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Author Topic: Then what happened  (Read 673 times)

Offline dave.woodhall

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Then what happened
« on: March 08, 2021, 06:09:00 PM »
Only a club with a massive sense of irony could have invited Royal Antwerp to return to Villa Park for a pre season friendly. 3-1, honour satisfied. They came as the fourth of a quartet of games against continental opposition that tested the Ellis travel agency arrangements to the full (St Etienne 2-1, Rheims 0-0 and Oporto 1-1 being the others). It made a change from Walsall but there was a horrible feeling that Ron Saunders had overplayed his hand in almost emulating the mistake Tommy Doherty had made in overstaying in Atlanta.

As things got underway in earnest all eyes were on champions Liverpool, who were being backed to do a repeat. But five games into the season we stood fifth, only two points adrift when, long before the stupid idea of three points for a win, they were still worth a ‘McGregor’ two points

But then the balloon went up when the Blues came a-visiting hell bent on trying to prove, despite growing evidence to the contrary that they were still cock of the city. One of the thousand helium-filled claret and blue balloons released into the sky that afternoon eventually landed in a garden in Hertfordshire and won a family a trip to New York – and a visit to Villa Park.

Saunders suffered the curse of the Manager of the Month award and Blues fans went back home on the inner circle 8 winners by 2-1.
But, not to worry, the ship steadied and thirteen games up to Christmas saw us third just as Santa was emulating the flight of the balloons. Two points behind Liverpool with a game in hand but a game more than unlikely leaders, Ipswich Town.

Meanwhile we were going to make a supreme effort to reclaim the League Cup which we had temporarily loaned to Manchester City (a Saunders legacy). And we had not given up on the idea of a Wembley double as Leicester City, West Ham United and Port Vale were cast aside in the FA Cup before almost inevitably we came up against our nemesis at Old Trafford.

Except that in the League Cup we had a certain amount of difficulty against Queens Park Rangers in the two legged semi final. 0-0 at Loftus Road was deemed sufficient to guarantee success at B6 but the hoops had other ideas and long before the days of penalty shootouts forced us to extra time. Fortunately it was also before the days of away goals count double, otherwise 2-2 and it would have been goodnight. Oddly QPR had been due at Villa Park again on the upcoming Saturday for a league match but the clerk of the weather intervened. They still remained our next opponents this time at a supposed neutral venue, Highbury. A Brian Little hat-trick set up a Wembley date against Everton.

Meanwhile, unsurprisingly we started to take a dive in the league and although still in sixth place fell way behind the front runners pointswise. The League Cup final against Everton turned about to be the dullest most boring final ever played at the stadium and probably still remains so. It would have been possible to leave the game with fifteen minutes still remaining confident that nothing of consequence would occur. Thankfully the authorities had decided in advance that there would be no extra time which sadly for most would mean a replay at Hillsborough. If Everton had not scored for us it is unlikely that we would have done so on our own account but we escaped to live again. 1-1. 

It took a long time to arrange the second replay and there were many who were not too thrilled at the thought of having to go to Old Trafford again. But at last we had found a way to score and at two-one the cup was as good as ours again. NO. Everton hit back to equalise as the tie went from being one of the worst ever to being one of the most exciting ever. Fearful of another draw the powers that be had decided we may be about to witness another Villa first, the first ever penalty shootout. But with the referee studying his timepiece Brian Little had other ideas and decided what was needed was a wonder goal. The cup had come back home. And stay at home fans got to see it all on television.

But the event was not coupled with the usual platitudes about it being a reward for the loyal  supporters. The loyal supporters had not been loyal enough. It was left to Chairman Dugdale to close down the Lions Club citing financial losses. Doug was thus able to escape censure On the other hand it was also goodbye to Witton End terrace banking as the building of the million pound North Stand had gone on apace.

And with a fixture pile up we suffered from a post-cup final hangover. Four defeats and two draws from nine games, a better finish and remarkably we could have finished as the most unexpected champions. It was the Blues who finally ended any faint hopes we may have held (1-2). And putting four past the Baggies to finish off was no real consolation.

Sending out reserves in cup matches was not yet in vogue and ten players had taken part in nearly all the games. The departure of several stalwarts, exhausted, meant that changes were in the air.  But no-one could complain that we had not been repaid with 110% effort.

John Russell

Offline Flamingo Lane

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Re: Then what happened
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2021, 09:10:55 PM »
Nice article.  I do however take issue with the parting shot, that putting four past the Baggies was no consolation.  Au contraire, that performance in our final game of the season was a glorious and truly fitting way for that great team to sign off what was a fabulous campaign of football that none of us who were there for it will ever forget.

Offline pooligan

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Re: Then what happened
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2021, 09:29:13 PM »
A good article which i enjoyed. I can't remember the winning goal by Brian Little in the third cup final as being a wonder goal but a tap in after the Everton defender Darracott  missed the cross but i can certainly remember the wonder goal from about 35 yards from Chris Nicholl  Happy days they were

Offline West Derby Villan

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Re: Then what happened
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2021, 09:41:40 PM »
A good article which i enjoyed. I can't remember the winning goal by Brian Little in the third cup final as being a wonder goal but a tap in after the Everton defender Darracott  missed the cross but i can certainly remember the wonder goal from about 35 yards from Chris Nicholl  Happy days they were

Must disagree, surely you missed a digit, 135 yards !


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