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Author Topic: Out of darkness cometh light  (Read 854 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Out of darkness cometh light
« on: March 05, 2021, 03:49:11 PM »
Any Wolverhampton supporter objecting to my use of their motto should be flattered rather than annoyed.  And there are no prizes for knowing that this article is going to be about the mid-seventies and the second coming. The arrival of a footballing messiah.

The departure of Vic Crowe probably came as no surprise, even to Vic Crowe. His job was to get us back into the first division and although he came third when third did not count his days were numbered from that point on. But to replace him we were fully expecting Brian Clough or second best, and a distant second Sir Alf Ramsey, more out of sentiment than proven ability, as Blues were to find out. Instead we got Ron Saunders. Who?

All we knew about Saunders was that he was single-minded and had no truck with club chairman. Perhaps having turned his back on two he was unafraid about going for the hat-trick and was up for a clash with the irrepressible Ellis. But on the other hand perhaps in taking over the Villa management he had heeded the words of his predecessor and appreciated that he “would think it was Christmas” in view of the players he was about to inherit.

His problem in taking over the Villa was that he found himself with Manchester United suddenly in our division. Every bookmaker in the land was expecting United to run away with the division so that come what may Saunders would have to be content with second place though unlike Crowe even third place would now be good enough.

Great things were expected of our Centenary season but it did not get off to a particularly auspicious start with three draws and by the end of September we were only seventh. Already half a season behind United.  By the time of my birthday (which regular readers know to be December 8th) the long-established and predictable Villa autumn slump saw us drop to eighth despite no amount of 110% effort.

But despite having problems over coming Hartlepool United things were going well in the League Cup which Saunders seemed to regard as his personal property.  After disposing of Colchester United with a certain amount of difficulty we had our sights set on Wembley again when we were drawn again Newcastle United or Chester in the two-legged semi-final. Nobody in the land expected it to be Chester but in football, expect the unexpected. Chester were managed by a Villa favourite, the diminutive K O Roberts. Predictably they were no soft cheese but were a tough nut to crack although having guaranteed another trip to the twin towers we started out on a sort of victory parade around the football grounds of the second division. Ahead of the cup final a rare goal from Charlie Aitken saw us see off the champions-elect at Villa Park.

Coincidentally Norwich City had surprisingly seen off United in their League Cup semi-final so the cup was as good as ours again. But it took a late penalty from Ray Graydon to bring the cup home, after our ex-custodian Kevin Keelan had touched the original shot on to the post. This was something a less than keen eyed referee might be forgiven for not spotting.

After an unexpected reverse at Orient it was win, win, win all the way to the first division, seeing off Sunderland en route and virtually allowing Norwich City to overtake Sunderland for the ultimate consolation prize.

The goal of top flight football achieved, even Saunders was not prepared for what happened next. Ellis, mission achieved, or so he claimed, resigned as chairman. In his place Sir William Dugdale. But in reality nobody was being fooled by this bit of window dressing; everyone, not least Saunders knew only full well that Ellis was still holding the reins.

We had no great expectations of setting the first division alight indeed, there were quite a few analysts who thought we might easily get sent back from whence we came. One of the rewards for winning the League Cup was automatic entry into the UEFA Cup. A successor to the Inter Cities Fairs Cup which we had spurned back in the late fifties and left the Blues to go it alone because we could not decide who would pick the joint team and who should have the sixth man.

Our trip to Antwerp does not sit well in the annals of Villa achievements; indeed it was one of our most humiliating defeats. We were never going to overcome a 1-4 reverse at Villa Park and even worse, slipped to an ignominious one goal defeat. Having failed to make any progress in the competition it was felt the supporters still deserved to see some continental opposition so enter S K Brann from Bergen. Putting eleven goals past Charlton Athletic in 1959 was one thing but doing the same against innocent young victims from Norway is quite another. Which is why until you just read the previous sentence you may not even have been aware of the night we scored eleven. It’s never spoken about by we few who were there.

At the turn of the year we still had cause for concern. Our only win in the next sixteen games coming, joy of joy, against Manchester United at Villa Park, thereby denying them having even more to boast about as they finished third to Liverpool four points adrift. It took two wins in our last two matches to enabled us to end in what looks like a respectable sixteenth place.

But without realising it the foundations had been laid and all that was needed now was to rebuild what had earlier been described as a ramshackle Villa. It was only to require 110% effort.

John Russell


Offline JD

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2021, 08:43:28 PM »
Wonderful days, 1975 when I first started going to Villa. What followed was even better. Great article John.

Offline Dr Butler

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2021, 08:50:32 PM »
another great piece from John....thanks

UTV
The Doc

Offline West Derby Villan

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2021, 10:50:25 PM »
Great article (as usual) forgot all about S K Brann, probably after witnessing both Antwerp legs!

Offline robbo1874

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2021, 02:13:29 AM »
I’m hugely thankful that I saw us win the league and European Cup, but that 70’s adventure seems like it was a massively exciting time under Crowe and then Sgt major Saunders. Proper Roy of the Rovers stuff. Thanks for writing it John.

Offline JuanMartinez

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2021, 04:27:42 AM »
Great article.

One of my proudest possessions is the away leg Antwerp match programmes.

Offline ADVILLAFAN

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2021, 07:04:33 AM »
Had no idea that we had even player Brann, let alone scored 11.

Could maybe count Vic Crowe a little unlucky, but worked out for us in the end.

Offline dcdavecollett

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2021, 08:42:02 PM »
Crowe was very unlucky -stabbed in the back by his board in his last season.

The board wanted a more 'glamorous' manager -and came up with !00% Ron!!

Offline dcdavecollett

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2021, 08:43:30 PM »
That should have read 110%!

Offline Andy_Lochhead_in_the_air

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2021, 02:07:54 PM »

Our trip to Antwerp does not sit well in the annals of Villa achievements; indeed it was one of our most humiliating defeats.


I have to disagree. Even though we lost, as an 18 year old being able to travel and watch us play in Europe for the first time was fantastic. There was a big trouble free Villa following. Admitted it was disappointing to lose but I wouldn't have missed it for the world and OK the returning Ostend-Dover ferry was a happier place a few years later.

Offline West Derby Villan

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Re: Out of darkness cometh light
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2021, 09:32:39 PM »

Our trip to Antwerp does not sit well in the annals of Villa achievements; indeed it was one of our most humiliating defeats.


I have to disagree. Even though we lost, as an 18 year old being able to travel and watch us play in Europe for the first time was fantastic. There was a big trouble free Villa following. Admitted it was disappointing to lose but I wouldn't have missed it for the world and OK the returning Ostend-Dover ferry was a happier place a few years later.

Yeah agree, great trip, great experience. The people of Antwerp were fantastic hosts.

 


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