Aston Villa FC
- Name: Aston Villa Football Club
- Nickname: The Villa / Villains / Lions / Claret and Blue
- Founded: 1874
- Ground: Villa Park
- Ground capacity: 42,682
Aston Villa F.C. - 1897 to present Capacity: 42,682 - Opened: 1897
Villa Park is a football stadium in the district of Witton, Birmingham, England, with a seating capacity of 42,682. It has been the home of Aston Villa Football Club since 1897.
The team previously played at Aston Park from 1874 to 1876 and Wellington Road from 1876 to 1897. The ground is less than a mile from both Witton and Aston railway stations and has hosted sixteen England internationals at senior level, the first in 1899 and the most recent in 2005. It was the first English ground to stage international football in three different centuries. Villa Park has hosted more FA Cup semi-finals than any other stadium, having hosted 55 matches in total.
In 1897 Aston Villa moved into the Aston Lower Grounds, a sports ground in a Victorian amusement park situated in the former grounds of Aston Hall, a Jacobean stately home. Over the course of its history the stadium has gone through various stages of renovation and development, resulting in the current stand configuration of the Holte End, Trinity Road Stand, North Stand and the Doug Ellis Stand. The club has initial planning permission to redevelop the North Stand, which will increase the capacity of Villa Park from 42,682 to approximately 50,000.
Before 1914 a cycling track ran around the perimeter of the pitch where regular cycling meetings were hosted as well as athletic events. Aside from football-related uses, the stadium has seen various concerts staged along with other sporting events including boxing matches and international rugby league and rugby union matches.
In 1999, the last ever final of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup took place at Villa Park. Villa Park also hosted the 2012 FA Community Shield, as Wembley Stadium was unavailable due to it staging the final of the Olympic football tournament.
The Aston Lower Grounds, later renamed Villa Park, was not the first home of Aston Villa F.C. Their previous venue, Wellington Road faced increasing problems including an uneven pitch, poor spectator facilities, a lack of access and exorbitant rents. As a result, in 1894, Villa's committee began negotiations with the owners of the Aston Lower Grounds, "the finest sports ground in the district." Situated in the former grounds of Aston Hall, a Jacobean stately home, the Lower Grounds had seen varied uses over the years.
Originally the kitchen garden of Aston Hall's owner Sir Thomas Holte, the man who gave his name to the Holte End stand, it later became a Victorian amusement park complete with aquarium and great hall.
The current pitch stands on the site of the Dovehouse Pool, an ornamental pond drained in 1889. In place of the pool the owners of the Lower Grounds built a cycle track and sports ground that opened on 10 June 1889 for a combined cycling and athletics event that drew an estimated crowd of 15,000. Negotiations continued for two years before the Villa committee reached agreement with the site's owner, Edgar Flower, to rent the Lower Grounds for £300 per annum on a 21-year lease with an option to buy the site at any point during the term. The committee immediately engaged an architect who began preparing plans for the site, which included construction of a new 440 yards (400 metres) cement cycle track to replace the existing cinder one.
The main stand was to be built to the east on the Witton Lane side, with the track and pitch fully enclosed by banking. Construction of the final phase of the stadium began in the winter of 1896 following negotiations with contractors over the price. Several months behind schedule, the almost-complete stadium finally opened on 17 April 1897. The process of fixing issues with the building work would continue for a number of months thereafter. As built, the stadium could house 40,000 spectators, most of whom would stand in the open on the banking.
The first match at the ground, a friendly against Blackburn Rovers, took place on 17 April 1897, one week after Aston Villa had completed the League and FA Cup 'Double'.
After winning the league championship in 1899, Villa's record-breaking average crowd of 21,000 allowed the club to invest in a two-stage ground improvement programme. The first stage extended the terrace covering on the Trinity Road side at a cost of £887 while the second cost £1,300 and involved re-laying all terracing around the track to remedy a design flaw that caused poor sightlines for the majority of the crowd. In 1911, Villa bought the freehold of the ground for £8,250, the office buildings in the old aquarium and car park area for £1,500 and the carriage drive and bowling green for £2,000. This was the first stage in plans drawn up by ambitious Villa director Frederick Rinder, that would see the capacity of Villa Park increased to 104,000.
In June 1914, another phase of enhancements began at Villa Park to compete with improvements at other grounds around the country, including Everton's Goodison Park, where a new two-tiered stand had just been completed. The first stage of improvements saw the cycling track removed, new banking at the Holte Hotel End (Holte End) and a re-profiling of all the terracing to bring it closer to the newly squared-off pitch. Rinder turned to the renowned architect Archibald Leitch to design a new Villa Park.
Their joint plans included large banked end stands at the Holte and Witton ends and the incorporation of the original Victorian Lower Grounds buildings, including the aquarium and the newly acquired bowling greens. The outbreak of the First World War severely hampered design and construction efforts.
As a result of the worsening economic situation, 1919 quotes for the implementation of the pre-war construction plans came to £66,000, compared to the 1914 quote of £27,000. By March 1922 this price had reduced to £41,775 and the directors pushed ahead with the plans for the new Trinity Road Stand. Construction began in April 1922 with the stand partially opened in August that year. Construction continued throughout the 1922–23 season with the stand officially opened on 26 January 1924 by the then Duke of York, later King George VI. He commented to Rinder that he had "no idea that a ground so finely equipped in every way—and devoted to football—existed."
On completion the Trinity Road Stand was considered one of the grandest in Britain, complete with stained glass windows, Italian mosaics, Dutch gables in the style of Aston Hall and a sweeping staircase. Several commentators including Simon Inglis consider it to be Leitch's masterpiece, described in 1960 by a Sunday Times reporter as the "St Pancras of football." The final cost of the stand and associated 1922–24 ground developments was calculated at £89,000, a sum that enraged the club's directors who ordered an investigation into cost and in 1925 forced the resignation of Rinder.
Villa Park was to remain in much the same state for another 30 years with no major developments until the late 1950s. During the 1930s the earth and timber terraces with wooden crash barriers were completely replaced by concrete terracing and metal barriers, a process first begun by Rinder. In 1936 he was voted back onto the board at the age of 78 after the club were relegated to the Second Division. Nearly 25 years after he had created his 1914 masterplan, Rinder resurrected it and looked to carry out the third phase of his developments. He died in December 1938 after Leitch who had died in April 1938, leaving his construction business to his son, Archibald Junior.
The complete redevelopment and extension of the Holte End began in early 1939 supervised by Archibald Junior. When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, all construction across the country stopped. Unusually, given the austerity measures in place at the time, Villa acquired a special permit to continue construction of the Holte End; Simon Inglis notes "How they achieved this is not recorded." Work on the ground was completed by April 1940 and the stand was immediately mothballed as Villa Park switched to its war time role. The Trinity Road Stand became an air-raid shelter and ammunition store while the home dressing room became the temporary home of a rifle company from the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. German bombs caused £20,000 worth of damage to the Witton Lane Stand, which was not remedied until 1954.
Apart from running repairs and fixing bomb damage, no major projects were undertaken until 1958–59 when four projects were announced. As a result, the old Bowling Green pavilion on the Trinity Road became a medical centre, the basement of the aquarium building was converted into a gym, four large floodlight pylons were installed and a training ground was purchased 500 yards (460 metres) from Villa Park. The floodlights were first used in November 1958 for a friendly match against the Scottish side Heart of Midlothian.
In the summer of 1962, £40,000 was spent on a roof for the Holte End, the first to provide cover for the ordinary terrace fans at Villa Park since 1922. The old barrel-shaped roof on the Witton Lane Stand, the only remaining feature of the 1897 Villa Park, was removed in the summer of 1963 and replaced with a plain sloping roof in the same style as the Holte End. Villa Park was chosen by FIFA to host three matches for the 1966 World Cup on the condition that the Witton Lane Stand became all-seater.
The players' tunnel also required covering with a cage while the pitch was to be widened by 3 yards (2.7 metres). Regular ground developments and innovations began in the summer of 1969 under the direction of the new chairman, Doug Ellis, who set about redeveloping Villa Park for the modern era. Much of the stadium had fallen into various states of disrepair and was in need of modernisation. Ellis updated the infrastructure, installed a new public address system, carried out plumbing work, which included installing new toilets, resurfaced the terraces and built a new ticket office. His tenure also saw executive lounges replace the old offices in the Trinity Road Stand.
Redevelopment of the Witton End stand began in the summer of 1976. The stand had not seen any major work since 1924 and its rear remained a mound of earth. Initial renovations saw the levelling of the earthen mound and new concrete terraces constructed on the lower tier in preparation for the construction of an upper tier. Stage two began in February 1977 and was officially opened in late October that year.
The stand's design and fittings were impressive for the time, including novelties such as an 'AV' logo spelled out in coloured seats and a double row of executive boxes. As well as the new Witton End stand, renamed the North Stand, Villa Park went through further renovations throughout the ground. The cost of the work was £1.3 million. As a result and as with the construction of the Trinity Road Stand fifty years earlier, Villa were again burdened with debt. An internal investigation found that £700,000 of the £1.3 million worth of bills were unaccounted for. A later report by accountants Deloitte Haskins & Sells found that the bills were inflated by only 10% but that there were "serious breaches of recommended codes of practice and poor site supervision."
In response to the Hillsborough disaster, the Taylor Report of August 1989 mandated that all major stadia be converted to become all-seater as a safety measure. During the summer of 1990, the first changes were made to comply with the report's requirements. The North Stand saw the addition of 2,900 seats to the lower tier of the stand in place of terracing, the Holte End's roof was extended in preparation for more seats, the Trinity Road Stand had its roof replaced and the Witton Lane Stand had more corporate boxes added.
By that time, all four floodlight pylons had been removed to make way for boxes or in preparation for seating and new floodlights were installed on new gantries on the Trinity and Witton stands. In February 1992, the club's application to the Council for permission to demolish the Holte Hotel was rejected. After several months of negotiations, Villa gained permission for a new stand to replace the Witton Lane Stand. The new design meant that the club had to realign Witton Lane and, as a condition of the planning permission, pay £600,000 to compulsory purchase the houses along Witton Lane and upgrade the road from a B to an A road, as well as moving its utilities.
The stand was fully operational by January 1994 at a cost of £5 million with 4,686 seats, which brought Villa Park up to a capacity of 46,005. It was announced at the 70th birthday gala of chairman Doug Ellis that the stand was to be renamed the "Doug Ellis Stand", a move that caused some controversy among Villa fans with some still referring to it as the Witton Lane Stand. Nevertheless, during the 1993–94 season, the newly rebuilt Witton Lane Stand became the Doug Ellis Stand.
The Holte End was the only remaining stand that did not meet the Taylor Report requirements and a structural survey revealed that putting seats onto the existing terracing would be uneconomical. Instead the decision was taken to build a new stand consisting of two tiers, just four years after construction of the new roof.
The demolition of the stand began on the last day of the 1994 season. Its replacement began to open in August 1994 with 3,000 seats in the lower tier occupied for the first seating-only game at Villa Park. By December the same year it was fully operational and had a capacity of 13,501 seats, bringing the Villa Park capacity to 40,310. Upon completion, the Holte was the largest single end stand in Britain.
The next development at Villa Park was the Trinity Road Stand in 2000. It had stood since 1922 though it had seen a number of renovations and additions since. The demolition of the old stand began after the last game of the 1999–2000 season, an event met with an element of sadness from observers such as Simon Inglis who stated that "the landscape of English football will never be the same." The new stand was much larger and more spacious than the old one, taking Villa's capacity from 39,399 to its present 42,682. It was officially opened in November 2001 by HRH The Prince of Wales, just as the old stand had been opened by his grandfather George VI, 77 years earlier, when he was still the Duke of York.
Structure and facilities
Villa Park comprises 42,682 seats split between four stands. These four stands are the Holte End to the South, the Trinity Road Stand to the West, the Doug Ellis Stand opposite the Trinity Road Stand, and the North Stand behind the northern goal. All of the stands are composed of two tiers except the Trinity Road Stand, which has three.
The Holte End is a large two-tiered stand at the south end of the stadium. Originally a large terraced banking providing accommodation for more than 20,000 spectators, the current incarnation was constructed in 1994–95 and consists of two tiers with no executive boxes. The two tiers are slightly curved in a parabola to provide good sightlines from all seats while inside there are three levels of spacious concourse area as well as the Holte Suite, a large hospitality room for supporters. The roof is a variant of the "King Truss" system and the front third slopes slightly forward. Two large staircases, pediments, Dutch gables and a mosaic introduced in the 2007 season in the style of the old Trinity Road Stand make up the facade, itself inspired by Aston Hall.
The Holte End is the most renowned stand at Villa Park amongst home and away team supporters. Traditionally Villa's most vocal and passionate supporters gather here, including some Aston Villa hooligan firms.
Built in 2000, the main Trinity Road Stand is the most recently completed at Villa Park and houses the dressing rooms, club offices and director's boxes. The stand is composed of three tiers with a row of executive boxes between the second and third tiers. Although much larger than the other stands, the stand has roughly the same roof level as the other three sides. The players' tunnel and the technical area where the managers and substitutes sit during the match are in the middle of the stand at pitch level.
The press and the directors' VIP area are situated in the centre of the middle tier. The upper tiers of the stand extend over Trinity Road, the street that cuts behind the ground. Cars travelling along Trinity Road have to pass through what is effectively a tunnel formed by the Trinity Road Stand.
The oldest stand at Villa Park is the North Stand, formerly known as the Witton End, completed in 1977.
It is a two-tiered stand, with a double row of 39 executive boxes running between the two tiers. Upper tier seats are claret with "AV" written in blue while the lower tier consists of sky blue seats. The North Stand was "the first major stand in Britain to use what is now broadly termed the 'goalpost' structure." The facade of the stand is a "textured concrete render" typical of the time. Since the segregation of supporters in the 1970s, away fans had been situated in the lower tier of the North Stand. Former manager Martin O'Neill expressed his desire to have Villa fans seated in the North Stand to improve the atmosphere at Villa Park.
For the start of the 2007–08 season the club released cut-price season tickets for the lower tier of the stand. This meant moving the away fans to the northern end of the Doug Ellis Stand across both tiers. The Doug Ellis Stand, formerly known as the Witton Lane Stand, is a two-tiered stand with a row of executive boxes dividing the tiers. The roof was originally planned to be a goalpost structure, the same as the Holte End and North Stand, but the plans were changed to a simpler cantilever design.
It saw slight refurbishment prior to the 1996 European Championships to join the corners with the lower tier of the North Stand, improve leg-room and increase the curve of the terracing to improve sightlines. The main television camera viewpoint is situated here, so televised matches at Villa Park take the point of view of a fan who is sitting on the half-way line in the Doug Ellis Stand.
In the south-west corner, between the Holte End and the Trinity Road Stand, there is a three-storey pavilion-like structure, which is used for corporate hospitality. There is also a large television screen in the same location. On 28 November 2009, a bronze statue of former Villa chairman and founder of the Football League, William McGregor was unveiled outside the stadium. Behind the North Stand is the "Villa Village" made up of club and ticket offices as well as a club shop. The buildings were bought by the club from British Telecom in the 1990s.
Aston Villa Football Club is an English professional football club based in Witton, Birmingham.
Founded in 1874, they have played at their current home ground, Villa Park, since 1897.
Aston Villa were founder members of The Football League in 1888. They were also founder members of the Premier League in 1992 and have remained there ever since.
The club was floated by the previous owner and chairman Doug Ellis, but in 2006 full control of the club was acquired by American businessman Randy Lerner. Lerner announced on 12 May 2014 that he was selling the club, and in June 2016, a buyer in the form of business man Tony Xia was found.
Aston Villa are among the oldest and most successful football clubs in the history of English football.
Villa won the 1981–82 European Cup, and are thus one of five English clubs to win what is now the UEFA Champions League.
They have the fourth highest total of major honours won by an English club having won the First Division Championship seven times the FA Cup seven times (last won in 1957) the Football League Cup five times (last won in 1996) and the UEFA Super Cup in 1982.
They have a fierce local rivalry with Birmingham City. The Second City derby between Aston Villa and Birmingham City has been played since 1879.
The club's traditional kit colours are claret shirts with sky blue sleeves, white shorts and sky blue socks whilst their traditional badge is of a rampant gold lion on a light blue background with the club's motto "Prepared" underneath; a modified version of this was adopted in 2007.
For further information check out their Official website
Andy Townsend - 1993 to 1997
Tom 'Pongo' Waring - 1928 to 1935
Charlie Aitken - 1959 to 1976
Gareth Barry - 1998 to 2009
- First Division (7)
- 1893–94, 1895–96, 1896–97, 1898–99,
- 1899–1900, 1909–10, 1980–81
- Second Division (2)
- 1937–38, 1959–60
- Third Division (1)
- FA Cup ( 7)
- 1886–87, 1894–95, 1896–97, 1904–05,
- 1912–13, 1919–20, 1956–57
- League Cup (5)
- 1960–61, 1974–75, 1976–77, 1993–94,
- FA Charity Shield (1)
- Football League War Cup (1)
- 1944 (shared)
- European Cup (1)
- European Super Cup (1)
- Intertoto Cup (2)
- 2001, 2008
Aston Villa Football Club were formed in March 1874, by four members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel (known as early as 1867 as Aston Villa Wesleyan Chapel) in Handsworth. The four founders were Jack Hughes, Frederick Matthews, Walter Price and William Scattergood. The first match was against the local Aston Brook St Mary's Rugby team. As a condition of the match, the Villa side had to agree to play the first half under rugby rules and the second half under football rules. The club were soon playing the modern version of football though and the club won its first FA Cup in 1887. Aston Villa were one of the dozen teams that competed in the inaugural Football League in 1888 with one of the club's directors, William McGregor being the league's founder. Aston Villa emerged as the most successful English club of the Victorian era. By the end of Villa's "Golden Age" at the start of the First World War, the club had won the League Championship six times and the FA Cup five times.
Aston Villa won their sixth FA Cup in 1920. For the remainder of the inter-war years though, Villa were on a slow decline that would lead to them being relegated to the Second Division in 1936 for the first time in their history. They returned to the top-tier of English football by the outbreak of the Second World War. As with many clubs, the war brought much change to Villa Park and remainder of the 1940s were spent rebuilding the team. By 1957, Villa were a Cup winning side once again with the clubs seventh FA Cup win. Even though Villa won the inaugural League Cup in 1960, the club were to enter into a very unsuccessful period. The 1960s saw much change at Villa Park. By the end of the 1960s, Villa were languishing in the Second Division and fan pressure led to the resignation of the Board and the introduction of Doug Ellis as Villa Chairman.
Club folklore has it that Aston Villa Football Club was formed by four players from the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel cricket team. It is said that they "met in 1874 under a gas-light in Heathfield Road" to set about forming a new club. They were looking for something to keep them occupied during the winter. The club's official history states that they chose football after witnessing an "impromptu game on a meadow off Heathfield Road". The four founders of Aston Villa were Jack Hughes, Frederick Matthews, Walter Price and William Scattergood. Their first match was played against the local Aston Brook St Mary's Rugby team on Wilson Road, Aston. As a condition of the match, the Villa side had to agree to play the first half under rugby rules, and the second half under football rules. The game was a scoreless draw at half time but Jack Hughes scored a goal in the second half to ensure that Villa won their first ever game. Villa moved to their first official home, Wellington Road in Perry Barr, in 1876 after their captain, George Ramsay, noted that in order to progress, Villa would need to move into an enclosed ground to be able to collect gate money. The site was taken on a three-year lease at a rent of £7,10 shillings for the first year, rising to £15 and £20 in subsequent years. By the late 1870s, Villa were improving greatly and by 1880, Villa won their first senior honour when they won the Birmingham Senior Cup under the captaincy of Scotsman Ramsay.
Rise to prominence
The club won its first FA Cup in 1887, under the captaincy of another Scotsman, Archie Hunter. They beat West Bromwich Albion 2–0 in the final held at The Oval. Up until 1885, football had remained an amateur sport. It turned professional in 1885, when the FA legalized professional football, but with a national wage limit. However, the Scottish draper and director of Aston Villa, William McGregor had become frustrated with watching his team in one-sided friendly matches and low attendances for all games but FA Cup ties. He saw that in order to keep interest in the game alive, the top teams needed to play each other in a league much like American baseball teams did. McGregor wrote to the twelve leading clubs in England proposing the formation of a league. The reason the Football League was never called the English League is because McGregor intended that Scottish and Welsh teams would eventually join. In the end, some Welsh teams joined, most notably Cardiff City, but Scottish teams did not. Aston Villa were one of the dozen teams that competed in the inaugural Football League in 1888. Villa's first League game came on 8 September 1888, when they drew 1–1 Wolverhampton Wanderers as Tom Green scored the club's first League goal. Villa finished runners-up to Preston North End in that inaugural season.
Victorian and Edwardian eras
It did not take long for Villa to lift their first League Championship trophy, and this was achieved in 1893–94. Villa were soon attracting large crowds; the club could regularly expect 25,000 people to attend home games. This was at a time when the FA Cup Final would attract only about 20,000. With poor spectator facilities and an uneven pitch, the Wellington Road ground was increasingly unsuitable, and in 1897 Villa's financial secretary Frederick Rinder negotiated the purchase of their current home ground, the Aston Lower Grounds. In the 1899-1900 season Billy Garraty became the top goalscorer in world football scoring 27 goals in just 33 league games and a total 30 goals in 39 league and cup games. The name of Villa Park was not used until about 1900. It came about through fan usage and no official declaration was made that listed the name as Villa Park. The ground was not purchased outright until 1911.
Villa began the 20th century as champions but the gap that distinguished them from their competitors was diminishing. Football in England was becoming more competitive as more teams formed. Villa did remain a significant force in the game though. Despite a run of four victories at the start of the 1900–01 season, Villa finished fourth from bottom. In the 1902–03 season Villa won 12 of their last 15 games to finish only one point behind champions Sheffield Wednesday. In 1905, Villa won the FA Cup with a then record crowd of 101,117 watching the match at Crystal Palace, where Villa beat Newcastle United 2–0. In the same season, Villa finished fourth and this helped to boost the coffers at the club. After the success of 1905, Villa went through a barren patch and it was not until the 1909–10 season that Villa threatened to regain the title. In that season, they beat the reigning champions Manchester United 7–1. Villa won the championship for the first time in 10 years to take a then record, sixth title. The 1910–11 season was very close and the title was decided on the last day of the season when Villa lost to Liverpool and Manchester United beat Sunderland to take the title. The following season, Villa finished sixth. Yet in 1913, Villa won the FA Cup for a then record-equalling fifth time. By the end of what was to be called Villa's golden era, when the First World War began, the club had won the League Championship six times and the FA Cup five times. This included the League and Cup Double in 1896–97, a feat which would not be repeated for more than 60 years.
Football resumed after the war for the 1919–20 season and Villa won their sixth FA Cup at the end of season, beating Huddersfield Town 1–0 at Stamford Bridge. In November 1923, Villa's centre-half Tommy Ball was killed by his neighbour, thus becoming the only active Football League player to have been murdered. In their Golden Jubilee season of 1923–24, Villa got through to the second final to be held at the then new Wembley Stadium, where they lost 2–0 to Newcastle United. This Cup final was to be something of a pinnacle though as Villa then had League finishes of sixth and tenth in the following seasons. The Directors attempted to stop the slump with transfer dealings. In 1927, they bought both Jimmy Gibson and Eric Houghton. In 1928, they bought in one of the most prolific goalscorers to have ever played in the English football league. When Villa signed Tranmere Rovers striker Tom Waring for £4,700, he was relatively unknown. Waring scored a record 49 league goals in the 1930–31 season as Villa finished runners-up to Arsenal. One of the other purchases, Eric Houghton, scored 30 goals.
The team were playing well and scoring many goals. In the 1933–34 season, Villa had no fewer than fourteen full internationals and they continued to challenge for honours being second in the League in 1933. Yet this success did not last and the complacency at Villa Park led to a slump in form. This slump culminated in their relegation from the first tier of English football for the first time in their history in the 1935–36 season. The relegation coincided with the decision to appoint their first manager. Before the 1935–36 season, the team had been appointed by a committee and the team was coached by a "secretary" to the committee. The relegation though was largely due a dismal defensive record, they conceded 110 goals, 7 of them coming from Arsenal's Ted Drake in an 1–7 defeat at Villa Park. Villa came ninth in their first season in the Second tier of English football but they were crowned Second Division Champions in 1937–38 under the guidance of Jimmy Hogan. By the outbreak of the Second World War, Aston Villa were back in the top-flight of English football.
For Villa, as with all English clubs, the Second World War brought about the loss of seven seasons, and several careers were brought to a premature end by the conflict. The first game played at Villa Park after the cessation of hostilities was against Middlesbrough and Villa lost 1–0 in front of a crowd of 50,000. Aston Villa went about rebuilding the team, under the guidance of former player Alex Massie for the remainder of the 1940s. Massie made some bold signings in his time with the club, the first of which was 23-year-old Wales international Trevor Ford, who was bought from Swansea for £9,500 in 1946, when Villa finished eighth in the League. Ford would go on to score 60 times in his four seasons at Villa Park, before he was sold in the 1950–51 season to Sunderland for a then British record of £30,000 (£900,000 today).
For the remainder of the 1940s and early 1950s, Massie continued to bring in new players whilst the team regularly had mid-table finishes. One of the more influential signings was Danny Blanchflower in 1951 for £15,000. Villa had a good start to the 1951–52 season when, after eight games, Villa were second behind Manchester United. This was their best start of the last 19 years, and they eventually finished in sixth place. After a mid-table finish in the 1952–53 season, the following season, saw the return of Eric Houghton, this time in a managerial capacity. One of his first actions was to introduce 19–year–old Peter McParland to the first team. His first season in charge ended with Villa in 13th place. Nevertheless, "Houghton had done well to guide a transitional Villa team to a respectable position in the top flight." Under Houghton's stewardship, Villa won the 1957 FA Cup Final against Manchester United's celebrated Busby Babes. Peter McParland scored both goals in a 2–1 victory, in a record-equalling ninth FA Cup final. It was Aston Villa's first trophy for 37 years.
The success of the previous season proved to be something of a false dawn though, with the team finishing 14th, seven points above relegation. After refusing to resign, Eric Houghton was sacked when relegation seemed imminent in 1958–59. His successor Joe Mercer was unable to prevent the club being relegated in 1959, for only the second time in its history. The fact that Villa reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup only served to highlight the complacency that had set in at the club that led to Villa being relegated. Villa only spent one season in the Second Division, returning as Champions in 1960. The 1960–61 season was a successful one; it saw Villa reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup, finish ninth in the League, and win the inaugural League Cup. This was helped by the emergence of an exciting group of youth players, who became known as "Mercer's Minors".
The late 1960s was a turbulent time for the club and pressure from fans led to a change of ownership and management. The problems started when the club was relegated from the first tier of English football for the third time, under manager Dick Taylor in 1967. Within two years, pressure from supporters had led to the resignation of the board of directors. The club was then relegated to the Third Division. In the 1971–72 season Aston Villa returned to the Second Division as champions with a record 70 points. In 1974 Ron Saunders was appointed manager and by 1977 he had led the club back into the First Division and into European competition. The club was back among the elite and it continued to have much success under Saunders and won the league in the 1980–81 season. Saunders' resignation halfway through the 1981–82 season came as a surprise, with the club in the quarter-final of the European Cup. He was replaced by his assistant manager Tony Barton who guided them to 1–0 victory over Bayern Munich in the European Cup final in Rotterdam. However, winning the cup marked a pinnacle and the club fell steadily down the League standings over the next five years and was relegated in 1987. However, the club was promoted the following year and achieved second place in the Football League in 1989.
Villa was one of the founding members of the Premier League in 1992, and finished runners-up to Manchester United in the inaugural season. The 1990s was a decade of inconsistency; the club had three different managers and league positions were unpredictable, despite winning two League Cups. They reached the FA Cup Final for the first time since 1957 in 2000, but lost 1–0 to Chelsea in the last game to be played at the old Wembley Stadium. Once again Villa's league position fluctuated under various managers and in the summer of 2006, David O'Leary left under acrimonious circumstances. Martin O'Neill soon arrived and received a rapturous reception. After 23 years as chairman and largest shareholder, owning approximately 38% of the club, Doug Ellis decided to sell his stake to Randy Lerner, the owner of NFL franchise the Cleveland Browns. The arrival of a new owner and manager marked the start of sweeping changes throughout the club, including a new crest, a new kit sponsor and new players in the summer of 2007.
Winning the League Cup in 1961 was a pinnacle for the club. Although Villa finished seventh in 1961–62, the following season saw the beginning of a decline in form that would see them finish in 15th place in 1963 and fourth from bottom in 1964. The manager Joe Mercer parted company with the club in July 1964 because of these results and his declining health. His replacement, Dick Taylor, managed to avoid relegation in the 1964–65 season as Villa finished 16th after a poor start to the season. The following year Villa finished 16th once again. Following a 4–2 final day defeat by Everton the club was relegated to the Second Division in the 1966–67 season. Manager Dick Taylor was sacked and Tommy Cummings was appointed in his place. The decline was not solely the responsibility of the manager; the club had an ageing five-man board "who had failed to adapt to the new football reality." The club had neither developed a scouting network nor an effective coaching structure. The board had also sold two of Villa's best players, Phil Woosnam and Tony Hateley. The fans' calls for the board to resign became more and more pronounced when Villa finished 16th in the Second Division in 1968. Events on the pitch came to a head in November 1968, with Villa lying at the bottom of Division Two; the board sacked Cummings. On 21 November 1968 the problems in the boardroom were highlighted when a board member, George Robinson, resigned. Following his resignation the board issued a statement: "The board would make available, by their resignation, such seats as new financial arrangements might require." Aston Villa F.C was up for sale. After much speculation, control of the club was bought by London financier Pat Matthews, who brought in local travel-agent Doug Ellis as chairman of the new board that was convened on 16 December 1968. Two days later Tommy Docherty was appointed as manager.
Docherty rebuilt confidence in the team and Villa went on to win five consecutive games and retained a place in the Second Division. In the short time that Docherty had been at the club, attendances rose significantly from a low of just over 12,000 against Charlton Athletic in December. In the summer of 1969 the first share issue since 1896 raised £200,000 for the club, £140,000 of which was spent on new players. In the following season, however, Villa took ten games to register a win. By Christmas 1969, Villa were at the bottom of the Second Division and Docherty was sacked. His successor, Vic Crowe, was unable to prevent Aston Villa from being relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in its history in the 1969–70 season. Despite finishing fourth in the Third Division in the 1970–71 season, Villa reached the League Cup final after beating Manchester United in the semi-final. They were defeated in the final by Tottenham Hotspur 2–0. The 1971–72 season saw the club return to the Second Division as champions with a then divisional record 70 points. In the autumn of 1972, there was a revolt in the boardroom and four of the five directors voted to oust Doug Ellis from the board. Within 43 days though, Ellis was reinstated as chairman after he received the support of the largest shareholder Pat Matthews, and the supporters at an EGM, who also voted to replace the existing directors. Their first season back in the Second Division in 1972–73 saw Villa narrowly miss out on a second successive promotion when they finished third. However, the following season Villa finished 14th and Ellis sacked Crowe, replacing him with Ron Saunders.
For the club's centenary season of 1974–75, Saunders brought in only two new players, Frank Carrodus and Leighton Phillips. At the end of his first season in charge, Villa were back in the First Division after finishing second, and had won the 1975 League Cup final at Wembley Stadium. Villa beat Norwich City 1–0 with Ray Graydon scoring the winning goal. At the beginning of the 1975–76 season Doug Ellis resigned as chairman but remained on the board. Ellis left the club in a good position on the field. They were in the First Division and the UEFA Cup for the first time due to the League Cup win of 1975. The club's first season of European football was short-lived though as they were beaten 5–1 by Antwerp in the first round. In the following season, Villa finished fourth in the League, and reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. In the 1976–77 season, two years after their last League Cup win, they beat Everton 3–2 in the 1977 Final after a second replay.
League and European victories
In the 1977–78 season Villa reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup where they went out 4–3 on aggregate against Barcelona. In the domestic league, however, they struggled and Saunders started rebuilding the team. As Saunders began restructuring his team in the summer of 1979, there were more changes in the boardroom. Doug Ellis set a resolution to have several directors removed from the board. The resolution was not successful and as a result, Ellis resigned from the board. Meanwhile, Saunders brought in several new players who were to become some of Villa's most prolific players in terms of goals and appearances. Allan Evans, Ken McNaught and Kenny Swain were brought into the defence and Des Bremner was brought into the midfield to play alongside Dennis Mortimer and Gordon Cowans. Tony Morley and Gary Shaw were the new strike partnership. When Peter Withe was signed from Newcastle United in the summer of 1980, Saunders had built a team that was to see much success in the next few years.
The first success was to come in the 1980–81 season when Villa won their first League Championship for 71 years, fighting off competition from Liverpool and Ipswich using only 14 playing staff in the whole season. The title was sealed on the final day of the season when they lost 2-0 at Arsenal but still finished top as Ipswich Town, the only side still in contention for the title, lost to Middlesbrough. This triumph was popularly known as the "transistor championship" as Villa fans had turned up at the game listening to the progress of the Ipswich game on their transistor audio sets.
The next season Villa did not start well and they were in mid-table at Christmas although the club was still in the European Cup. In the first round Villa beat Valur 7–0 on aggregate. In the second round they scored twice at Dynamo Berlin to achieve a 2–2 draw, which saw them go through due to the away goals rule. These victories were in contrast to their poor performance in the league. By February 1982, the club were lying 19th in the First Division and Saunders resigned. It was later disclosed that the then chairman, Ron Bendall, had offered him a revised, shorter term, contract, which he had refused to accept. Saunders' assistant Tony Barton was promoted in his place. When Barton took over, although Villa were in a poor league position, they were in the quarter-final of the European Cup. In the quarter-finals, they beat Dynamo Kiev over two legs. Gordon Cowans is quoted as saying, "Once we got past Dynamo Kiev we began thinking we could go all the way." In the semi-final, they played Anderlecht over two legs, with Tony Morley scoring to secure Aston Villa's place in the final.
European Champions and subsequent decline
On 26 May 1982, just three months after being appointed manager, Barton guided Villa to a 1–0 victory over Bayern Munich in the European Cup final in Rotterdam. As of January 2008, Villa remain one of only five English teams to have won the European Cup, along with Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Nottingham Forest. They were the underdogs in the final and were expected to lose.
The final was held in Feyenoord Stadium, Rotterdam, with an attendance of 39,776. Only nine minutes into the game, Villa lost their experienced goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer to a shoulder injury. He was replaced by 23-year-old reserve goalkeeper Nigel Spink, who had only played one match for the club in five years since joining from Chelmsford. Spink went on to make one of his best performances for the club against the highly experienced Bayern strikeforce, which included Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Other key players in this Villa side included Tony Morley, Gordon Cowans and Dennis Mortimer.
The win was not followed with more success and the team performed badly in the following seasons. At the AGM in October 1982, it was revealed that the club were in £1.6 million of debt, mainly due to escalating wages and building costs, including the construction of the North Stand. At the end of November Ron and Donald Bendall resigned from the board to be replaced by Doug Ellis, who bought Ron Bendall's 42% shareholding. In January 1983, Villa beat Barcelona 3–1 on aggregate to win the 1982 UEFA Super Cup. Barton remained in charge for two seasons after the European Cup triumph, but was sacked at the end of the 1983–84 season despite Villa finishing 10th in the First Division and reaching the semi-finals of the League Cup. Shrewsbury Town manager Graham Turner was brought in as his successor. Turner was unable to reverse the decline, and in 1986 Villa narrowly avoided relegation to the Second Division. A lacklustre start to the following season saw Turner sacked halfway through September. Billy McNeill was hired in his place, but was unable to save Villa from relegation. They were relegated to the Second Division just five years after winning the European Cup. McNeill handed in his notice and moved to Celtic when the season ended. Chairman Ellis persuaded Watford manager Graham Taylor to take over the reins and set about rebuilding the team.
Taylor, Vengloš and Atkinson
Taylor's first season at Villa ended with automatic promotion as Second Division runners-up, being pipped to the title by Millwall. One player who contributed to that season's success was the recently signed David Platt, a former Manchester United reserve who had signed from Crewe Alexandra for £200,000 just after Taylor's arrival. Before he left in 1991 Platt scored 68 goals in his 155 appearances for the club. Villa avoided relegation on the last day of the 1988–89 season as other results favoured them. In the 1989–90 season they emerged as surprise contenders for the title, leading for three weeks in the latter stages of the season before finishing in second place, nine points behind Liverpool. Taylor departed for the England manager's job and was succeeded by Slovak coach Jozef Vengloš, the first foreign manager in the First Division.
The 1990–91 season was Vengloš's only season as manager of Aston Villa. Their second-place finish the previous season earned them qualification for the UEFA Cup as one of the first English clubs to enter European competition after ban resulting from the Heysel Stadium disaster was lifted. They beat first round opponents Banik Ostrava over two legs, and won the first leg of the second round tie against Inter Milan. However, this lead was overturned by Inter Milan in the return leg 3–0, and Villa were eliminated. The defeat started a decline, and by the end of the season they were two places above the relegation zone. Vengloš stepped down and David Platt was sold to Italian side Bari for £5 million. Aston Villa's new manager was Ron Atkinson, who had taken West Bromwich Albion to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup and had won the League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday. In his first season in charge, 1991–92, Villa finished in sixth place and thus became one of the founder members of the FA Premier League.
Villa in the Premiership
In his first 18 months in charge, Atkinson bought Earl Barrett, Dean Saunders, Andy Townsend, Dalian Atkinson, Kevin Richardson, Ray Houghton and Shaun Teale. They all helped the club to finish as runners-up to Manchester United in the inaugural Premier League season of 1992–93. The strike partnership of Saunders and Atkinson established itself as one of the most successful partnerships in the Premiership. On 27 March 1994 Villa won the League Cup final 3–1, to secure a second successive UEFA Cup campaign, although their Premier League form dipped and they finished 10th. At the end of the 1993–94 season, they played their last game at a terraced Villa Park before it was converted over the summer to an all-seater stadium to comply with the Taylor Report. In November 1994, Atkinson was dismissed following a poor start to the season.
Leicester City's manager Brian Little was forbidden to speak to Aston Villa by their board, after rumours began circulating that Ellis wanted to hire him. Although maintaining that he had not spoken to Ellis about the possibility of taking over at Villa, Little resigned from his post at Leicester even though he was contracted to the club until the end of the 1997-98 season. Three days after his resignation, Ellis hired him as the new Villa manager. Little kept Villa in the Premiership, and then reshaped the squad in the 1995 close-season by selling most of the club's older players and buying in several younger ones. Villa won the 1996 League Cup with a win over Leeds United, reached the FA Cup semi-finals and finished fourth in the Premiership in the 1995–96 season. In February 1998, with Villa standing 15th in the Premiership and speculation rife that he would be sacked, Little resigned, stating that "There were certain things going on behind the scenes which were affecting my own managerial position." Ellis came out with a statement directly challenging that it had anything to do with the management at Villa Park. Instead, he suggested it was due to a "variety of pressures" including abuse directed towards Little and his family by irate fans.
Ellis appointed John Gregory, a former Aston Villa coach, as Little's successor. Gregory revitalised the team and Villa finished seventh in the Premiership and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Usually, only the top six teams qualified for European competition, but due to the progress of other teams in the top seven it was the first time that a seventh placed club had automatically qualified for the UEFA Cup. Despite the £12.6 million sale of Dwight Yorke, a player who had scored 97 goals in 287 appearances for the club, to Manchester United in August 1998, John Gregory had guided Aston Villa to the top of the Premiership by the middle of the 1998–99 season. Villa reached the FA Cup final in 2000 for the first time since 1957, but lost 1–0 to Chelsea in the last final to be played at the old Wembley Stadium. The 2000–01 season saw Villa finish eighth in the Premiership, although they did eventually qualify for the UEFA Cup by winning the Intertoto Cup in the summer of 2001. In November 2001, Gregory accused Ellis of "living in a time-warp", but was forced to apologise a few days later after provoking an uproar. Whilst Gregory remained in his job, the relationship between him and Ellis was strained. Gregory resigned on 24 January 2002, with Villa occupying a familiar mid-table position in the league.
In January 2002 chairman Doug Ellis once again appointed Graham Taylor as manager. Villa finished the 2001–02 season in eighth place, which was similar to most of their other Premiership finishes. Taylor quit as manager for the second time after the end of the 2002–03 season. Villa had just finished 16th in the Premiership, losing twice to arch rivals Birmingham City. David O'Leary, who had taken Leeds United to the semi-finals of the 2000–01 Champions League, was brought in as Taylor's replacement. O'Leary took the team to sixth in the table, with a 2–0 home defeat against Manchester United on the final day meaning that they narrowly missed out on a UEFA Cup place. In 2005–06 Villa slowly fell down the table and finished in 16th place. The poor placing came despite O'Leary having spent more than £13 million the previous summer on players such as Milan Baroš, Kevin Phillips and Wilfred Bouma.
Frustration within the club soon reared its head when, on 14 July 2006, a group of Villa players criticised the chairman's alleged parsimony and lack of ambition in an interview with a local newspaper. The club immediately dismissed the report as "ridiculous", but it emerged over the following few days that a group of senior players had indeed instigated the move, possibly with O'Leary's backing. The following week, David O'Leary left the club by mutual consent after three years as Aston Villa manager and his assistant Roy Aitken became caretaker manager.
At a press conference on 4 August 2006, Doug Ellis introduced Martin O'Neill as the new manager and O'Neill said:
It's absolutely fantastic to be back and with a club such as this. This is a fantastic challenge. I am well aware of the history of this football club. Trying to restore it to its days of former glory seems a long way away — but why not try? It is nearly 25 years since they won the European Cup but that is the dream. —Martin O'Neill, 4 August 2006.
After several years of speculation and failed bids, the 23-year reign of Doug Ellis as chairman came to an end. Ellis, the largest shareholder with approximately 38%, decided to sell his stake. For many years supporters groups had been urging Ellis to resign, though the actions including two "Ellis out" protests, and an "Ellis out" march marked an increase in intensity. The decision to leave the club was likely to have been prompted by Ellis' ill-health. Randy Lerner, the owner of NFL franchise, the Cleveland Browns, was announced as the preferred bidder. On 25 August it was announced that he had secured 59.69% of the club's shares. By 26 September 2006 Lerner had achieved a 90% shareholding, and could complete his buy-out of the rest of the shares. Lerner appointed several new people to the Board including General Charles C Krulak. Ellis was given an President Emeritus (Life President) role.
Aston Villa started the 2006–07 Premiership campaign well, with Olof Mellberg scoring the first competitive goal at Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium. The January signings of Carew, Young, and Maloney bolstered the squad. Villa finished in 11th place in the league with 50 points, ending the season with an unbeaten run of nine league games. The last home game of the season, a 3–0 victory over Sheffield United, was used to mark the 25th anniversary of Villa winning the European Cup in 1982. Before kick-off, the 1982 winning team paraded the trophy in front of a full stadium. Scarves bearing the words "Proud History—Bright Future" were given out to all home team supporters attending the match.
2007-08 saw Villa progress further, finishing sixth to qualify for the Intertoto Cup. A victory against Odense BK over two legs in the final, during the summer of 2008, put Villa into European competition for the 2008-09 season, the first time in seven years. They reached the group stage of the UEFA Cup that season with relative ease, and played their first match against Ajax Amsterdam at Villa Park, winning 2–1. The first major final of the Lerner era was the 2010 Football League Cup Final; Villa lost 2–1 to Manchester United at Wembley Stadium. Five days before the opening day of the 2010–11 season, O'Neill resigned as manager with immediate effect. The reserve team coach, Kevin MacDonald, took over as caretaker manager for the opening games of the season. Randy Lerner returned to England from the USA to interview potential candidates for the post. On 8 September 2010 the club announced that Gérard Houllier would become the manager of Aston Villa, the first managerial appointment of Lerner's reign. On 20 April 2011 Houllier was admitted to hospital suffering from chest pains. Further tests showed that Houllier had suffered from a recurrence of a heart problem. The last games of the season saw Houllier's assistant, Gary McAllister take over in a caretaker capacity. On 1 June 2011 the club issued a statement that Houllier had left the club by mutual consent leaving the club looking for their fifth manager, including caretakers, of the year. Houllier was replaced by the former Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish on 17 June 2011, despite numerous protests from fans against his appointment. McLeish's appointment marked the first time in history that a manager had moved directly from Birmingham to Villa.
McLeish was never accepted by the fans from the start of his stay at Villa Park, and despite beating Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, the 2011-12 season was a poor one - finishing sixteenth, just two points above the relegation zone. McLeish was sacked on 16 May 2012 after just eleven months in charge. On the 2nd of June 2012, McLeish's fellow Scot Paul Lambert replaced him after leading Norwich City to two consecutive promotions.
The 2012/13 promised a brave new era, Lambert signed several new players including Christian Benteke, Ashley Westwood, Ron Vlaar and Joe Bennett. However the club had a poor start including a 3-1 home defeat against Everton. They did however beat Liverpool at Anfield 3-1 but then suffered their worst League defeat in the clubs history, losing 8-0 to Chelsea and they also suffered the humiliation of losing to League 2 side Bradford City in the League Cup Semi-Finals. They recovered to avoid relegation when they finish in 15th place after beating Sunderland 6-1 & also Norwich 2-1.
Aston Villa signed more new players before the 2013/14 Leandro Bacuna came from the Netherlands, Aleksander Tonev also came in as well as Danish centre back Jores Okore, fellow country man Nicklas Helenius. On deadline day Lambert swooped to sign Czech Republic striker Libor Kozak. On the opening day of the season Villa recorded a stunning away victory against Arsenal. However they suffered early exits from the cup competitions, one of them was yet another humiliation at a lower league team, Sheffield United of League One in the third round of the FA Cup. The club struggled throughout the season and eventually finished in 15th place.
That summer, Chairman Randy Lerner put the club up for sale at a value of £200 million. Despite this, performances on the pitch improved thanks to several signings of more experiences Premier League players including the free transfers of Kieran Richardson, Joe Cole and Philippe Senderos. The club also began to utilize some of the "Bomb Squad", a group of players brought in during the reigns of Houllier and McLeish who were publicly on very high wages yet regularly did not perform well during their run in the first team such as Darren Bent, Alan Hutton and Charles N'Zogbia. Villa won three of their first four matches including a 1-0 win at Liverpool FC, making it their best start to a season since 2001.
With Lerner still on board, in the 2014–15 season Aston Villa scored just 12 goals in 25 league games, the lowest in Premier League history, and Lambert was sacked on 11 February 2015, with Scott Marshall and Andy Marshall being appointed as caretaker managers. Tim Sherwood was shortly installed as manager. Aston Villa lost 4-0 to Arsenal in the final of the 2014-15 FA Cup later that season.
After saving Aston Villa from relegation in the 2014–15 season, however, Sherwood was sacked as manager on 15 October 2015 after 6 consecutive league losses, with Kevin MacDonald taking the role of interim manager. On 2 November 2015 Frenchman Remi Garde agreed a three-and-a-half year deal to become the manager.
On 29 March 2016, with Villa still bottom of the league, Garde left the club by mutual consent, with Eric Black taking over as Caretaker Manager until a replacement was found.
That replacement came in the form of Roberto Di Matteo whom the club announced as manager on 3rd June 2016.
On 18 May 2016, Randy Lerner agreed the sale of Aston Villa to Recon Group, owned by Chinese businessman Xia Jiantong, who uses the English name Tony. The sale was completed on 14 June 2016 for a reported £76 million after being approved by the Football League, with the club becoming part of Recon Group's Sport, Leisure and Tourism division.Recon Group were selected to take over Aston Villa following a selection process by the club.
After failing to secure promotion to the Premier League in the 2017–18 season speculation about financial difficulties at the club began to mount. This prompted the owner Tony Xia to seek additional investment. On 20 July 2018 it was announced that the NSWE group, an Egyptian company owned by the Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris and the American billionaire Wes Edens were to invest in the football club. They purchased a controlling 55% stake in the club and Sawiris took over the role of club chairman.
On 3 October 2016, Di Matteo was sacked as manager after a string of poor results culminating in a 2-0 defeat away at Preston North End F.C.
On 12th October 2016, Steve Bruce was announced as the new Aston Villa manager. In October 2018, Bruce was sacked after winning only one of the past nine matches. He was replaced by Brentford manager Dean Smith. John Terry became assistant manager.
On 27th May 2019, Aston Villa beat Derby County in the Championship Play-off Final to win promotion back to the Premier League.