Manager – Tim Sherwood
Captain – Fabian Delph
Nickname – The Villans, The Lions
Ground – Villa Park
Rivals – Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion
Founded in the year 1874 Aston Villa FC is one of oldest clubs in English football. Nicknamed the Villans/Lions Aston Villa were one of the founding members of both The Football League in 1888 and the Premier League in 1992.
Villa are one of the only 7 clubs to have played in every season of the Premier League till date. In addition to being one of the oldest clubs Villa are also one of the most successful clubs in English football with 7 league titles, 7 FA Cups and 5 League Cups. They are also one of the only 5 English teams to have won the UEFA Champions League.
Aston Villa have an intense rivalry with Birmingham City with whom they play the Second City Derby and West Bromwich Albion. The club plays their home games at the Villa Park in Birmingham which has been their home since 1897.
Aston Villa Early Days
Aston Villa FC was founded in the year 1874 by four members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel cricket team who were apparently looking for something to do during the winter. The four founding members were Jack Hughes, Walter Prince, Frederick Matthews and William Scattergood.
The Villans played their first game against the Aston Brook St.Mary’s rugby team a game in which the 1st half was contested under rugby rules and the second half under football rules. Aston Villa won the game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Jack Hughes in the 2nd half.
Aston Villa made the switch to the Wellington Park ground at Birmingham in 1876 and won their first major trophy in 1880 when they beat Saltley College 3-1 in the final to win Birmingham Senior Cup under the captaincy of George Ramsey.
Aston Villa Heavy-weights of English football – 1880´s
In 1886/87 Aston Villa won their first FA Cup trophy after beating West Brom 2-0 in the final. In 1888 Aston Villa became one among the 12 founding members of the football league with club director William McGregor being the brains behind the idea of the league.
Villans played their first game in the league against Wolverhampton Wanderers and it ended 1-1. Aston Villa would go onto finish as runners-up behind Preston North End in the inaugural season of the football league.
Villa won their first league title in 1893/94 by finishing well ahead Sunderland in 2nd place. They also went onto win the FA Cup for the 2nd time next season beating West Brom 1-0. Their 1st league title was only the start of something special as the team went on to dominate English football over the next decade.
The won league titles in 1895/96, 1896/97, 1898/99 and 1899/00. They won their 3rd FA Cup trophy in 1896/97 by beating Everton 3-2 in the final and thus securing a double. In 1897 Aston Villa moved from Wellington Park to Aston Lower Grounds which is now known as Villa Park.
The Sleeping Giants of Birmingham – 1900
After the turn of the century the Villans still remained a force to be reckoned with but struggled when it came to winning trophies. After their league success in 1899/00 the Villans had to wait exactly another decade (1909/10) to win their 6th league title and in between had won the FA Cup only once in 1904/05 beating Newcastle United 2-0 in the final.
After their league triumph in 1909/10 the Villans finished runners-up in 3 of the next four seasons and also won their 5th FA Cup trophy in 1912/13 beating Sunderland in the final.
The 1st World War soon broke out and the league football was suspended for half a decade. Once it resumed again in 1919/20 Villans won their 6th FA Cup title beating Huddersfield town 1-0 in the final.
Waning Giants of Birmingham – 1920´s to 1930´s
Villa were never their former selves after the 1st World War, excluding their FA Cup triumph in 1919/20 they didn’t have much to show for their efforts in terms of trophies. They did reach the FA Cup final in 1923/24 but ended losing the game 2-0 to Newcastle.
In a bid to return to their former glory days Villa went in with a big purse into the transfer market and made big money signings such as Jimmy Gibson, Eric Houghton and Tom Waring. The influx of star power into the team helped Villa to being a formidable force again.
From 1928/29 to 1932/33 Villa had a series of seasons where they did really well in league challenging for the title on numerous occasions and even finishing as runners-up on a couple of occasions in 1930/31 and 1932/33. However as history shows money can bring you only so much of success.
Aston Villa suffered a drastic slump in form post the 1932/33 season and Villa, one of the most successful clubs in England were relegated to the 2nd division for the first time in the 1935/36 season.
Starting from scratch
Villa’s stay in the 2nd division wouldn’t be for long as they came back to the 1st division by winning the 1937/38 2nd division title under the guidance of newly appointed manager Jimmy Hogan.
In their first season back in the top division Villa secured a mid table finish but couldn’t build on from there as the league was interrupted by 2nd world war.
Once league football resumed after the war Aston Villa took over from were they left busy trying to reclaim their lost throne as champions of England. Alex Massie took over from Jimmy Hogan as the team’s manager after the war and led them from 1945 to 1950. Villa remained competitive in the league but the highest finish they could achieve under Massie was a 6th place finish in 1947/48.
Good but can be better
George Martin took over from Alex Massie as the next Villa manager and in his three season with them they remained a mid-table team. Villa’s fortunes turned for the better with the return of Eric Houghton back at the club.
Even though his first few seasons ended up without any trophies he led them to their 7th FA Cup trophy in the 1956/57 season when they beat Manchester United 2-1 in the final.
Following their FA Cup triumph the team started to struggle in the league and ended up getting relegated to the 2nd division for the second time in their history at the end of 1958/59 season.
Their stay in the 2nd division wouldn’t be for long as they ended up coming back to the top division by winning the 1959/60 season under the guidance of manager Joe Mercer. Back in the 1st division Aston Villa were looking better than they had been for a long time.
Joe Mercer and his team which were known as “Mercer’s Minors” won the inaugural edition of the League Cup in the 1960/61 season when they beat Rotherham United 3-2 in a two legged final. Mercer’s Minors managed another League Cup finals appearance in 1962/63 but this team lost to out bitter rivals Birmingham in a two legged final 3-1.
Hitting Rock Bottom
Mercer suffered a stroke in 1964 and was sacked as the manager by the board following his recovery. Dick Taylor was his replacement but after a couple of mediocre seasons Aston Villa once again went down to the 2nd tier of English football following a 21st place finish in the 1966/67 season.
Taylor was sacked following the relegation and in their first season back in the 2nd division they could only manage a 16th place finish under manager Tommy Cummings. Cummings was sacked at the start of next season and with pressuring mounting on the board from the supporters the entire board resigned and the club was bought by London businessman Pat Matthews and he appointed Doug Ellis as chairman.
Tommy Docherty was brought in as the new manager but unfortunately none of them could help keep Aston Villa up as they fell into the 3rd tier of English football for the first time. Following a poor start in the 3rd division Docherty was sacked and former player Vic Crowe was brought in as his replacement.
Renaissance of Aston Villa
Under Vic Crowe there were signs of Aston Villa returning back to their former-selves. In their first season in the 3rd division (1970/71) they finished 4th in the table and also reached the final of the League Cup but only to be beaten by Tottenham 2-0.
The following season Aston Villa made a really statement of intent when they won the 3rd division by accumulating a record number of points (70) and thus getting promoted back for the 1972/73 2nd division season.
Back in the 2nd division they had a really good campaign finishing 3rd in the table but falling short of promotion. The 1973/74 campaign however was a disaster as they ended the season at a dissappointing 14th place.
Vic Crowe was sacked at the end of the season and Ron Saunders was appointed the new manager before the start of the 1974/75 season. Ron Saunders’ way of no nonsense football was exactly what the club needed as they had a great 1st season under him by getting promoted to the 1st division by finishing 2nd in league and also winning the league cup beating Norwich City 1-0 in the final.
Greatest Aston Villa Moments
In their first season in the first division after nearly a decade they could only manage a 16th place with the highlight of the season being a first appearance in Europe that too in the UEFA Cup (knocked out in the 1st round by Belgian side R.Antwerp F.C.)
The following season Aston Villa put together a near perfect season ultimately finishing 4th in the table and also winning their 3rd League Cup title by beating Everton in a three part game final. The first match between two ended in a 0-0 draw, the reply then ended in a 1-1 and finally Aston Villa picked up the win in the 2nd reply with a 3-2 win.
From that season on Aston Villa went from strength to strength as each season went on and finally in the 1980/81 campaign they would win their 7th 1st division title 61 years after their 6th league title win in 1909/10.
Midway through the 1981/82 season Ron Saunders to the surprise of both pundits and fans alike resigned as the Aston Villa manager after disagreements with the board. Saunders was succeeded by Tony Barton if what seemed like an impossible job at that time but…
Barton led the team to their first even European Cup final which they won after beating Bayern Munich 1-0 thanks to a goal from Peter Withe.
Aston Villa won the European Super Cup trophy next season by beating Barcelona 3-1 in a two legged match. Tony Barton ultimately got sacked at the end of the 1983/84 season after failing to qualify for Europe.
Aston Villa vs Barcelona European Super Cup final, game highlights
Aston Villa were never able to reproduce their form from the early 80’s. In the 1986/87 went back to the 2nd division after finishing bottom of the 1st division. Graham Taylor was appointed as manager before the start of the 1987/88 season.
The team did really well in the 2nd division and won promotion back to the 1st division on their 1st attempt. In the 1989/90 season Aston Villa made a unlikely title challenge ultimately finishing 2nd behind Liverpool.
Premier League Era
In 1992 Aston Villa became one of the founding members of the Premier League. In 1992/93 under the guidance of manager Ron Atkinson they finished runners-up in the inaugural edition of the Premier League behind Manchester United.
The following season even though they fell short of reciprocating their league performance from the previous season they lifted their 4th league cup trophy by beating Manchester United 3-1 in the final.
Villa had a miserable start to the 1994/95 campaign which ultimately resulted in the sacking of Ron. He was replaced by Brian little who managed to keep them in the league with a 18th place finish with a last day 1-1 against Norwich.
The Clarets did considerably better in the league next season securing a 4th place and reaching the FA Cup semifinal. The highlight of season as far as Aston Villa was considered was their 5th League Cup triumph after beating Leeds United 3-0 in the final.
Top 10 but not Top 4
From 1996/97 to 2001/02 Aston Villa would make a series of top half finishes with the highest placing being a 5th place finish in 1996/97. Brian Little would resign from post as manager half way through the 1997/98 season as they team was struggling in the bottom half of the table.
John Gregory was made Little’s successor and he managed to turn their fortunes around as they finished the season 7th. He led them to a couple of 6th place finishes during the 1998/99 and 1999/00 season. They did make it to the final of the 1999/00 FA Cup but ended up losing to Chelsea 1-0.
2000/01 and 2001/02 seasons saw two consecutive 8th place finishes. Aston Villa won their last major trophy in 2001 when they were one of the three winners of the UEFA Intertoto Cup. John Gregory quit from his position as manager midway through the 2001/02 season and was replaced by Graham Taylor.
Aston Villa could only manage a 16th place in Graham Taylor’s first full season with club (2002/03) and at the end of the campaign he quit as manager citing problems with club chairman Doug Ellis.
Next in line for the Aston Villa top job was David O’Leary. He was with club for three seasons with the best finish in those three seasons being a 6th place finish in the 2003/04 season.
David O’Leary left the club during the summer of 2006 after falling out with chairman Doug Ellis. The departure of O’Leary proved to be one of the last decisions Doug Ellis took for the club as he soon decided to sell his stake at the club citing health related reasons.
The club was bought by NFL franchise Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner and one of his first decisions for the club was the appointment of Martin O’Neill as manager.