Ron Atkinson Recalls His Dramatic First Game in Charge of Aston Villa

Ron Atkinson’s First Game as Villa Boss

Former Villa boss Ron Atkinson has a new autobiography out called Ron Atkinson: The Manager . There’s been excerpts floating around with serialisations in several local newspapers and since Big Ron was one of MOMS favourite Villa managers in our time supporting Villa, here’s an excerpt of discussing his first game managing Villa, the infamous game against the club he’d just left, Sheffield Wednesday – still remembered by Villa supporters as one of the best away days in recent decades.

Also, he recalls his favourite games in charge of Villa.

Instant Owl Return

If I had a club, a team I supported, it would be Aston Villa.

I had been offered the chance to manage them three times before and I thought that if I turned them down once more, the opportunity would never come again.

For my first game as manager of Aston Villa, I had eight players making their debuts, and after half an hour of that match you would have thought I’d picked six of them up on the motorway coming to the game.

To my disbelief, that game was away to Sheffield Wednesday.

Doug insisted on coming on the coach with us and as we approached Hillsborough he moved away, joking he didn’t want to be hit by a stray sniper’s bullet. There were a few ‘Judas’ chants but that kind of thing has never bothered me.

These days, however, there seems to be a lot more vitriol added to the chants.

After 10 minutes Villa were two down and the way it was going we were going to be 10 down by half-time.

Just before the interval, we won a corner. Chris Woods was making his debut in goal for Sheffield Wednesday and Andy Gray, who had watched a lot of Scottish football for BSkyB, turned to me and said, ‘He had a bad injury at Rangers and he’s not as brave as he used to be.’

The corner is delivered, Big Cyrille goes in and clashes with the keeper, the ball goes out for another corner. The corner goes in again, Cyrille is there but Chris Woods isn’t and the deficit is 2-1.

In the dressing room at Hillsborough, I told the lads, ‘You’ll win this now because they won’t know whether to stick or twist – whether to hold on for 2-1 or hit us for six.’

In the second half Dalian equalised and then from their corner we broke away and Steve Staunton, from left-back, found himself clean through to strike the winner. A mate of mine, a Sheffield man, turned to me and said, ‘Who writes your scripts?’

Big Ron’s Standout Villa Games

MOMS was present at both of these games below and has the same view on them as Big Ron. The below quotes are from the Shropshire Star

“The obvious standout point would be beating United at Wembley (in the 1994 final) but the most eventful game – which would go in my top three of all time – is the semi-final with Tranmere.

“It basically had everything. They beat us 3-1 up at Prenton Park and Dalian Atkinson scored with the last kick of the game. After the match you’d have thought we’d won. When we came back to Villa Park we were 2-0 up within 20 minutes. But then they scored a penalty, and maybe Mark Bosnich should have been sent off. Dalian equalised, and they hit the post with the last kick of the match before it went to penalties. It was a very dramatic afternoon.”


If you’re interested in buying ‘The Manager’ click on the book cover image below for full details and the best price about.

MOMS Ron Atkinson Interview