It’s at the Tesco supermarket in a no-mans-land area of Brum that you’ll find the wisdom source of how things are in this city. One of our favourite check-out ladies at the local store is an indifferent follower of football but is married to a Small Heath supporter. Well, ‘indifferent’ or not, just before the derby on Sunday she predicted “2-0 win to Villa”. He said: “Bet yer.” She won £5. Obviously, it pays to be detached from the strife of it all!

But there was clearly a chasm in ability between the two sides in a game that Villa should probably have won 4 or 5-1. I thought that at times we looked a bit profligate, particularly in the first 20 minutes or so of the first half. And if Aguero had been in Hogan’s position when apparently clear in the second half, Aguero would no doubt have spotted the two Villa players totally clear to his left and passed to one of them before he got closed down. But Hogan is not, of course, Aguero. Perhaps Grabban might offer more? For me he physically looked more keen and able when he came on for Hogan; pity he’s already seen 30 years.

Now it’s a case that, having gained the second spot in the table, Villa must work even harder and keep the opposition at bay. Not just Villa but the Midlands needs a morale boost, and if the Albyun is to be relegated, the Premiership would be welcoming back two great Midlands clubs in Wolves and Villa to replace them. And why not Derby as well? As for Albyun, they were not such a good choice for Barry, were they? But it’s not all over yet, and if we can have Albyun, Wolves and Villa in the Premiership next season, all the better. I actually have fond memories of Albyun and their quality of football back in the 50s and 60s when I sometimes used to watch them on alternate weeks with the Villa. Small Heath I rarely visited, but I did have a sneaking admiration for Jimmy Bloomfield, whose younger brother Ray promised at Villa for a time. And Bertie Auld, who went back to Celtic and was a member of the first British European Cup-winning side. Then Small Heath became the retirement home for old Villans like Stan Lynn, Bobby Thomson, Ron Wylie and Slogger: bless ’em all. I found out this week that Ron Wylie is ailing, by the way.

Wylie was another Scot who helped to raise Villa’s profile and served Villa in a number of ways for a very long time, did Ron. He was Eric Houghton’s last signing for Villa, in 1958, having played as a youth under Eric at Notts County until 1953. I remember he seemed to be at the end of his days at Villa when, suddenly, he was picked at wing-half in the 1964-65 season having played nearly always at inside-left before. He was a revelation and played a great game for the rest of the season in that position. He even won the coveted Terrace Trophy for his play and commitment and yet the Villa management then decided that they had enough good midfielders, and so (by then in his 30s) he went to Small Heath. That may have been a reason why Villa got relegated two years later. He came back, of course, to be assistant to Vic Crowe in 1970, and after that era finished (and after some time spent as a manager himself, latterly at Albyun) he returned to Villa once again as a coach, where he was involved at different levels right up to 2000.

Back to the present, Fulham, just like most of the teams Villa have beaten in their 7-game winning run, have ability and ambition to test the Villans, but even though the occasional blip still manifests itself in the Villa defence, Villa will surely have the solidity at the back and enough spark in midfield to create a win. The way the season is going reminds me more and more of the wonderful finish to the 1974-75 promotion season when the young Brian Little (just as Jack is now doing) stepped up to the mark and made the main difference. It would be nice if Jack could start scoring a few more himself, but he has been very close several times.

Thinking back further on 1974-75, Ron Saunders seemed to think that experience with a touch of youth was a good idea. In the latter stages of the season, the veteran Charlie Aitken was still at left-back with John Robson as his partner from top-tier Derby. Wing-half and skipper Ian Ross had been signed from Liverpool two years before (where he played well in European football), with big Chris Nicholl and the tough Leighton Phillips forming the centre-back pairing. Forward there was ‘Chico’ Hamilton, who had been with Villa nearly six years at that point, signed by Tommy Docherty. There was also Ray Graydon (the scoring winger) and Frank Carrodus, with Keith Leonard (from non-league football) the spearhead. Mainly a very experienced bunch, with Little being the only youngster who really made his mark at that time, though John Gidman’s firework injury had been the main reason for his exclusion at first. But by then there was a successful youth development programme and some youth were played in 1974-75.

It seems to me that youth must be the way forward. Lifers have already made the point that a number of the experienced members of the current squad are unlikely to meet Villa’s need to stabilise in the club’s first season back. In fact, I can only think of Chester and Grealish as being automatic selections, with Terry and Hutton unlikely to be here after the current season, and Johnstone uncertain, though I’m happy about Steer. Of the remainder, Albert and Snoddy might last a little while, as might Kodjia and Hogan. Birkir I’m unsure about. The rest? Mmmmm. I recall 1975-76 being a testing time in our first year back then, but then a certain Andy Gray and Dennis Mortimer arrived. And more youth also took a bow and became stars, as I suspect will be the case after this season.



I know you will enjoy my latest book, “The Villa Way – 1874-1944”. Please look into my bookshop (click here) and purchase a copy. 

Michael of Herne Bay says: “Being a villa fan, I thoroughly enjoyed John Lerwill’s latest publication on my club. I have all of John’s publications to date, and they take pride of place in my ‘Villa Library'”.

Alan says: “The Villa Way 1874-1944 is just the thing for Villa supporters of all ages and I can’t wait for a sequel, if there is one..”

Comments 57

  1. Steve Round says:

    “The big test will be if we get promoted. There are tiers in the Premier League. But the owner has always said it’s a stage process.

    “You cannot go historically from promotion to, for example, sixth in the Premier League straight away.

    “You have to step up the ladder incrementally. That’s the plan and aim. It’s incremental rises all the time.

    “When I came in, we were third bottom. We are now second. It’s taken almost 18 months to get there.

    “It’s making sure we can get this club over the line in terms of getting promoted, that is our sole focus on the field at the moment then we need push on from there.”

  2. Steve Rounds comments may have something to do with what’s happened at the Albyun where their Chairman and CEO got the tin tack. An article in today’s Guardian questions Albyun’s motives asking how such a move can possibly help them avoid relegation.

    The author of the article obviously has no idea how a Chinese mind works because they are always focused on making money. As much as possible. But 2 Albyun board members have let the owner down and what’s happened is just revenge and nothing else. It is punishment for failure. So Round and Wyness know what’s hanging over them. They therefore talk as JL quotes above.

  3. Plug,

    I know what you mean and about the Chinese. However, before Christmas he was talking in terms of he accepting that promotion might not be this season. But if we fail now he might not be so relaxed!

  4. Good article, John. Thank you.

    It will have to be incremental, indeed. Just staying up obviously job one. Assuming we get up.

    And like you, not entirely sure who can cut the mustard besides Jack and James. And Jack likely won’t look quite so clever at the next level. Maybe…He’ll be good, but I’m not counting on him taking the league by storm.

    If the team’s well and truly gelled, I guess the question is basically which three sides in the PL could we finish above at the moment? Barring the ones going down, of course.

    I wish it had all come together a bit sooner and we could’ve seen some more of De Laet, Bree, etc. I think it’ll be a hard go for O’Hare to get much time, or Doyle-Hayes or RHM. Elmo probably doesn’t have enough anymore, though he could be serviceable. Snodgrass might have enough, and Albert, like you say, for a season.

    Anyway, long day, and the permutations are a bit too much for me at the moment!

  5. JC: “I wish it had all come together a bit sooner…”

    Oh yes. But it’s been a big effort to get as far as we have not at all aided by the injuries to Codger and Jack, and others too including the Jedi. Plus Hogan not coming into the picture until late.

    The season has been a bit strange, but how lucky we were that Albert popped up as the right ime to put a few away, as also Davis who started as a revelation but (though a great target man) can’t find the scoring instinct right now.

  6. A year ago this week we lost 1-3 at home to Barnsley leaving us all spitting vipers. What a difference a year makes.

    The team against small heath on Sunday differed very little from the one beaten by Barnsley. There were just 4 different faces. JT, Elmo, Jedi and Snoddy replacing Baker, Amavi, Lansbury and Codger.

    I think the youth is indeed the way forward, but what happens next season doesn’t matter right now. We have a promotion to grab. Starting with Fulham. We need a result. Forget small heath, it’s time to take down the Cottagers.

  7. you know what

    we are a club with a plan and it was always going to take time. but we are doing everything right.

    said it in the dark days. s**t tricles down hill…..the cr*p from randy at the top filtered to the pitch but now the goodness from the dr is trickling down to the pitch.

    we have our villa back.

    may not be this season but continue doing the right things are time will come.


  8. fox was on 3mill a year 🙂

    Keith on 348k.

    This new coach is superb with the youth….worked at all stages eng u21, 18s etc.

    Long term we will have plenty of youth coming through.

    Apparently at u18 level we have been making great signings.

    finally have scouts 🙂

  9. 15 Cup finals to go and hitting form at the right time(ish) there’s potential for blips but the confidence levels the last seven games will bring means there only requires an effort to not get ahead of ourselves and win the game s first.

    Great bits of news around philosophy of the club coming out and how well are we being managed given we are in the second division with less income that losses have reduced from the significant to the immaterial.

    Hello everybody!

  10. Excellent leader JL, with great follow up comments, which all took me back to my final Villa seasons, before moving to Wales in the autumn of 1977, and my final year as a season ticket holder in the Trinity Road stand. Now, after reaching retirement age, I have now been back as a season ticket holder on the Holte End, where I spent my young days watching Villa, when we were such a proud side, even in defeat.

    My feeling about when the feeling of the present failure started, is when a young Alex Ferguson, led Man Utd to the first Premier league title, which at one stage had been ours for the taking, and history would have recorded that once again Villa were the first to win such an important trophy in the new world of football. We of course, fell away at the crucial time, with the failure of Saunders and Atkinson to score, when big Ron persisted with them, rather than drop them to the reserves for a couple of games, to regain their confidence.

    From then on Villa, had their moments, but always failed, when it came to the crunch. No one manager is to blame. O’neill, Lambert and Sherwood all failed, when they had opportunities to be different. I wont include McCleish or Remi Garde, as they never had proper opportunities.

    We can blame the chairmen that have ruled us, as Doug had his heart in the right place, but did not see the mistake he made, in not demanding that Atkinson win the first Premiership, and making sure he had the where with all to do it. He then chose Randy, rather than the Sheikhs.

    Randy tried, but did not have a clue about the difference between the game of soccer, and how it is a totally different ball game to American football. He was also sold down the river a little by Doug and his advice I feel, with him eventually giving up on Villa as a project, but to be fair, he kept his word, and found Dr Tony, someone who would respect being the guardian of Aston Villa.

    For the future, I feel we may be underestimating some of our players that we have now. I am sure as the season progresses, we will see a little more use of our young players, in games where they can make a difference. Johnstone, I am sure, will become a Villa player, if we are promoted, or I should say when we are promoted, as this team now has my confidence to achieve the once impossible dream, which is why I now have the current team shirt…!!!

    James Chester, Jack Grealish, Snodgrass, Hogan, Sulliman, Bree, Hourihane, Bjarnason, Green, Adomah, O’Hare, Davis, McKirdy, Doyle-Hayes, Sarkic and several others are ready, or almost ready for the future, and will also have had a complete summer to bond, blend and work together, with all the older and more experienced players still being part of the future, until they are moved on. There are also other players that may still be part of the future, who are out on loan abroad. Villa could have a wealth of talent before they need to buy.

  11. Dean Tindall wrote on the Claret & Blue blog about his Dad, Mike Tindall, who is very ill with Dimentia, and other things, enjoying the result of the derby game, remembering when he scored all those years ago.

    He was part of the half back line with the late Alan Deakin and John “Tulip” Sleeuwenhoek , and one of the “Mercers Minors”.

  12. Hi DOR,

    Good to see you back, and great to see Frem commenting again on an earlier post. Maybe we can get Steamer 75 and Jenny Truman commenting again…!!

    Where is BroBrasil and a few more too…!!

  13. Non Villa life took over, work etc getting in the way that and us winning 7 on the trot, nothing to complain about.

    I do need to acknowledge JL who’s early season patience looks to be proven correct, you can’t beat wisdom.

    Hope everyone is well and enjoying Villa life

  14. PP: “history would have recorded that once again Villa were the first to win such an important trophy”

    Yes, but interestingly we were also runner-up in the first season of the Football league. (1888-89).

    Now *that’s* a record no-one else can beat!

    Yes, it’s sad about Mike Tindall. he was a lovely ball player actually, though a tad slow. But he was the first I saw in my time at VP who was able to play a good through-ball. Phil Woosnam followed in that department pretty quickly, and then Ian Hamilton (remember him?) . So even though the 60s were spent generally fighting against the tide, we did see some decent footballers then.

    I read some time ago that Mike Tindall admitted he was a bit of the Jack-the-Lad in the 60s, then on uncapped wages, but of course he became an avangelist! Was even arrested while preaching in the wrong place in an east European place some years ago.

  15. DO’R,

    I for one have missed your erudite and well-written comments.

    As to your compliment about wisdon, I’m afraid that it was simply that as soon as I felt there was some serious endeavour going on at VP that it was more likely to be OK in the end. They have been doing a lot of work to get a good atmosphere back at VP and the effort has lately been paying off.

    Still 15 Cup Finals to go (as Plug has described it)!, however! 😀

  16. Hello DOR good to see you back been wondering how you’ve been as the last time you posted was in the last period of wins before the December fun, I can imagine like me your glad to see an outbreak of Football.

    Thought Rounds interview had some interesting bits and some very predictable stuff typical of a man in his position. The future stuff looks good but is just that and unlikely to bear fruit straight away if we go up (due to the no experience clause) but will be handy if we have to sell the crown jewels and rebuild in the champs. The fact the club is now boxing clever financially is good news either way.

    Been thinking about our striker crisis this season, The early season crisis was imo more down to not playing to Hogans strengths and putting our eggs in Kodjia’s broken ankle basket. Kodjia once back showed he could play as a link player at least for a couple of matches until he seemed to decide to get greedy again. His partnership with Adomah early on looked promising and the opposite of last season but was similar to Grealish’s now. Who knows how he would of fared if not injured but I think the team had changed so much his lack of team play would of hampered us in what was to come? I hope he comes back and tempers his game like grealish has but I doubt he can fully. while generally he is deemed a loss I think he may not have been in as much as we think.

  17. Im just glad we have an actual structure in place and proper football people working for us again.


    Re hogan, i just think the lad needed to have a run of games and keep fit. This is his first time fit and regularly starting games. Players got to get to know each other and link. What we are srarting to have for the first time and all good sides have is partnerships all over the pitch.

    Terry and hutton on that left side get on very well. Elmo and snod going down the right. And now adomah jack hogan linkng well.

  18. Andrew,

    I entirely agree with your remarks regarding Hogan, and the same can be applied to Bjarnason, who once fully fit dedicated himself, and has blended well with his centre-backs and the mid-field. It was part of the point I was making about how improvement is continuing, now that the young players are training with the first team squad, making it a smooth transition to step up, when required.

    The coming months can only see the continuing improvement of the whole squad, and a complete summer to build on as well, before a season in the Premiership. This will be something Villa has not had for a long, long time.

  19. Andrew/Paul,

    You make very good points.

    However, f.w.i.w. I think we currently only have less than half-a-team of players that will be good enough to keep us safe in the Prem first season back.

    But that can all change of course.

  20. Andrew- certainly helps having a run of games and fitness but Hogan had a pre-season and was in the first 16 matchday squads, if it was as simple as a run of games he’d have got twenty wouldn’t he by now? something has drastically changed since Jan in the way we get the ball to him, its quicker for one thing. Davis was included because he could hold the ball up for others and bring them into play not his goal scoring, Hogan couldn’t play the way we were asking him earlier in the season with long balls to his head etc and the crosses were a long way from the pinpoint whipped in variety we see now.

  21. Agree about partner ships but again we have had those most of the season but its never worked as a whole before, no good pressing on your own, the team now works as a unit, previously it didn’t imo.

  22. Hope we’re not counting chickens here.
    We’ve had an amazing run but it won’t last forever and we’ve seen how a series of other teams have looked secure for promotion and then dropped away.
    Bruce has the ‘been there done that’ badge though so I don’t think he’ll let the players relax and JT doesn’t look like the type to let them ease up either.
    Excited but still nervous for the last 15 run in
    Win on Saturday and that’s one more possible contender out of the running but they’ll be right up for it too of course

  23. Totally agree robbo but also feel more confident that the team is more adaptive to teams and harder to pin down as we saw on Sunday when they tried to take out snodgrass and jack. Fulham have a great midfield I hope Bruce doesn’t fall back into old ways as I feel we can match them but have more up top than them.

  24. Mark

    yes I agree we look better as a team and somethings clicked.

    Reading about agnew last night and bruce wanted him as soon as he took over but had to wait to get him.

    Calderwood sounds like rounds appointment.

  25. Mark

    I def don’t think we should play jedi, as you say fulhmas mid is decent.

    we need legs and mobility.

    Defo play bjanson but maybe tempted to play 2 in there…drop hourihan and play the utd kid next to bjanson?

  26. Andrew- calderwood I can imagine was the response to our defensive problems and Bruce’s need to concentrate on the jan window last year. I like that pairing but a very important game to change things to much. Let’s hope that those injury’s are slight and bit of a smoke screen .

  27. Can I ask why the Oasis song has taken hold at VP, no issue with Oasis, the two Gallagher boys knew how to put out a foot tapper but I haven’t got a bog’s notion why why can’t pick up a song by the many brilliant bands to come out of Birmingham and surrounding area.

    How about Dexy’s Geno and change Geno to Villa?

  28. Not confident predicting without one of my trusty balls in my hand DOR but as I’m in a coffee shop that’s not possible 🙂
    If pushed I feel a 1-0 coming through though hogan second half. If either team score early it wil be a tough game to get back into and more will follow. If jack and Adomah are truly crocked it will be a toss up wether to start green, onamah is bound to start in jacks place though. Personally I’d go with hourihane there and Thor as the box to box with jedinak and green out wide.

  29. It’s in the title dor
    Don’t look back etc,
    Could of been worse could of been cigarettes and alcohol.
    Bruce’s pick was paranoid wyness wanted telephone line
    And dr Xia wanted mr blue sky , Jl wanted strange magic, sorry Jl 🙂

  30. SB is not sounding too comfortable about being in P2 with 15 games to go. Says he’d rather be there with 6 games to go. Me? I’d rather be 6 points clear of 3rd with 6 games left.

    With a third of the season still remaining, we are hardly in the home straight yet. So we should just continue to chase Wolves and the rest ought to look after itself.

    Maybe 1-1 tomorrow. COYVB.

  31. Plug- yes he didn’t sound to happy perhaps he gets nose bleeds 🙂

    DOR- I fancied don’t bring me down by ELO earlier in the season especially the chorus

    Don’t bring me down, groos
    Don’t bring me down, groos
    Don’t bring me down, groos
    Don’t bring me down

    From Wiki

    Misheard lyric
    A common mondegreen in the song is the perception that, following the title line, Lynne shouts “Bruce!”. In the liner notes of the ELO compilation Flashback and elsewhere, Lynne has explained that he is singing a made-up word, “Grooss,” which some have suggested sounds like the German expression “Gruß.” After the song’s release, so many people had misinterpreted the word as “Bruce” that Lynne actually began to sing the word as “Bruce” for fun at live shows.

  32. AVFC’s accounts published for season 2016-17. Losses trimmed to £14.5 million. Revenue down about £25 million and total salary bill down to £53.8 million in a turnover of £73.8 million. 4

    These are not overly bad results. Could have been much worse except for net gains on transfers. So given that and the fact we are P2, have to say not bad work Mr Spud.

  33. yup from a good source too Andrew, unless he has a miracle recovery over night. I see Mr Bruce has said Hutton will be given a contract if we go up but otherwise no which hints he will be here himself next season.

  34. If Adomah is definitely out I would resist playing the viking out wide. It’s not his position. If Green is unavailable then I’d put Grabban out wide and reinstate the viking as holding midfielder with Jedi on the bench. Onomah for Jack if he doesn’t make it.

  35. Plug
    Makes sense. To me, Grealish could do with a week off to rest any injury. He’s been so pivotal and with 15 games to go. Shame Adomah is injured. He’s positive for the claret & blues.

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