Blast from the Past

Aston Villa’s forthcoming preseason friendly trip to Nottingham Forest brings back memories of the last time I visited the City Ground during the 1992-93 season, when Villa finished second in the league and Forest finished rock-bottom and were relegated.

Coming into the home-straight of the title race between Villa and Manchester United, the April 4th visit to the City ground in 1993 was a nervy encounter, best remembered for two outstanding moments; a rare Paul McGrath winning goal and one of the most nonchalant and cool pieces of football skill ever by a Villa player…also courtesy of McGrath.

McGrath’s God-like skill

The Forest keeper Steve Sutton (correct me if I’m wrong) launched a goal kick, which sailed into Villa’s half. McGrath watching it all the way, let it drop over his head, before clearing the ball by back-heeling it away on-the-volley. The travelling Villa faithful voiced their approval. McGrath in doing his audacious party-trick had gone a long way in taking the tension out of the must-win nature of the game. The fact that he grabbed the winner, burying the ball from a corner to win the game himself, made it one of his finest games in a Villa shirt.

Missed Opportunity for Glory and to Stunt the Red Menace

Looking back at that season, as a whole, it was probably my favourite and saddest actively going to Villa games.

Earlier in the season, attending the away game at Sheffield United, no one there, myself included, knew that our first win of the season (2-0 – Gary Parker scoring two beauties) and only win in the first six games, would spark a title challenge. I also remember from that game, the late Les Sealey, the reserve keeper at the time, jokingly mooning the Villa faithful in the pre-match warm-up.

Under Ron Atkinson that season, Villa played some great attacking football, did the double over Liverpool and were unbeaten against Manchester United, who eventually took the title. For many Villa fans, it was the last Villa team that played the game with real style.

Villa should have won the league that season and made United wait longer for their first taste of a title since 1966/67 (when Forest were runners-up). While United ended up winning the league by 10 points, Villa ultimately gave the title away.

The Slip Up

* Villa only picked up 1 point out of 6 against each of the bottom-half table teams: Coventry, Oldham, Southampton. A whole 15 obtainable points wasted.

* Norwich did the double over us, so 0 points out of 6 (although they did finish 3rd, so a decent team)

* Villa had a sluggish start – registering one win in their first six games of the season

* Villa lost the last three games (Blackburn, Oldham, QPR), the main reason for the 10-gap at the end.

Villa Fans aren’t as fickle as they used to be…

Villa fans call each other fickle now, but in those days, we got to see the true meaning of the word.

Earlier in the season of 1992-93, Villa Park matches versus United and Liverpool were close to full-houses, yet matches against less-fancied opponents would see attendances dip even below 20,000.

Check out the three Villa home games that followed Christmas:

Dec28 Arsenal (1-0)  – 35,170

Jan17 Middlesborough (5-1) – 19,977

Jan 27 Sheffield United (3-1) – 20,266

Considering the entertainment severed up by Big Fat Ron’s Villa, it was only from the 20th February against Everton, that the gates clocked over 30,000 every game… when fans could sniff potential glory.

I’m sure Randy Lerner would be very thankful that attendances didn’t drop that drastically last season, when the attraction of watching Villa was nothing like as appealing as under Big Ron.

It makes you wonder though, if Villa would have been more competitive consistently, if Villa supporters made more frequent trips to Villa Park in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when we did challenge for the league and constant European Football. If those 20,000 gates had been at least 30,000, a 50% increase of gate receipts might have meant Deadly Doug wouldn’t have been so tight with the purse strings.

Forest Fall-Out

For Villa’s opponents this week, Nottingham Forest, the 1992-93 season marked what would be the first of three bottom-of-the-table finishes in the 1990’s. They showed their yo-yo ability to get back up twice, before sadly disappearing without a trace from the top-tier since the turn of the century. As fellow former European Champions, it would be good see them back in the top-tier asap.

Bizarre Villa vs Forest Images

 

Urbie the Badger at Aston Villa V Nottingham Forest 21-9-91

 

Dr Venglos vs Cloughie in 1990

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