Victorious manager Steve Evans has promised Stevenage’s stunning FA Cup win over Aston Villa on Sunday will be talked about for years to come.
The third round of the world’s oldest senior knockout football competition has long been famed for upset results, but in an era of ever wealthier Premier League clubs some pundits have questioned whether the ‘Magic of the Cup’ is anything more than a slogan in English football.
But fourth-tier Stevenage did their best to make romantic notions a reality by scoring two late goals at Villa Park to seal a come from behind 2-1 win.
Dean Campbell’s 90th-minute winner came just two minutes after Jamie Reid equalised from the penalty spot, with Villa’s Leander Dendoncker sent off for fouling Campbell in the box.
It was an embarrassing reverse for Premier League Villa, with the seven-times FA Cup winners having gone ahead through Morgan Sanson.
Stevenage’s victory came 12 years to the day since they performed another giant-killing act in also knocking Newcastle out in the third round of the FA Cup.
“I’ve had some magical moments, I’ve been in charge of lots of wins over Championship clubs but if you come away to a Premier League club like Aston Villa...it’s up there with them,” said Evans whose team will next face second-division Stoke.
Evans was in no doubt what this win meant as well to everyone connected with League Two promotion chasers Stevenage, a club based in the commuter town of the same name north of London.
“It’s magical for the players, the chairman and for the town of Stevenage to see over 3,000 fans and winning the way we did, it’s the FA Cup and what dreams are made of,” he said.
“I said to the players they will have a dream they will talk to the kids and grandkids about.
“We stayed in the game and the plan all week was make sure we were in the game at 75 minutes. If we were in the game at 75 minutes I knew we had an incredibly fit group and I could use the lads who have hearts the size of Big Ben (the nickname of the clock in the Houses of Parliament).”
For Villa, mid-table in English football’s top flight, Cup football represents their best chance of silverware but recently-arrived manager Unai Emery said he hoped a painful loss would be a spur to future success.
“I want to create a bigger mentality,” he said. “Sometimes it (losing) could be the first step.
“We can’t think we are better and we are Aston Villa and they are in League Two. I am upset, disappointed, I’m sorry for our supporters,” the Spaniard added.