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Aston Villa FC

Aston Villa FC Information

Address:   Villa Park, Trinity Road, Birmingham B6 6HE
Telephone: (0121) 327 2299
Fax: (0121) 322 2107
Founded: 1874
Stadium: Villa Park
Website: www.avfc.co.uk

Aston Villa FC History

Aston Villa Football Club play at Villa Park in Birmingham, England. They currently play in the Premier League. Aston Villa were founding members of the Football League in 1888 and of the Premier League in 1992. It is one of the oldest and most successful clubs in England.

Aston Villa Football Club was formed in March 1874 by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in Aston, Birmingham. Members of the Aston Villa cricket team were looking for a way to stay fit during the winter months and decided to adopt the new sport of football. The 'Four Founding Fathers' were Jack Hughes, Frederick Matthews, Walter Price and William Scattergood. Little did they know that the team they formed would go on to become the most famous and admired football club in the world by the end of Queen Victoria's reign.

Aston Villa's first match was against the local Aston Brook St Mary's Rugby team and as a condition of the match, the Villa side had to agree to play the first half under rugby rules and the second half under football rules! Amazingly Villa managed to hold St Mary's to a pointless draw up to half time and in the second half won the historic affair by one goal, scored by Jack Hughes. Villa won their first honour, the Birmingham Challenge Cup in 1880, under the captaincy of Scotsman George Ramsay. The club won its first FA Cup in 1887, by which time football had become professional. However, the Scottish draper and director of Aston Villa, William McGregor had become frustrated with one-sided friendly matches and low attendances for all games but FA Cup ties. He saw that in order to keep interest in the game alive the top teams needed to play each other in a league much like American baseball teams did. So he wrote to the 12 leading clubs in England proposing the formation of a league. The reason the Football League was never called the English League is because McGregor intended Scottish and Welsh teams to join eventually. Naturally, Aston Villa were one of the dozen teams that competed in the inaugural Football League in 1888 finishing runners-up.

It didn't take long for Villa to lift their first League Championship trophy, and this was achieved in 1893/94. This would signal the start of Aston Villa's 'Golden Age' and by the start of the First World War the club had won the League Championship six times and the FA Cup five times, including in 1896/97, a League and Cup Double, a feat which would not be repeated for more than 60 years.

Although they remained a major force after the war, winning their sixth FA Cup in 1920, the club began a slow decline. This can be attributed in large part to a complacency which culminated in the unthinkable, the most famous and successful football club in world being relegated to the Second Division in 1936. However, throughout the 1920's and into the 1930's the club had many fine international players (in 1933/34 Villa had no fewer than 14 full internationals) and continued to challenge for honours, Villa were FA Cup runners-up in 1924 and second in the League in 1931 and 1933. Throughout this period the Villa Park crowds were entertained with attacking football and goals galore, in season 1930/31 Tom 'Pongo' Waring scored 49 of Aston Villa's 128 league goals, however Villa were denied the title by the sensational Arsenal team of the 30's.

The club's decision to appoint their first manager coincided with relegation for the first time in 1935/36. This was largely due a dismal defensive record, they conceded 110 goals, 7 of them coming from Arsenal's Ted Drake in the infamous defeat at Highbury. However 'The Grand Old Man' of football was crowned Second Division Champions in 1937/38 under the guidance of Jimmy Hogan, Aston Villa were back where they belonged by the outbreak of The Second World War. Seven seasons were lost and many careers were finished due to the conflict and Aston Villa went about rebuilding the team under the guidance of former player, Alex Massie. The remainder of the 1940s and the 1950s saw Villa try to re-establish themselves as a top team. However, Villa could only be described as mediocre during this period, although they had some good players and attendances were high. Season 1956/57 saw Villa go on an unexpected FA Cup run that would culminate in them defeating the 'Busby Babes' of Manchester United in the final. It was Aston Villa's first trophy for 37 years.

However this success proved to be a false dawn with the team finishing 14th in the league the following season. Eric Houghton was sacked (after refusing to resign) when relegation loomed in 1958/59. His successor Joe Mercer was unable to prevent the club being relegated for the second time in 1959. Again a complacency had set in at the club, the famous Aston Villa had won the FA Cup for a record seventh time, this only served to fuel the belief that Villa were too good to go down. A return to the top flight was assured however in 1960 when Villa were crowned Second Division Champions. Season 1960/61 saw Villa win the inaugural League Cup and finish repectably in the league, this was achieved with an exciting nucleus of youth players who became known as 'Mercer's Minors'.

The slow decline continued throughout the 1960s due to a deep seated malaise; the club had failed to adapt to the new football reality, they had a non-existent scouting network, coaching was conducted in the same way as it had been 40 years earlier and the 5 man board contained 3 members over the age of 70. It was the board who decided that they couldn't refuse offers for their two most reliable goalscorers, Phil Woosnam and Tony Hateley. Without their goals Villa were in real trouble and were relegated for the third time, under manager Dick Taylor in 1967. The fans' calls for the board to resign became more and more urgent when Villa finished 16th in the Second Division in 1968. In a desperate attempt to avert total disaster, relegation to the Third Division, the manager, Tommy Cummings was given 200,000 to spend on new players, and with supporters boycotting Villa's home games in protest at the board, debts mounted. Events on the pitch came to a head in November 1968, with Villa lying at the bottom of Division Two; the board sacked Cummings and within weeks the entire board resigned due to overwhelming pressure from fans. After much speculation, control of the club was bought by London financier Pat Matthews, he also brought in Doug Ellis as chairman and Tommy Docherty as manager.

However, despite breathing new life into the club and initial success, Docherty was unable to lift the team out of the danger zone and he was sacked after just a year in charge. His successor Vic Crowe, was unable to prevent Aston Villa from being relegated to the Third Division for the first time its history. Amazingly the following season Villa reached the League Cup final after beating Manchester United in the semi-final. They were eventually defeated in the final by two late Tottenham goals. The only way was up for Villa and in 1971/72 they finished top of the league with a team that was simply too good for Division Three. The team narrowly missed out on successive promotions when they finished third on their return to Second Division football in 1972/73. However the following season Villa struggled and Doug Ellis sacked Crowe replacing him with Ron Saunders.

Aston Villa's centenary season provided the double success of a League Cup final victory over Norwich and promotion to the First Division after an absence of eight seasons in 1974/75. Villa were back and due to their League Cup success were in Europe for the first time. Although Villa were knocked out in the first round by Antwerp, Saunders was assembling a team that would go on to win the European Cup seven years later. Villa won the League Cup again in 1977 by beating Everton after two final replays. The following season saw Villa reach the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup where they held their own against Spanish giants, Barcelona. That night at the Nou Camp finally laid to rest the nightmare of the previous 10 years; Aston Villa were finally back amongst the footballing elite.

The ups and downs of the 1980's

The 1980's was another mixed era in the history of Aston Villa football club. Villa won the Football League Championship, fighting off competition from Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, in 1981 under the managership of Ron Saunders. Saunders quit halfway through the following season (1981-82) and was replaced by his assistant manager Tony Barton. In May 1982, just three months after being appointed manager, Barton guided Villa to a 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the European Cup final. Key players in this side included Des Bremner, Peter Withe and Gordon Cowans. Barton remained in charge until the summer of 1984, when he was sacked after a disappointing season which had seen the club finish 10th in the First Division. His successor was Graham Turner who had taken Shrewsbury Town from being Fourth Division strugglers into being an established Second Division side. Turner was sacked in September 1986 and his successor Billy McNeill was unable to save the club from finishing bottom of the First Division and being relegated - just five years after Villa had been champions of Europe.

McNeill left in the summer of 1987 to become manager of Glasgow Celtic. Villa chairman Doug Ellis gave the manager's job to Graham Taylor, who had transformed the fortunes of Watford in 10 years of management. A significant addition to the Villa squad was attacking midfielder David Platt, a 21-year-old signing from Crewe Alexandra for 200,000. Platt was instrumental in getting Villa back into the top flight at the first time of asking as they finished Second Division runners-up in 1988.

Villa narrowly avoided relegation from the First Division in 1989 but in 1990 they surprised everyone by finishing runners-up to Liverpool in the First Division. Taylor left shortly afterwards to replace Bobby Robson as England manager, but Taylor would eventually be villified by the British press for his failures as national coach. Villa meanwhile appointed Czech coach Jozef Venglos as their new manager - the first time that a foreign manager had taken charge of a top division club.

The 1990's: more mixed fortunes

Jozef Venglos spent one season as manager of Aston Villa (1990-91). He stepped down after they finished just two places above the First Division relegation zone and David Platt was sold to Italian side Bari for 5 million. Aston Villa's new manager was Ron Atkinson, who had achieved considerable success with West Bromwich Albion, Manchester United and more recently Sheffield Wednesday. He spent heavily, making expensive additions to the squad including Earl Barrett, Dean Saunders, Dalian Atkinson, Kevin Richardson, Ray Houghton and Shaun Teale. The policy nearly paid off in 1993 when Aston Villa finished runners-up to Manchester United (Atkinson's old club) in the inaugural Premier League. Villa gained their revenge over United with a 3-1 League Cup final victory the following season (which prevented United from winning a unique domestic treble) but Villa's league form slipped and they finished tenth in 1994.

Atkinson was sacked in November 1994 with Villa battling relegation, just 18 months after they had almost won the league. His successor Brian Little did well to keep a demoralised team in the Premiership and in the summer of 1995 reshaped the squad by selling most of the club's older players and buying in many younger players. New arrivals included Alan Wright, Gary Charles, Ian Taylor, Mark Draper, Savo Milosevic, Gareth Southgate and Tommy Johnson. Several home grown players were also progressing well, especially striker Dwight Yorke and defender Ugo Ehiogu.

Aston Villa made huge progress in 1995-96 under Brian Little. They won the League Cup, reached the F.A Cup semi finals and finished fourth in the Premiership. Dwight Yorke was now established as a world class striker and other players like Ugo Ehiogu and Gareth Southgate were already gaining international recognition. Villa qualified for the UEFA Cup in 1996 and again in 1997, without making any real progress, and Little resigned in February 1998 with Villa 15th in the Premiership and with relegation looking a real possibility.

Little's successor John Gregory, a former Aston Villa coach who had left to take charge of Wycombe Wanderers 18 months earlier, revitalised the club's fortunes and they finished seventh in the Premiership and qualified for the UEFA Cup - due to the progress of other teams in the top seven it was the only time that a seventh placed club has automatically qualified for the UEFA Cup.

Despite the 12.6million sale of Dwight Yorke to Manchester United in August 1998, John Gregory had guided Aston Villa to the top of the Premiership by the middle of the 1998-99 season. New signings Paul Merson and Dion Dublin were proving to be worth the money, while 18-year-old defender Gareth Barry was easily the most competent young player in the Premiership that season. But Villa's form slipped during the final weeks and they finished sixth - not even enough for a UEFA Cup place.

The New Millennium

So far, the new Millennium has brought more 'average' performances for Aston Villa. They did reach the F.A Cup final in 2000 (for the first time since 1957), but lost 1-0 to Chelsea. Gregory quit the club in January 2002 and chairman Doug Ellis made a surprise decision on appointed Graham Taylor as manager for the second time. Villa finished the 2001-02 season in eighth place, which was similar to most of their other Premiership finishes. But a 16th place finish in the 2002-03 Premiership campaign saw Taylor quit as manager and make way for ex-Leeds United manager David O'Leary.

After a poor start to the season, O'Leary transformed the team's fortunes and by Spring 2004 they were in contention for a Champions League place. But a 2-0 home defeat against Manchester United saw them finish sixth in the Premiership and narrowly miss out on a UEFA Cup place. Nevertheless, such an improvement in league form reflected well on how David O'Leary had rejuvenated the club's fortunes. By February 2005, they were mid table in the Premiership but there is still time for an improvement which could see Villa qualify for European competition in the 2005-06 season.

Current key players in the Aston Villa side include Juan Pablo Angel, Nolberto "Nobby" Solano, Darius Vassell and Olof Mellberg.

Aston Villa FC Honours, Trophies & Awards

  • European Cup
    • 1982
  • European Super Cup
    • 1983
  • Inter-Toto Cup
    • 2001
  • FA Cup
    • 1887, 1895, 1897, 1905, 1913, 1920, 1957
  • League Cup
    • 1961, 1975, 1977, 1994, 1996
  • First Division Champions
    • 1893-1894, 1895-1896, 1896-1897, 1898-1899, 1899-1900, 1909-1910, 1980-1981
  • Second Division Champions
    • 1937-1938, 1959-1960
  • Third Division Champions
    • 1971-1972
  • FA Youth Cup
    • 1972, 1980, 2002

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