By Chris Kemps
At the start of Paul Lambert’s reign as Villa boss over two years ago, MOMS optimistically assumed there were parallels to Lambert’s rebuilding process to Graham Taylor’s first stint as Villa boss. Lambert had taken over a club in dire straits after Alex McLeish had almost relegated the club, while Taylor took over Villa after relegation actually happened.
Despite Lambert having a head-start on Taylor’s position (as Taylor needed a promotion), the current Villa boss has so far this season flagged way behind Taylor’s third season in charge that sparked a real progression at Villa Park back in the day.
It was 25 years ago last week that Graham Taylor’s Aston Villa made the whole country sit up and take notice that the European Champions at the beginning of the decade were back. After the club’s three seasons of relegation, promotion, then almost relegation again, Taylor assembled a team with few superstars, but a belief that they could win any game.
It was November 5, 1989, when AVFC took on Everton (who had been a force to reckoned with throughout the mid ’80s) at Villa Park in front of the TV cameras for a nationwide audience to watch as they enjoyed their Sunday dinner.
And it was amazing. Villa won 6-2 and it wasn’t even that close. The two Everton goals (including a charitable og by McGrath) came as mere consolation to wave after wave of unstoppable attacks from Villa. Cowans opened the scoring, David Platt and Ian Olney got two each and Kent Nielsen scored a header.
[Below the full 90 minutes of the epic game – well worth a watch, if you’ve never seen it before]
Was it short-passing? Not often. Was it all just long-balls? Not even close. It was a fine mix of attacking football with wingers, strong intelligent runners from midfield, strikers prepared to put their bodies on the line to get a goal, neat finishes (Platt’s header is a peach), a steel curtain defense and a never-say-die attitude that announced to the league that coming to Birmingham B6 wasn’t going to be a cheap place to pick up points any more.
What can we learn from this? Certainly Villa’s style back then wasn’t one for patience or slow build-ups. But it was effective, exciting and that season it kept Villa neck-and-neck with Liverpool until the very end of the season.
The supporters of our opponents on Saturday West Ham didn’t appreciate the hiring of Sam “The Dinosaur” Allardyce and his direct approach to the game. And when it left them looking disjointed and dragged them down the table, they aired their opinions, longing for the class and passion of Moore, Lampard Sr, Brooking and more recently Dicks, Lampard Jr and Joe Cole.
Now, it’s clicking for them. And the fans are having second opinions. Maybe they won’t ever be able to match Manchester City’s bank balance. Maybe they won’t be able to attract top European stars. And maybe right now they play a style that works for the players they have, which won’t win over the purists. But you know what can change all those things? Success and a proud history.
Lambert might not be able to make it all click like Big Sam looks like he might have done, but Villa’s history and fan following even after years of real struggle and record lows will ensure we are still Aston Villa. And when the good times come back, with or without this current manager and group of players (and assuming Bill Gates doesn’t buy the club), we will accept we did it the right way and the hard way. Because that’s what we do and have always done.
Against Everton, that day a quarter of a century ago (ouch!), Villa clicked into place and became a force once again in the English game. Unfortunately, the following season they lost their manager to the England job, leaving Villa supporters pondering if only?
If Villa don’t click into gear soon, then the only solution will be losing their manager once again for next season, but hopefully the club won’t be in the same position as they were when Taylor took over. Relegated.
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid