Aston Villa fans, who have experienced many a long day's journey into night, will believe a new dawn when they see one. Yet Villa achieved a competent enough win against Blackburn Rovers in Alex McLeish's first home game in charge to convince any doubters that the former Birmingham City manager is not merely a fifth columnist from St Andrew's.
Villa's attack showed an unusual appetite for goals – even Emile Heskey scored – and after the summer's comings and goings the team quickly found a fresh blend. All of which has to be set against the fact of a Blackburn side that apart from a brief period early in the second half struggled to do anything more than defend forlornly and offer only a sporadic threat in attack.
Although there was a hostile reaction from some Villa supporters when it was known that McLeish would be taking over, the man himself had no doubt about the reception he would get on Saturday. "I wasn't worried at all," he said. "It was a good moment walking down the touchline. All the fans were excellent."
Yet while Villa's situation is less fraught than it was at the start of last season, when the club were stunned by the sudden departure of Martin O'Neill, they remain very much a work in progress.
Under McLeish the extent of such progress will depend in part on his new charges finding a finishing touch that all too often deserted them last time. Darren Bent joined only in January but still finished Villa's leading scorer in the league.
McLeish could be forgiven for questioning the logic of paying £24m for a striker of Bent's quality then selling two of those best equipped to give him support – Ashley Young and Stewart Downing – and much now will depend on how quickly Charles N'Zogbia, one of the brighter sparks at Wigan, settles in.
That said, Villa's opening Premier League goal of the season came from a more familiar source, Gabriel Agbonlahor gathering Bent's pass before cutting inside Míchel Salgado to curl an angled right-footed shot into the top far corner of the net. McLeish had Bent operating in a lone striker's role similar to the way he had used Cameron Jerome at Birmingham, though with more inspired support.
The need to keep an eye on Bent was always going to leave Blackburn exposed to the pace and guile of Agbonlahor. Mid-way through the first half the latter drew a stretching save from Paul Robinson and after 24 minutes Agbonlahor managed to squeeze a pass to the unmarked Heskey, who almost inevitably lost his footing but as he did so directed a low shot inside the right-hand post. At this point Villa Park may have begun to mutter alliteratively about McLeish the Messiah.
Certainly Blackburn look in need of divine intervention. Having lost their opening fixture at home to Wolves they appeared equally bereft of ideas here apart from the occasional foray from David Hoilett and Steven Nzonzi. Nevertheless one of Hoilett's mazy dribbles brought them a goal seven minutes into the second half, Morten Gamst Pedersen darting between the Villa centre-backs to head his cross past Shay Given.
Agbonlahor having given way to Marc Albrighton for the second half following an earlier collision with Robinson, Villa parted with their other scorer when Barry Bannan replaced Heskey. No matter. In the 68th minute Grant Hanley blocked a low shot from Stilian Petrov only to have the ball whipped off his toes by Bent who then drove in Villa's third.
McLeish acknowledges that Villa face "a tough challenge" if they are to make an impact in the Premier League this season but he was pleased with this performance, following the goalless game at Fulham. "There were some very good moments," he said, "and it's good to have four points from the first two games."
Blackburn's Steve Kean was disappointed not to get something from the game. "We started well but Agbonlahor scored an excellent goal for Villa and we were disappointed with their second goal. However we began the second half well and Villa were on the back foot but then the third goal killed us off. Players who have not been with us for too long are still bedding in."