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Author Topic: Solving the puzzle  (Read 1562 times)

Online dave.woodhall

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Solving the puzzle
« on: March 19, 2021, 08:17:21 PM »
Mindful of the travelling problems last summer we chose to end the decade by staying a little closer to home this pre-season round. Heart of Midlothian (3-1) and Dundee United (0-3). Sadly Andy Gray was unfit so had to be satisfied with only a round of applause from his former admirers. This northern excursion was followed by a Friday night visit from Enschede 65 from Holland (2-0).

Bolton is not the most inspiring place to begin the new campaign (1-1) but we were able to welcome Brighton to B6 for their first season in the big time. (2-1). Sadly it was to see the last appearance of Alex Cropley when he broke the ankle of his previously broken leg. Whereupon only one goal from three draws out of the next six games had us thinking the unthinkable – relegation form. Then came the most inspired positional change since Ron Wylie was moved from inside left to right half (obscure positions which veteran supporters can explain to you)  Admittedly the change had been tried pre-season and in the opening games but without any noticeable success, but suddenly it was nirvana. Kenny Swain moved from outside left to right back and in an instant changed the whole outcome of the season.

Apart from an almost predictable 1-3 reverse at home to champions and would-be champions Liverpool, the new year saw us in sixth place, albeit nine points in arrears. But forgive me, I must return to the beginning so to speak. The League Cup

Exempt from the first round the mere 19,000 turning up at Villa Park for the second round second leg against Colchester United after a 2-0 success at Layer Round anticipated only one thing, a saunter in the park. Instead they got unprecedented drama. Colchester fought back to force an unproductive extra time and thus the hitherto unseen atmosphere of the penalty shootout. Unusually we even had a retaken penalty after a save from Deehan threatened our elimination. Referees are reluctant to order a retake these days if a goalkeeper manages a save. But down to their ninth taker Colchester had to call upon their goal minder, Walker, who missed. 9-8 on penalties. Tension yes, but there has to be a better way.

Everton turned up for the third round and bored us to death, 0-0. The replay had an air of inevitability about it, 1-4, and the less said the better.

Come the end of the seventies we had the ultimate seasonal present. At the chime of midnight Doug Ellis announced his resignation from the board.  A month earlier he had thrown a tantrum and demanded an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders with a view to ousting Harry Kartz and the Bendalls. It was naturally assumed that he had sufficient votes in his pocket but surprisingly his ploy failed. Who knew that getting rid of him would be that easy?

Back on the field Things then got back on an even keel. All ship shape and Bristol fashion so to speak, City first in the league, 3-1 then Rovers in the FA Cup 2-1 the following week.

Then after a 1-1 away there were fears that Cambridge United would threaten to do a Colchester in the FA Cup. But, no sweat, 4-1, Blackburn Rovers next. The only concern was that they had won their last seven games. That they did not make it eight was once again down to the famous 110% effort. 42,000 at Villa Park for the Wednesday night rerun. Just like old times. 1-0.

2-1 at the Baggies in the league and thoughts of rosettes, rattles and Tipperary were back on the agenda for the trip to Upton Park.  But despite the presence of legend Peter McParland in the directors box they were put back in the cupboard for another year. 0-1.
This defeat was the prelude to a slide down the table and a decline in attendance which had even Harry Kartz a trifle concerned

Another disappointment. The prize for top programme was awarded to Norwich City. And the Woodward folly was ruled ineligible to be considered on the grounds it was now ‘too big’.  So no surprise there then.

Next we had to postpone a game against Norwich City to accommodate another FA Cup semi final, West Ham United 1 Everton 1. But oddly Villa Park was to be the venue for three semi-finals in a season of six semi-finals. Hillsborough was the setting for Arsenal 0 Liverpool 0 so they set up camp in B6 and fought themselves to a stalemate with back to back 1-1 draws after extra time. Not wishing to honour us with a fourth game they finally settled things at Highfield Road, Arsenal 1 Liverpool 0.

Meanwhile our future seemed to be in safe hands with Tony Barton as his charges not only retained the Southern Junior Floodlight Cup but went one (or more) better in defeating Manchester City to take the big one, the FA Youth Cup. Sadly that was to prove almost as good as it got for most of the young lions.

But for a visit to champions Liverpool (1-4) our season would also have ended at Highfield Road, where 2-1 meant we still had the finger on them. Meanwhile we had said goodbye to Brian Little, victim of that curse of every professional footballer, a knee injury.

Who we did not say goodbye to was Ron Saunders; quite the opposite in fact. After five seasons in charge he was due a benefit match and with Birmingham City finishing in third place in the second division, so heading straight back to the upper echelons, and with one eye on his wallet, he chose to re-enact the Second City Derby. Not a good idea as their 3-2 win gave them city-wide bragging rites for the whole of the summer. It wasn't helped by having to mingle with their supporters on visits to Edgbaston where Warwickshire had a very poor season

Meanwhile Saunders was not satisfied with seventh place and immediately set off the very next day for the summer sales at Newcastle. He came back, having lashed out a club record half-million pounds on an itinerant former Blues centre forward, Peter Withe. Watch this space

Online Flamingo Lane

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Re: Solving the puzzle
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2021, 08:46:37 PM »
There's a fair bit missing from that review of 79-80, eg the departure of Andy Gray, the emergence of Gary Shaw, and (I think) the signing of Des Bremner.  it also doesn't do justice to the agony of the nature of that defeat at West Ham in the FA Cup QF.

Offline wittonwarrior

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Re: Solving the puzzle
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2021, 09:15:06 PM »
Biggest disappointment football wise in my lifetime losing at West Ham.  I really believed our name was on the cup that year, came down with a big bump.  The holy grail may never be achieved in my life.

Think it is fair to say whilst we still had some great days 1977-78, 78-79 and 79-80 we were never going to stuff teams like we did at home in 76-77 season.  Our style changed but Saunders was building, not that we appreciated it at the time.

Highlights of the end of the decade would be the win at Anfield bonfire night 77, the ticker  tape game at White Hart Lane,  Andy Gray's goal at St Andrews, the easter monday game against Liverpool, blackburn away (great following)

No matter what along with thousands of others I love the Villa.

Offline TopDeck113

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Re: Solving the puzzle
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2021, 09:25:24 AM »
There was an article in one of the Birmingham papers, probably the Mail, during the summer of 1980 with the headline along the lines of "Villa Park - the next home of the Championship trophy?"  I remember showing it to the manager of the Dillon's Newsagents from where I did my paper-round. He was Scottish and reckoned himself an expert on all things football - although usually it involved belittling the England national team or any club other than Celtic.  Needless to say he scoffed and told me that in his expert opinion Saunders should have long since been sacked, the team was going downhill and relegation was infinitely the more likely outcome of the coming season than winning anything...


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