Whilst most of our focus is on what is happening this week, next week, and next month at Villa Park, the club have a rich tapestry of events that is largely unrivaled by any club on the planet.
Flash back to the beginnings of Aston Villa in 1874, and the club were seen as a massive force in the world game, not just in England. Why am I bringing this up? To open up a review of “Aston Villa: The First Superclub” by good friend and former club historian John Lerwill.
At 500 pages, John’s book on Villa is extensive and thorough – in that sense it reminds me of an encyclopedia of information, albeit written in a narrative form. However, the book reads well, taking into account masses of detail from the club’s early inception as a winter fitness exercise for the Aston chapel cricketers all the way to the present day.
For those of you who don’t know John Lerwill by name, he was the club’s historian up until recent years and, as one would expect for a man whose role was to catalogue the history of Birmingham’s number one club, John’s books are massively intricate taking in everything from photos to snippets of conversations from the late 19th century as well as the obvious match references.
Many of the names in the book will be well known, not just to Villa fans with knowledge of the club’s history, but to many outside the club, in particular the club’s first chairman William McGregor – one of the founder members of the league.
Some of the information, especially for those without the extensive knowledge that John has, will be new and interesting, even if the dates where these people were alive are, in some cases, over a hundred years old.
The book, whilst able to be read like a consecutive piece in much the way as I did when reading it for the purpose of the review, also serves as a veritable treasure trove of information that can be dipped in and out of for anyone who wants insight into the club’s history, more specifically Villa’s role as a leader in the game whether it was back in the days before the Football League was being put together before automobiles graced the streets, or back in 1982 when the club were crowned “Champions of Europe”.
Due to the sheer volume of information presented in a piece as deep as John’s book is, I do find it a challenge to cover everything in the book simply because this is, for the most part, a thorough review of most of the club’s history, and one that extends on John’s past pair of books “The Aston Villa Chronicles” which are now sadly out of print.
With that said, there is no requirement to own John’s earlier books in order to enjoy “Aston Villa: The First Superclub”, and any reader who is keen to understand the history of a club that is filled with past glories will find the book a thoroughly interesting and well written piece, with a depth and richness that can only be created by a man who clearly loves the club as much as you or I.
Whether you want to find out how George Ramsay found his way to the club, who the “Old ‘Uns” were, how the views of directors of a club have come from Fred Rinder’s era where his view was where “the directors ought to manage the club and if they are not capable of doing so they ought not to be there” to today’s billionaires, or to review any part of the club’s history from McGregor to the end days of Alex McLeish, you will find your fill of information here.
Overall the book is a fantastic read, massively in-depth, and well researched and a great addition to a library of any Aston Villa fan. My recommendation? Don’t take my word for it, just go out and buy it – you’ll be glad you did.
The book is available at the Aston Villa stores (at Villa Park and the city centre), at W.H. Smith (The Fort) and at Birmingham Waterstones at the cover price (of £29.00). For further information and how to order a postal delivery, please click on the following link to the book on John Lerwill’s web site – http://www.lerwill-life.org.uk/astonvilla/superclub.htm