24 October 2008

Aston Villa - a potted history

Welcome to this weekend's visitors; Aston Villa....


Aston Villa were formed in March 1874 by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel Cricket Club. Folklore has it that the founder members gathered under a gaslight on Heathfield Road to discuss an alternative sport to keep them occupied during the Winter, and probably during the Summer too, as according to founder member “Jimmy” Jim McJim; “Cricket is dead boring”.

Originally named Aston and District Elephant Polo Warlords, their first match against Birmingham Behemoths ended in tragedy, when Captain Cornelius Pachyderm was unseated in a goalmouth melee, and trampled to death in the six-yard box. After his funeral the founder members decided that football was a more sedate and appropriate game to while away the winter months, and the club was re-named Aston Villa.

Villa went on to become one of the most successful clubs in England with seven league championships and seven FA cups, and are one of only four English teams to have lifted the European Cup (defeating Bayern Munich 1-0 in the 1982 final).

Famous Matches

The 1919/20 FA cup saw Aston Villa pitted against Stoke City in the third round and produced one of the most controversial incidents in the competition’s history. With the score tied at 1-1, a thunderous shot by Stoke Inside Forward Nobby Prestatyn saw the pigs bladder burst upon his new winkle-picker boots (a style that was enjoying great popularity at the time).

With no replacement ball available and both clubs facing a fixture backlog due to the previous freezing December match cancellations, it was decided that the match should be resolved with a tractor race. The captains of each club took to the wheel and raced each other the length of the pitch and back again, resulting in a dead heat. Fortunately another match ball was found before the referee decided the match on the toss of a coin and the game resumed.

The resultant quagmire from the churning of the tractor wheels worked in Aston Villa’s favour (whose players had recently returned from charging The Hun at The Somme). With just two minutes remaining, Stoke fullback Ron Ronson sank to his waist in the mud on his six-yard line as Stoke’s back line stepped forward at a Villa free-kick. Ronson was unable to move and played Villa forward Tommy Treacle onside to head home the winning goal. By the time the celebrations had ceased, Ronson had sunk beneath the surface. His remains were never recovered.

Aston Villa went on to win the trophy, beating Huddersfield Town 1-0 (aet) in the final at Stamford Bridge.

Villa in the Community

Season 2009/10 sees Aston Villa embark upon a Barcelona-style shirt sponsorship deal, bucking the usual trend and advertising a local charity (for zero club revenue) in order to raise national awareness and show commitment to social responsibility. The charity in question is Acorn’s Children’s Hospice, which provides end-of-life care for children in the Midlands area.

Villa in Popular Culture.

In the BBC TV sitcom Porridge, the character Lennie Godber is an Aston Villa fan. As a result of some poor life choices, Lennie is forced to spend his Saturday afternoons surrounded by the same drab surroundings, staring at a bucket of excrement. Ultimately however, he is saved from this awful situation when the authorities chuck him in prison.