes.