VICE Sports FA Cup Star of the Weekend: Aaron Pierre
Putting Villa's latest failure to one side, there's no finer winner of this week's award than Aaron Pierre, who was a rock in the Wycombe defence.
Wycombe Wanderers against Aston Villa was the perfect recipe for a classic FA Cup encounter, possessing every chance of delivering on the giant-killing narrative that keeps a faint feeling of magic in the old trophy.
Wycombe, a place most us couldn't confidently point to on a map, and Aston Villa, the one-time European Cup champions and Premier League ever-presents, were the ideal candidates in the roles of David and Goliath - all they had to do was play their parts.
In fairness, the Villa fans couldn't have been more aware of the above, and went about taking the piss out of themselves before anybody else could jump in and do it for them. They sang in support of signing some children, cheered ironically when they took the lead, and mocked the Wycombe fans for having the temerity to support a team bad enough to have fallen behind to Aston Villa. They weren't laughing by the end, though.
Wycombe have flirted with financial troubles in recent years and will be delighted with the replay they earned. Another guaranteed televised game away at a ground as big as Villa Park and a share of the gate receipts will go a long way to helping chip off any money the club still owe. Villa might look like they're about to kiss goodbye to their Premier League status, but at least they've not got the financial future of the entire club in the back of their mind when they go into Cup games; Wycombe do.
On the day, despite that early Micah Richards strike, the Chairboys were undeniably the better side, which was hardly a shock. Villa, looking so devoid of confidence and purpose that they're in the running to play the next female lead in a Michael Bay film, had absolutely nothing about them. It's not a case of passion or hard work anymore, it's trauma. The players take to the field unable to look at anything but their own feet, whimpering like an animal in an RSPCA rescue advert. They've given up on winning before a ball has been kicked.
Now back in the play-off places in League Two, the mood around Wycombe couldn't have been more different. Presented with a wounded animal to kill off, they looked like a side who'd only lost once in their last five. They played the occasion as well as the game, using the ground, pitch size and surface quality to their advantage. They turned up the physicality and work rate, weren't over ambitious with their own quality of football and tried to convert chances when they broke down Villa enough to get in on goal.
Despite how bad Villa are, this was still a top flight side against one from the lowest tier of professional English football, and that showed from time to time. A previous winner of this award, the human heading machine that is Rudy Gestede hit the bar late on, and Villa had more possession and shots on the day by quite a comfortable margin. None of that really mattered in the end, though.
It's hard, given the team performance, to nail down just one Wycombe player to highlight, but Aaron Pierre at the back was about as good as anyone on the day. When Villa got forward he did all he could to get in their way, whether or not it was pretty. It was a gutsy lower-league defensive performance, complete with hands rested on knees, dirty shorts, and meaningful pointing and shouting (which helps, apparently). An example of the attitude the entire Wycombe side played with, it was another lesson that - beautifully - success is often about more than just ability.
It's important not to let the performance put in by the home team get buried under the avalanche of negativity that poured out of Villa at full-time. Remi Garde, a man yet to win a match at the club, might not be there by the time the teams meet again. Crisis talks, as they're known, were apparently held by the club as a direct result of this draw. The scenes involving Micah Richards and the Villa fans pitch-side also got traction. Richards stood there trying to make reason with a gaggle of over-emotional men, like your sensible mate in a club after a little dust up, trying to make sure the bouncers don't get involved.
Putting Villa's latest failure to one side, there's no finer winner of this week's award than Aaron Pierre of Wycombe for services to the magic of the Cup. All the best in the replay.