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Author Topic: When I was twenty-one  (Read 775 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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When I was twenty-one
« on: November 30, 2020, 02:14:45 PM »
It was a very good year. It was a very good year for the claret and blue, though on my birthday very nearly not for me.

You see, on my birthday, as often happened, my near-neighbour gave me a lift to work on the back of his motor bike. Some roadworks had been carried out at the corner of Brookvale Road and Wyrley Road resulting in loose gravel being left on the surface. The bike drifted into a back wheel skid finishing within feet of a bus just ahead at the stop discharging passengers. After such a gentle slide I was merely shaken but not stirred.

I found I had merely slightly torn my trousers so with a gentle wave to the neighbour I merely boarded the still-waiting bus and continued my journey. The folks at work gave me an electric shaver as a present – a reminder perhaps of a close shave.

Meanwhile, circa my big day, and back in the first division after a tour of less familiar English grounds all was looking good. We were in fifth place, albeit ten points behind the runaway leaders. I had already decided that if fate had decided that Tottenham were on their way to emulating our double achievement of 63 years earlier then fate had also decided that we were on our way looking forward to our birthright by becoming the inaugural winners of the brand new Football League Cup. The story of this adventure is recorded in my first ever article in H&V, The Name on the Cup, so best not try to repeat it .

A Christmas Eve loss at home to second-placed Wolverhampton ruined our chances of becoming ‘cock of the Midlands’ and was without the traditional Boxing Day reverse result. Only another defeat, followed by a run of seven consecutive winless games in the league. By the time the sequence was broken with an unlikely victory at Everton (2-1) we were otherwise mired in mid-table mediocrity and in the middle of a run of fourteen winless games.

Hopes of a successful FA Cup run were destroyed, with an air of inevitability about it, when Tottenham came to town having already beaten us 1-2 in the league the previous Saturday. We put up a good fight but 0-2 had been pre-ordained. It had taken a replay to overcome Bristol Rovers in the third round by the simple expediency of arranging the replay only two days after the first meeting. No fatuous complaints about players fatigue in those days.

The fourth round saw a visit to Peterborough, new members of the Football League, voted in on the strength of previous cup exploits and proving their worth by being top of the fourth division. It was never going to be easy, not least because their pitch was devoid of grass but not of mud, deep thick mud. Peterborough took the lead in the thirtieth minute. It did not appear to help that we had the most unlikely person in goa, Fred Potter, an inside forward who had been obliged to deputise in goal in as third team match and liked the position so much he got to keep it. Following an injury to Nigel Sims the likeable Fred was only choice available when it came to a replacement. He moved to Doncaster Rovers as a goalkeeper thence to Hereford United where he subsequently became their fans Player of the Season so he cannot have been all that bad.

Meanwhile, back with the game, with the 28,000 spectators as well as the home team players in a state of delirium we applied the maxim of ‘the best time to score is when your opponents have just done so’ And their centre half was forced into giving Hitchens an assist in days long before anybody thought of crediting such things. Two more disallowed goals and it was back to Villa Park for the replay.

The growing reputation of Peterborough was such that Villa Park has never seen a night like it. There is no doubt that the police panicked at the sudden late influx of thousands of fans and obliged the gates to be close, forcing thousands of late comers to try to get glimpses and sounds of the game from the slopes of Aston Park. There was unbridled fury when next day it was discovered that the official attendance was only 64,531 and those outside could all have got in safely. 

They would have seen McParland frighten the life out of the Posh as he did most opponents with a strike after fifty tense minutes then came an equaliser ten minutes later, only for history to repeat itself as McParland again was not to be denied barely seconds afterwards. Although Peterborough seemed to capitulate after that they were nevertheless thirty nail-biting minutes for the majority of those outside the ground as well as inside.

Moving on, after the Tottenham defeats, there was still the Football League Cup where the predicted fixture chaos meant there were 56 days between at remarkable fog-bound draw at home to Plymouth after being postponed from the previous night and a virtuoso performance by the Gerald Archibald Hitchens.

An injury to stalwart Jimmy Dugdale led to defeat at Bolton on Easter Monday (0-3) which was followed by a most unexpected reversal at Villa Park next day where John Sleeuwenhoek made an impressive debut (4-0). Enjoying the luxury of mid-table security we indulged in an epic League Cup battle with Burnley that ended with a famous victory at Old Trafford. Not a happy hunting ground for Villa despite a 1-1 draw there following the fourth round FA cup success. Whether it was the unbudgeted cost or, dare I say it, the expectation of defeat, is not at all obvious but the game was otherwise notable for the almost total lack of spectators, 7,953,most of whom came from nearby Burnley. None from United and very few from Aston.

The season was time constrained by the FA Cup final and when second division Rotherham United overcame third division Shrewsbury Town the outcome was to be anti-climax because the final would have to wait for next season.

And now the end is near and so I’ve reached the final curtain I nevertheless hope to be able to continue to describe all things Villa.

John Russell

Online dave shelley

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Re: When I was twenty-one
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2020, 04:31:02 PM »
A great read evoking great memories.  I was one of the 64k and oddly enough I remember winning but the outstanding memory for me of that night was the crowd.  I was in my usual spot down the Witton End but the the surprise was, the amount of Peterborough fans.  To me, a twelve-year-old, I don't remember too many more visiting supporters ever semi-finals notwithstanding, the whole of the Witton seemed to have been taken over by them.

Online dcdavecollett

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Re: When I was twenty-one
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2020, 01:51:24 AM »
Another good read, John.

I met Fred Potter at a TS tournament in 1973, where he was handing out the trophies, along with a Hereford team-mate, whose name I forget. Fred and his pal both signed my team-box.

This was at a time when Hereford were still just about basking in the glory of their great F A Cup run in 1972.

Offline Chipsticks

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Re: When I was twenty-one
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2020, 02:21:58 PM »
Nice post


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