Aston Villa Football Club (also known as The Villa, Villa and The Villans) is an English professional football club based in Aston, Birmingham, who currently play in the Premier League. The club was founded in 1874 and have played at their current home ground, Villa Park, since 1897. Aston Villa were founding members of The Football League in 1888 and the Premier League in 1992. The club was floated by the previous owner and chairman Doug Ellis, but in 2006 full control of the club was acquired by Randy Lerner.
They are one of the oldest and most successful football clubs in England, having won the First Division Championship seven times and the FA Cup seven times. Villa also won the 1981–82 European Cup, one of only four English clubs to win what is now the UEFA Champions League. Aston Villa is the fourth most successful club in English football history, having won 20 major honours, although many of these were won before the Second World War and the most recent was in 1996.
They have a long-standing and fierce rivalry with local rivals Birmingham City, although West Bromwich Albion is actually the closest professional football club. The Birmingham derby between Aston Villa and Birmingham City has been played since 1879. The club's traditional kit colours are claret shirts with sky blue sleeves, white shorts and sky blue socks. Their traditional crest is of a rampant gold lion on a light blue background with the club's motto "Prepared" underneath; a modified version of this was adopted in 2007.
Aston Villa Football Club were formed in March, 1874, by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in Aston which is now part of Birmingham. The four founders of Aston Villa were Jack Hughes, Frederick Matthews, Walter Price and William Scattergood. Aston Villa's first match was against the local Aston Brook St Mary's Rugby team. 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. Villa quickly became one of the best teams in the Midlands, winning their first honour, the Birmingham Senior Cup in 1880, under the captaincy of Scotsman George Ramsay.
The club won its first FA Cup in 1887 with captain Archie Hunter becoming one of the game's first household names. Aston Villa were one of the dozen teams that competed in the inaugural Football League in 1888 with one of the club's directors, William McGregor being the league's founder. Aston Villa emerged as the most successful English club of the Victorian era, with numerous League titles and FA Cup wins. In 1897, the year Villa won The Double, they moved into their present home, the Aston Lower Grounds. Supporters coined the name "Villa Park"; no official declaration listed the ground as Villa Park.
Aston Villa won their sixth FA Cup in 1920, soon after though the club began a slow decline that led to Villa, at the time one of the most famous and successful clubs in world football, being relegated in 1936 for the first time to the Second Division. This was largely the result of a dismal defensive record: they conceded 110 goals, 7 of them coming from Arsenal's Ted Drake in an infamous 1–7 defeat at Villa Park. Like all English clubs, Villa lost seven seasons to the Second World War, and that conflict brought several careers to a premature end. The team was rebuilt under the guidance of former player Alex Massie for the remainder of the 1940s. Aston Villa's first trophy for 37 years came in the 1956–57 season which included an unexpected FA Cup run that would culminate in them defeating the 'Busby Babes' of Manchester United in the final. The team were relegated though two seasons later, in 1958–59, and a complacency had set in at Villa Park. This was soon overcome as Villa returned to the top flight in 1960 as Second Division Champions and the following season Villa won the inaugural League Cup.
The late 1960s brought a period of turmoil at the club with fan pressure leading to a takeover and managerial changes. This started with Villa being relegated for the third time, under manager Dick Taylor in 1967. The following season the fans called for the board to resign as Villa finished 16th in the Second Division. With mounting debts and Villa lying at the bottom of Division Two, the board sacked Cummings (the manager brought in to replace Taylor), and within weeks the entire board resigned under overwhelming pressure from fans. After much speculation, control of the club was bought by London financier Pat Matthews, who also brought in Doug Ellis as chairman. However, new ownership could not prevent Villa being relegated to the Third Division for the first time at the end of the 1969–70 season. In the 1971–72 season they returned to the Second Division as Champions with a record 70 points. In 1973 Ron Saunders was appointed manager and by 1977 he had taken them back into the First Division and Europe.
Villa were back amongst the elite and enjoyed much success under Saunders, winning the league in the 1980–81 season. To the surprise of commentators and fans, Saunders quit halfway through the 1981–82 season, after falling out with the chairman, with Villa in the quarter final of the European Cup. He was replaced by his softly-spoken assistant manager Tony Barton who guided them to 1–0 victory over Bayern Munich in the European Cup final in Rotterdam. Villa remain to this day one of only four English teams to have won the European Cup, along with Liverpool, Manchester United and Nottingham Forest. This marked a pinnacle though and Villa declined for most of the 1980s, culminating in relegation in 1987. This was followed by promotion the following year and second place in the football League in 1989.
Villa were one of the founding members of the Premier League in 1992, and finished runners-up to Manchester United in the inaugural season. In the rest of the nineties however Villa went through three different managers and their league positions were inconsistent, although they did win two League Cups. Villa reached the FA Cup final in 2000 (for the first time since 1957) but lost 1–0 to Chelsea in the last game to be played at the old Wembley Stadium. Once again Villa's league position fluctuated under several different managers and things came to a head in the summer of 2006 when David O'Leary left in acrimony. Martin O'Neill soon arrived to a jubilant reception. After 23 years as chairman and single biggest shareholder (approximately 38%), Doug Ellis finally decided to sell his stake in Aston Villa to American Businessman Randy Lerner, the owner of NFL franchise the Cleveland Browns. The arrival of a new owner and manager marked the start of a new period of optimism at Villa Park and sweeping changes occurred throughout the club including a new crest, a new kit sponsor and team changes in the summer of 2007.
The club colours are claret shirt with sky blue sleeves, white shorts with claret and blue trim, and sky blue socks with claret and white trim. Villa's colours at the outset generally comprised plain shirts (white, grey or a shade of blue), with either white or black shorts. For a few years after that (1877–79) the team wore several different kits from all white, blue and black, red and blue to plain green. By 1880, black jerseys with a red lion embroidered on the chest were introduced by William McGregor. This remained the first choice strip for six years. On Monday, 8 November 1886, an entry in the club's official minute book states:
(i) Proposed and seconded that the colours be chocolate and sky blue shirts and that we order two dozen. (ii) Proposed and seconded that Mr McGregor be requested to supply them at the lowest quotation.The chocolate colour later became claret.
Nobody is quite sure why claret and blue became the club's adopted colours. The main theory surrounding the colours suggests that with the Scottish influence of characters such as George Ramsay and William McGregor the kit was created from the combination of the maroon of Hearts and the blue of Rangers, with the Scottish lion rampant included in the badge. The kit for the 2007–2008 season will be manufactured by Nike. Aston Villa's success inspired some other clubs to adopt claret as their home colours, most notably Burnley and West Ham United.
A new crest was revealed on 2 May 2007, for the 2007–08 season and beyond. The new crest includes a star to represent the European Cup win in 1982, and has a light blue background behind Villa's 'lion rampant'. The traditional motto "Prepared" remains in the crest, and the name Aston Villa has been shortened to AVFC, FC having been omitted from the previous crest. Randy Lerner petitioned fans to help with the design of the new crest. The three kits that carry the new crest were unveiled on 17 July 2007, in The Mailbox, Birmingham. On 2 June 2008 it was announced that Aston Villa will forgo commercial kit sponsorship for the 2008–09 season; instead they will advertise the charity Acorns Children's Hospice, the first deal of its kind in Premiership history.
Aston Villa's current home venue is Villa Park, which is a UEFA 4-star rated stadium, having previously played at Aston Park (1874–1876) and Perry Barr (1876–1897). Villa Park is currently the largest football stadium in the Midlands, and the eighth largest stadium in England. It has hosted 16 England internationals at senior level, the first in 1899, and the most recent in 2005. Thus it was the first English ground to stage international football in three different centuries. Villa Park is the most used stadium in FA Cup semi-final history, having hosted 55 semi-finals. The Club have planning permission to extend the North Stand; This will involve the 'filling in' of the corners to either side of the North Stand. If completed, the capacity of Villa Park will be increased to approximately 51,000.
The current training ground is located at Bodymoor Heath in north Warwickshire, the site for which was purchased by former Aston Villa Chairman Doug Ellis in the early 1970s from a local farmer. Although Bodymoor Heath was state-of-the-art in the 1970s, by the late 1990s the facilities had started to look dated. In November 2005, Ellis and Aston Villa plc announced a state of the art GB£13 million redevelopment of Bodymoor in 2 phases. However, work on Bodymoor was suspended by Ellis due to financial problems, and was left in an unfinished state until new owner Randy Lerner made it one of his priorities to make the site one of the best in world football. The new training ground was officially unveiled on 6 May 2007, by current manager Martin O'Neill, former team captain Gareth Barry and 1982 European Cup winning team captain Dennis Mortimer, with the Aston Villa squad moving in for the 2007–08 season.
On 14 August 2006, it was confirmed that Randy Lerner, owner of the Cleveland Browns and native Ohioan had reached an agreement of GB£62.6 million with Aston Villa for a takeover of the club. A statement released on 25 August to the LSE announced that Lerner had secured 59.69% of Villa shares, making him the majority shareholder. He also appointed himself Chairman of the club. In Ellis's last year in charge Villa lost GB£8.2m before tax, compared with a GB£3m profit the previous year, and income had fallen from GB£51.6m to GB£49m. Randy Lerner took full control on 18 September as he had 89.69% of the share. On 19 September 2006, Aston Villa plc executive Chairman Doug Ellis and his board resigned to be replaced with a new board headed by Lerner.
|Charles Krulak||Non-Executive Director|
|Bob Kain||Non-Executive Director|
|Michael Martin||Non-Executive Director|
Like many English football clubs Aston Villa has had several hooligan firms associated with it: Villa Youth, Steamers, Villa Hardcore and the C-Crew, the latter being very active during the 1970s and 1980s. As can be seen across the whole of English football, the hooligan groups have now been marginalised. In 2004 several Villa firms were involved in a fight with QPR fans outside Villa Park in which a steward died. The main groupings of supporters can now be found in a number of domestic supporters' clubs. This includes the Official Aston Villa Supporters Club which also has many smaller regional and international sections. There were several independent supporters clubs during the reign of Doug Ellis but most of these disbanded after his retirement. The club's supporters also publish fanzines such as Heroes and Villains (football fanzine) and The Holy Trinity.
Aston Villa's arch-rivals are Birmingham City, with games between the two clubs known as the 'Second City Derby'. Today, Villa also enjoy less heated local rivalries with West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Coventry City. (These five clubs plus Walsall are collectively referred to in the West Midlands as the 'Big Six'.) Historically though, West Bromwich Albion have been one of Villa's greatest rivals, a view highlighted in a fan survey, conducted in 2003. The two teams contested three FA Cup finals in the late 19th century. Through the relegation of West Brom and Birmingham to The Championship in the 2005–06 season in the 2006–07 Premiership season Villa were the only Midlands club in that League. The nearest opposing team Villa faced during that season was Sheffield United, who played away in South Yorkshire. For the 2007–08 season Villa once again had two local derbies after Birmingham were promoted to the Premier League on 29 April 2007. Villa were victorious on the both occasions. Birmingham were relegated at the end of the 2007-08 season, as such, there will be no Second City derby for the 2008-09 season though West Bromwich Albion were promoted.
Aston Villa has also featured on several occasions in prose. Joseph Gallivan's book "Oi, Ref" is about a referee who is a Villa fan who conspires to turn an FA Cup Semi-Final in his team's favour. Stanley Woolley, a character in Derek Robinson's Booker shortlisted novel Goshawk Squadron is an Aston Villa fan and names a pre-war starting eleven Villa side. Together with The Oval, Villa Park is referenced by the poet Philip Larkin in his poem about the First World War, MCMXIV.
To date Aston Villa have spent 98 seasons in the top-flight, the only club to have spent longer in the top-flight is Everton with 105 seasons. As a result, Aston Villa versus Everton is the most played fixture in English top-flight football. Aston Villa is one of an elite group of seven clubs that has played in every Premiership season, they are: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Aston Villa is fifth in the All-time FA Premier League table. Aston Villa is the fourth most successful club in English football history, having won 21 major honours.
Aston Villa currently hold the record number of league goals scored by any team in the English top-flight; 128 goals were scored in the 1930–31 season. Villa legend Archie Hunter became the first player to score in every round of the FA Cup in Villa's victorious 1887 campaign. Villa's longest unbeaten home run in the FA Cup spanned 13 years and 19 games, from 1888 to 1901.
Aston Villa are one of four English teams that have won the European Champions Cup. The other three are Liverpool, Manchester United and Nottingham Forest. They did so on 26 May 1982 in Rotterdam, beating Bayern Munich 1–0 thanks to Peter Withe's goal.
Aston Villa have won European and domestic league honours. The club's last major honour was in 1996 when they won the League Cup. The youth team however won the FA Youth Cup in 2002.
Several Aston Villa players have won the PFA Players' Player of the Year award. At the end of every English football season, the members of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) vote on which of its members has played the best football in the previous year. In 1977 Andy Gray won the award. In 1990 it was awarded to David Platt, whilst Paul McGrath won it in 1993. Two Villa players have won the PFA Young Player of the Year which is awarded to players under the age of 23. In 1977 Andy Gray won the award and in 1981 Gary Shaw received it. Only one Villa player has been inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, housed in the The National Football Museum in Preston, England. This was Danny Blanchflower who was inducted in 2003. Aston Villa though, have provided more England internationals than any other club, 66 to date.Aston Villa Hall of Fame This was voted for by fans and to this date there has been one induction of 12 players in 2006.
Football League 100 Legends The Football League 100 Legends is a list of "100 legendary football players" produced by The Football League in 1998, to celebrate the 100th season of League football.
|John Robertson||Assistant Manager|
|Steve Walford||First Team Coach|
|Kevin MacDonald||Reserve Team Coach|
|Seamus McDonagh||Goalkeeping Coach|
|Gordon Cowans||Head Youth Team Coach|
|George Ramsay||August 1884||May 1926||-||-||-||-||-||6 FA Cups, 6 Division One championships|
|Jimmy Hogan||November 1936||September 1939||124||57||41||26||45.97||Division Two Champions|
|Eric Houghton||September 1953||November 1958||250||88||97||65||35.2||FA Cup winner|
|Joe Mercer||December 1958||July 1964||282||120||99||63||42.55||Division Two Champions, League Cup winner|
|Ron Saunders||June 1974||February 1982||353||157||98||98||44.76||2 League Cups, Division One champions. Also in 2006 was inducted into the Aston Villa Hall of Fame.|
|Tony Barton||February 1982||June 1984||130||58||48||24||44.62||European Cup, European Super Cup|
|Jozef Venglos||July 1990||May 1991||49||16||18||15||32.65||First manager not from Britain or Ireland to take charge of a top-flight club in England.|
|Ron Atkinson||July 1991||November 1994||178||77||56||45||43.25||League Cup winner|
|Brian Little||November 1994||February 1998||164||68||51||45||41.46||League Cup winner|
|John Gregory||February 1998||January 2002||190||82||56||52||43.15||Intertoto Cup winner|