John Townley's notebook: Champagne on ice, Bailey's 'complacent' remark, Villa Park prize

Leon Bailey has enjoyed a sensational season
Leon Bailey has enjoyed a sensational season -Credit:Photo by Lee Parker - CameraSport via Getty Images

Aston Villa are on the cusp of qualifying for Champions League football after recovering a two-goal deficit late on at Villa Park on Monday night.

Jhon Duran came off the bench to score a brace at the Holte End to secure a point which piles the pressure on Tottenham heading into tonight's Premier League clash against title hopefuls Manchester City. If Spurs fail to beat City at home, it will be mathematically impossible for them to catch Villa on the final day.

The Liverpool game appeared to be heading to its conclusion after the clock ticked past 80 minutes, but it was substitutes Calum Chambers and Duran who combined to get Villa back in the game, before the striker then deflected the ball over Alisson from Moussa Diaby's through ball.

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Villa are now so close to achieving what would be a remarkable feat considering the injuries and European campaign Emery has had to juggle with this term. Villa will celebrate their season at Villa Park in the Lower Grounds, situated in the Holte End this evening.

Captain McGinn is hopeful a Man City result will spark even bigger celebrations.

“It’s the player of the year dinner, believe it or not! So I’m sure we will get the reaction … I’m quite glad of that because I was watching the end of one of Tottenham’s games recently and you add about two years on to yourself.

“I’m sure someone will have it on their phone. If the result is going our way I’m sure the sparkling water will change to something a wee bit more sparkling.”

All proceeds, from what promises to be a special evening, will be donated to Acorns Children’s Hospice. The awards which will be handed out on the night include players’ player of the season, supporters player of the season, goal of the season and academy player of the season.

Leon Bailey
Leon Bailey -Credit:Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images


It isn't recognised as an award, but it can be argued that Leon Bailey has made the most progress this term, putting him in the frame for player of the season shout.

He has become one of the most dangerous wingers in the Premier League after struggling to make a real impact in his first 18 months at the club since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2021.

Bailey has scored 10 goals and recorded nine assists in 35 Premier League appearances. In a recent wide-ranging interview with the Premier League, he spoke about why he joined Villa under Dean Smith.

"For me, I like when I feel confident about the people that are around me and whenever they are trying to show me that they are really about helping me, I got that from Aston Villa, from Dean Smith actually when I came here," Bailey told Premier League Productions.

"I felt like I could have been very comfortable with him and he really wanted to help me and he came to win with a plan, saying here’s where we want to be in two or three years. That’s why I went to Aston Villa because I like working with a plan and working my way up. I wanted to go with the plan that they set in front of me and that would allow me to work hard again. At Leverkusen, I felt like I was getting a bit complacent.

“I was doing well and I knew I would play every game and you can get too comfortable. Even if it is just training sessions. I felt like I needed to make a change to be able to work hard again and get that drive to give everything in training sessions, being in that new environment. That’s why I chose Aston Villa.

“I knew it would be a process and if you understand my story, when you know what I have been through to get where I am at, it is the best feeling ever. You have made so many sacrifices to get to that point.

“Right now at Villa we’re competing for the Champions League, these are the things that we spoke about before I came here and now it is happening. I would rather that be my journey than be a top team but I am barely playing, but they are being successful and I am not playing a part."


Before kick-off against Liverpool, it was announced Villa have been awarded Grounds Team of the Season by the Premier League.

Karl Prescott and his team work tirelessly to prepare a perfect pitch at Villa Park and have been recognised by the league for their efforts.

Matchday groundsman, Harry Rooke posted on Twitter: "Great season with the boys and a great award for Karl and Ian ! Been a pleasure to put the work in to help them deliver a world class pitch ! A great team full of great blokes."