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Author Topic: Don't mention the war  (Read 784 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Don't mention the war
« on: November 20, 2020, 12:28:50 PM »
In the euphoria of the resumption of football after the war some things were never spoken about at Villa Park.  And I may suffer ostracism for even daring to bring up the subject 75 years on.

On the terraces back in 1946 you could wax lyrical over beating Blackpool in the convoluted competition for League North Cup in the two-legged final in 1944, but nobody ever mentioned the failure to come home with the cup proper following a 1-1 with the Southern cup winners at Stamford Bridge. A choice of ground made all the more curious because the southern semi-finals had been played at Wembley. 

And there was incessant talk about the loss at home to Derby County, not least because a ground record 76,568 had been there to witness the disappointing first leg loss, 3-4. Everyone had to account to their neighbour as to where they had watched the game from and the problems they had had getting into the ground.

But the one thing never mentioned, never, was coming runners-up in the Football League South as war gave way to peace. For most clubs runners-up who be cause for some form of congratulation and more than a degree of optimism for the season ahead. Not so at Villa Park. The reason this tacit success has been brushed under the carpet of history is quite simple.  To congratulate yourself on coming second would mean having to acknowledge the winners. And in this case the winners came from St Andrews and had recently usurped the Villa by claiming to be the leading club in the city and adding that very suffix, CITY, to their name despite our valid objections.

Worse, we had even allowed them the use of Villa Park for nineteen matches when their ground was torched by a careless fireman in 1942. I have never met nor heard of any of the average of 4,000 spectators who attended any of these games, or know of any Villa supporter who attended these games except when we played each other. On 21st November 1942 15,000 saw us win 2-1 then the following week the same 15,000 saw us lose ‘away’ 1-2  Then on 26th April 1943 a mere 5,000 saw us win a one off cup tie 1-0.

But you are keen to know what happened in 1946, so back to the plot.

The new year started with the table reading
1st Charlton Athletic    P23 Pts41
2nd Aston Villa   P24 Pts37
3rd Birmingham   P23 Pts36

After just about knocking Coventry City out of the cup (1-2 and 2-0) Birmingham turned up at the Hallowed Halls.  2-1 up in front of 70,000 frantic fans we were awarded a penalty when Duckhouse brought down Leslie Smith. But for the third consecutive time Villa missed the resulting penalty when Merrick saved from Harry Parkes. Further punishment followed when Blues equalised asthe  crowds were already starting to drift away.

In those days fixtures were played home and away in consecutive weeks so the following Saturday we had to go to Bordesley Green, where a record 40,000 turned up.  Edwards gave us the lead with our only shot of the first half.  Then Mulraney had the only decent game he ever played for them - perhaps it was this which later caused us to buy him from Kidderminster Harriers - and as a fog descended we conceded three after which the table read
1st Charlton Athletic   P25 Pts 43
2nd Birmingham   P25 Pts 39
3rd Aston Villa      P26 Pts 38

Next we saw off Millwall in the cup (A 2-4 and H 9-1) followed by Chelsea (1-0 and 1-0) notwithstanding the fact that supporters of both Villa & Blues (v Sunderland) were threatened with dismissal under the Essential Work Order if they took the afternoon off work for the midweek games.

Some good results for us and ahead of the cup semi-finals at the end of March the table read
1st Aston Villa      P32 Pts46
2nd Charlton Athletic   P29 Pts45
3rd Birmingham      P30 Pts45

Charlton came to Villa Park for a cup semi-final with eyes set on the double and cast aside Bolton 2-0 whilst at Hillsborough (where we might have been playing them) Blues drew 1-1 with Derby County before losing the replay 0-4 at Maine Road. But this was no consolation to us as at the same time we had a bad day at Villa Park when Chelsea trounced us 0-3 However, we recovered by virtue of wins at home v Southampton (2-0) and Derby County (H4-1 and A1-0). Only for Brentford to set up a defensive wall at the Witton End and we had to be content with a hard fought 1-1.
1st Charlton Athletic   P37 Pts 55   goal aver 2.23
2nd Birmingham   P37 Pts55                 2.17
3rd Aston Villa      P37 Pts53            1.75

Next up Coventry City did the same and as the goal average suggests we could not break them down (0-0) But Easter week fixtures v Leicester City (H 3-0 and A 1-0) meant it was not over yet.

Coventry were to prove our nemesis yet again and 2-2 at Highfield Road meant that it was virtually all over bar the shouting even though we were still top of the pile
1st  Aston Villa      P41 Pts 59
2nd Charlton Athletic   P39 Pts 58
3rd Birmingham      P40 Pts 58

Victory over Millwall in our last game (H 2-0) was not enough even though we remained top, because Charlton and Blues next played out a goalless game at the Valley which effectively eliminated us on goal average. Charlton drew 1-1 at home against Wolverhampton whilst at the same time Blues could only draw 0-0 at Luton but that was enough for them to win the league, albeit only on goal average.
1st  Birmingham   P42 Pts 61   goal average 2.133
2nd Aston Villa      P42 Pts 61                 1.828
3rd Charlton Athletic   P42 Pts 60                      2.044

Even if goal difference had applied they would still have been us, 51 to 48.   

Charlton were beaten 4-1 by Derby County at Wembley so missed out on the double on both accounts. And so it comes to pass that you have quite possibly read this sorry tale for the first time right here in H&V.

John Russell
« Last Edit: November 20, 2020, 10:13:05 PM by dave.woodhall »

Offline tommy smart

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Re: Don't mention the war
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2020, 04:04:51 PM »
As ever, a fascinating, informative and interesting read.

Online ChicagoLion

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Re: Don't mention the war
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2020, 06:40:51 PM »
Did not know any of that, except I know my Dad was in the 76568 crowd against Derby and swore it was many more than that.
Thanks John.

Online Monty

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Re: Don't mention the war
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2020, 06:42:03 PM »
I absolutely love these historical articles.


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