To mark the 140th anniversary season of Aston Villa FC, MOMS is asking 140 Villa supporters of all ages to come forward and tell their Villa story.
First there are five standard questions to answer (see below), then you can tell your Villa tale, whatever it is. It could be the full tale of how you got into supporting Villa, it could be a particular theme (like this Spanish one), it could be your Top 10 favourite player list, it could be the tale of your favourite away day, a funny meeting with a Villa player, or that Villa story you’d probably trot out if you ever bumped into another Villan in a hotel bar (see below for email to send stories to).
Part 3 in a 140 part series: Paul Kirk
MOMS: Why Villa?
Paul: Because they were the local team and possibly because as a three-year-old I watched the 1957 Cup Final on a tiny TV. Mom and Dad weren’t football fans but the Cup Final made them buy their first TV and like most boys of my generation we followed football and our local team. We were aware of Spurs and Manchester United, who were the names of the early 60’s but they couldn’t match the tradition of the Villa. And we did call them the Villa. The Villa were our club. The history of The Villa by Peter Morris was our Bible. And it still fills me with pride when former players use that description. We are not just Aston Villa, we are The Villa.
First Villa Park Match Attended?
Home against Fulham in 1965. We lost 5-2. Strangely we had won the away game 6-3. I can’t remember the game but I do remember the Holte End. It was big and it was ours and the atmosphere and excitement of seeing The Villa live was just fantastic. I remember the trip. Four of us, all 11-years-old, went on our own to Aston as our parents would not go. What an adventure and part of the magic spell that The Villa wove over us all.
We saw five games that season and that was it. We were hooked. We went to all the home games including the night games the following season and we got relegated. We were undeterred. The Villa would be back! It just took a little longer than we expected!
First Villa Hero?
I can’t say I really had a hero. It was The Villa. They were a team and so were we. We felt we belonged to the club. Colin Withers in goal and Tony Hateley up front were the big names. “Withers for England!” we would sing. He made save after save. Only later did you realise that he had to make those saves because the defence wasn’t very good.
Hateley left for better things but it was the song “Tony Hateley, King of the Villa frontier!” that got us kicked out of the Hofbrauhaus in Munich 25 years later, so he must have had some impact.
If pressed the hero would have to be Charlie Aitken. No songs that I can remember but a solid reliable left-back who eventually made the record number of appearances for The Villa and still has The Villa at heart.
Ultimate Villa Legend?
I have to go for Brian Little. A great player and a great manager. “Brian Little walks on water” was the song. He was instrumental in our rise back to the top as a player and injury perhaps denied him the chance to be part of the Championship team.
His debut in Div 3 was against Torquay and Andy Lochhead (now there was a hero!) looked after him as he took his first steps to greatness. 20 goals helped us romp out of Div 2 in 1974/5. His two goals at Newcastle in Sept 76 nearly got me and the lads killed! No segregation and a local lad sticking it up the Mags at Sid James’s (St James). They won but Little scored two wonder goals and the locals had a good idea who we supported!
Little scored 24 goals in 1976/7, fourth in the League, League Cup winners with Little getting a hat trick at Arsenal in the third semi-final game against QPR and netting the winner in the third final match against Everton. In March 1978 he scored for The Villa in Barcelona. After his playing career finished he came back as a manager and we had 3 excellent years under an astute manager who was in my opinion the first manager to be beaten by player power and the money they were earning. A League cup, an FA Cup semi, fourth in the league and European qualification. He is the last Villa manager to win a trophy. A legend but we have had a few!
Favourite Villa Memory?
There are so many. And for me the strongest memories will always be of the fans. Now they are all that is left with any pride in The Villa. We are still The Villa and always will be. The people, the songs, the pubs, the laughs, the pride, the odd scrape! Football Specials. Flights coaches. No segregation. Wondering if we would have enough to hold our own or take the Home end. Running the Home fans outside the ground.
I was no hooligan and I never went looking for a fight but the agro and trouble added to the excitement and if the Villa were going you went too. It wasn’t always us on top but you still went. Great days and bad days but excitement all the way.
I have seen us win at Wembley, win the league and the European Cup. I went to unsegregated Millwall, West Ham and Newcastle and survived. It would take a book to list everything, but I have chosen Spain as my theme of what makes us special.
Paul’s Villa Story…
The Villa Spanish Tales
The Villa gave us the privilege of representing them in Europe. William Dugdale the Chairman told us before the game in Bilbao in 77, when he asked us to be ambassadors for the Villa.
After a 1-1 draw we met him again. He could hardly stand! A Basque wine flask in his hand and beret on his head. I told him he was a real ambassador! The Telegraph reporter Bob Oxby was the same and had to ask us how we got on. We wrote his report for him!
We went back to Bilbao in 97 and received another tremendous welcome and had a great time in a football mad town. The Villa and Inspector Hood got it wrong as usual and said it wasn’t safe. How wrong could they have been! A 0-0 draw, no trouble and we were told we were the best English fans to visit the place. That’s a great compliment, We invited some of them to the Manor Tavern for the return and they arrived and started doling out spliff to all and sundry!
I was back about 10 years later and took in a game and some of their fans recognised me and shouted my name! That’s what being an ambassador is and that’s what being part of The Villa is.
After that there was Barcelona in 78. About 3,000 made the trip. Drawn in December and four months to book a holiday.
Come on the 10 men! Gidman sent off inside 10 minutes and Cruyff and Neeskens plus many other stars against us. Little put us 1-0 up and we went barmy. We nearly did it but lost 2 late goals but The Villa were magnificent.
We even made the Sunday Express Holiday page when some rep said Villa fans were his worst nightmare after a drunken Donkey Derby on the carousels at the airport, plus the competition of what can you drop in the swimming pool from your balcony!
After several holidays I stopped going to Spain. British holidaymakers weren’t liked and it was time to move on. I may never have gone back if it wasn’t for the Villa in the 90’s UEFA games. Coruna in 98 drew us as their first ever English team and were worried that English hooligans would cause trouble. We drew 1-1 and the day after the game we were still in town. Some guy walked over and said “Thank you for not smashing our town up!” My reply was the very diplomatic “Don’t mention it!”
We watched the lunchtime news in a bar and they showed The Villa leaving the ground singing “We’ve got Andy, Andy Lochhead in the Air!” 25 years after he played for us. He was still remembered and he always will be.
To finish, there was Celta Vigo where I saw my only Villa win in Spain. God knows how. They murdered us 0-1 and it was no surprise when they belted us at Villa Park. The interesting story of that trip was that Deadly Doug came into a bar full of The Villa the night before the game. His popularity has never been great but he came in to thank us all for making the effort to follow The Villa. He even stood us some drinks! Thanks Doug.
So twice in Spain I have met the Chairman of the Villa on the streets and both wanted to meet and were pleased to meet the fans. How times change. Up THE Villa!
Please send your Villa stories in to MOMS via email to: [email protected] If anybody went to the two Inter games in the San Siro, that would be a good story (maybe you went to the Juve game in 1983 too?!)