Aston Villa Fan Tales: No.1 – A View From The Allotment

Lean Years

For some reason, Villa held onto Dick Taylor for far too long, always striving – but always struggling, until two years later, we were unceremoniously sent down to the Second Division as was, and then, soon after, to suffer the ignominy of the never-before-visited Third.

The Birmingham Shi**y boys would say “Have you heard about the latest ice cream?  Aston Vanilla, the team anyone can lick”.  And we would never forget the hurt in what they’d said.

As the years progressed, the boy saw many of the world’s greatest players earn their paltry pay, certainly by today’s standards, on our muck heap, as the boys and their dads called it.  It was a pitch that, in reality, had a range of hues – from deepest emerald in September, to dirtiest brown for the rest of the season, but it always looked like the finest, brightest, toughest, emerald heaven to that young lad.

[quote_center]’Aston Villa thrives on passion.  Passion to achieve more than most think we should'[/quote_center]

We won some and we lost some; it was through thick and thin, the way it’s always been.  But wasn’t it such a joy once those thinner years began to peter out, years soon to be thinned to nothing, years forgotten, as the thicker ones brought silverware and smiles to the ever-beaming, ever-baying, throng.

Football legends like Sir Stanley Matthews, George Best, Pele, Johnny Haynes, Bobby Robson, Denis Law, Charlton R, Charlton J, Moore, Styles, Ball, Greaves, Cooke, Bomber Brown, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Eddie Gray, Allan Clarke, Ted McDougal, That Ginger f**ker at Sheffield Wednesday – Eric Potts – who ripped us apart every time we played them.  Have another Pele.  Beckham, CANTONA!, GIGGS!, Dalglish, Francis (well, he was almost a great player), Le Tissier, Keegan, Gascoigne, Emlyn Hughes – a man who would surely die with a smile on his face – and probably did, but at far too young an age.  Loads of top Italians, Drogba, Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Villa, CRUYFF(!) , Cristiano RONALDO, and for the last time, bloody PELE!, can you believe!!!!!  And the list could probably go on forever.

All these legends came to take on the mighty Aston Villa.  Many went away victorious, some did not, but we loved them all, in secret, all apart from Potts, Brown and Francis.

But the boy also remembered the years when they didn’t come at all, unless we had a lucky run in a cup.

Vintage Memories


There were 54,437 people in the ground on that 3 day-week, power-cut night against the might of Pele’s Santos, from the even mightier Brazil, a planet where the men played football all day and the ladies danced happily in its glory.  The gangways on the Holte looked crisp and defined, like they always did when the ground was packed.  We won 2-1, and that young boy was there, just like he was when 48,110 saw us defeat Bournemouth in a Third Division title battle, a game played on a pitch that resembled the Somme.

That’s right, 48,110 for a game in what is now stupidly called League Division One, a whole two divisions down from the top, but it was a division that was more important than the World Cup to us, the supporters of Aston Villa.  We had Andy Lochhead in the air – and they didn’t. They were never going to win, but they nearly did and that made us even more ecstatic at the outcome.

Oh how those boys and their dads danced in the aisles and alleyways of everywhere on that great day.  He was there too when we won six-nil away at Oldham, and drew two all at Leicester – with Chris Nichol scoring all four goals!

Against those aforementioned greats and their management-giant names such as Busby, Revie, Shankly and Clough, our management greats were Vic Crowe, but then Ron Saunders, Tony Barton, and in later years, Big Fat Ron, Brian Little, John Gregory, Graham Taylor and even MON.  All legends to us, or most of us anyway.  Our players were far more Erdington than Brazilian, our managers more lower league stars than Super Novas of the Universe.

Villa Boys

And look who WE had on the pitch: Charlie Aitken, Colin Withers, Mick Wright, Deakin, Hateley, Phil Woosnam, The cultured Peter Broadbent, the tenacious Barry Stobart, Willie Anderson, the brilliant Barrie Hole, Bruce Rioch, Brian Godfrey, Dick Edwards, Ray Graydon, Pat McMahon, Chico, Frank Carrodus, Brian Little, Andy Gray, Giddy, Dennis Mortimer, Ian Ross, Allan Evans, Ken McNaught, Chris Nichol, Alex CROPLEY, Sid, Stan Staunton, Benito Carbone, Savo the angry young Slav, Mark Delaney, Tony Morley, Gabby, Bosko F**kin Balaban, our very own Bremner, Kevin Richardson, Keith Leonard, Sammy Morgan, Paul Merson’s swan song, Platty, Spinksy, Gary Shaw, Gareth Barry, Stan Petrov, Peter Withe, Dion, Deano – and Dalian, Allan McInally, and the man we know to be GOD, plus Juan Pablo ANGEL, George Curtis and the ill-fated Luc Nilis, and oh so many, many more.  Born were the Kings of Villa Park!

Hardly any of them were even princes when they arrived, but so many were Kings, if not legends, when they left.  And so too all those other keepers, incredible keepers that have done us so proud all along the watchtower of those wonderful, wish-fulfilled years – including Jim ‘one bounce and it was in the net’ CUMBES and John ‘Budgie’ Burridge.

aston villa ticket collection
Kezz’s Ticket Collection

Against so many odds, we won several League Cups, were Third Division Champions, Runners up in the Second Division twice, The Champions of The Football League, The Champions of Europe, The European Super Cup Winners, Intertoto Cup Winners, FA Charity Shield Winners and three-time FA Youth Cup Winners.  And that boy, and lots of others like him, had seen almost all of it with their very own eyes, lived it with their very own hearts and sung it with their very own breath.

And during those days, that boy travelled the length and lungs’ of his country – by car, mini-bus, Midland Red, Flights Coach, train, and then on into the world beyond, by boat and plane – and more buses and trains. The club went from Rotherham to Rotterdam and on to Tokyo, in under 10 years since Division 3.

Present Day

With all those more recent glories in mind, it’s disappointing to note that the first team haven’t won a trophy since 1996, unless you really do want to count the 2001 triumph in that strange concoction known as the Intertoto.  Last year’s trophy haul consisted of winning the Shield for the Losing Quarter Finalists in the Hong Kong under 18’s 7-a-side tournament and we had two third place awards: one for catering provided to journalists on match days, the other for dealing nicely with a mystery shopper.  You couldn’t make this up, but sadly, it’s true.

Click ‘Next’ Page for the third and final instalment of Kezz’s Villa Story


Comments are closed.