Paul Lambert insists Aston Villa are a different football club now from the one which made an embarrassing Capital One Cup semi-final exit to Bradford seven months ago.
Villa were firm favourites to book a place in last season’s Wembley final but it was the lower league Bantams who progressed 4-3 on aggregate, while the struggling midlands club were left to stave off the threat of relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
But Lambert, boosted by six new faces this summer and the retention of star striker Christian Benteke, has watched a new-look Villa emerge over the early part of this term.
Albeit still youthful, Lambert’s side have shown positive signs of maturity and development in their first three games of the new league season, and the Scot is adamant they are a different animal as they prepare to face Sky Bet League One outfit Rotherham in this year’s League Cup second-round tie.
Ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Villa Park, Lambert said: “The disappointment after the Bradford game was huge for us.
“Everyone thought when we drew Bradford it was a foregone conclusion that we were just going to go through. We played ever so well in the rounds leading up to that – we went to Manchester City, Norwich and Swindon and won.
“Then we had two legs in the semi-final and got beat, on top of the league games we were losing, there was a lot of pressure, but credit to the team as they turned it around and the last three or four months of the season they were excellent.
“I don’t know if it’s about exorcising ghosts, there’s a different feeling in the football club this time, totally different. The players are different, a different mindset, new lads have come in, some lads have left. We needed to freshen it up, but there’s a totally different mindset altogether now.”
Five-time winners Villa have a great tradition in the competition, with their maiden success coming in the first-ever League Cup final of 1961 in which they defeated Wednesday’s opponents Rotherham.
They have reached at least the quarter-finals in three of the last four years, while they have not exited in the second round since 1991.
But Lambert will not underestimate the Millers – unbeaten so far this term - and knows all too well what it is like to be in their position having caused giant-killings of his own during his previous time in charge of Wycombe.
“I won’t treat the tie lightly, that’s for sure, if you’re in something you’re in it to try and win it,” he said.
“We’ll respect Rotherham and Steve (Evans, boss) but we’re at home and we’ve started the season well, we want to try and get through.
“We have to do what we’ve been doing in the last three games, perform at that level and if we do that we’ll have a chance. But, as I’ve said, there’s a totally different feeling now.
“I know it’s going to be hard. A smaller team coming to a big club with the atmosphere and the pitch, it raises everybody. You give Rotherham respect but the onus is on us to get through.”
Lambert has vowed to send out a strong side for the tie but defenders Nathan Baker (ankle) and Antonio Luna (knock) are both doubts while Charles N’Zogbia (Achilles) remains a long-term absentee.
Meanwhile, the Villa boss has admitted he does not anticipate huge business at the club between now and the summer transfer window closing next Monday but has not ruled new signings out completely.
“There won’t be any major movement but if something came up and I thought it was right and financially it was right then we’d look at it,” Lambert said.