Thoughts and issues regarding the past and present of a great football club by "The Chronicler".

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Ten Up; Now Let's Get Up!

Ten wins on the trot is a fine achievement no matter at what level of football you are playing, and it also has to be considered a better achievement than the 9 wins accomplished in the top tier in season 1910-11, that was hitherto the club record.

The Villa has had a touch of fortune along the way in decisions that have not gone against us, but we've also had some desperate luck in having suffered the kind of injuries we've had as well as player suspensions. But those enforced absences have shown that we have just enough good players on our books to make the absences affect us in a minimal way. One of the best unforeseen player introductions has been Jed Steer in goal, who has yet to be on a losing side this season. He has not come across as being a great 'keeper (though reasonably competent) but perhaps he has a 'presence' in goal that the defence play up to.

For me I would like to see more of Andre Green. Though I like Albert, his play this season has not been too great, and Green yesterday came on and shone like a beacon with his attempts on goal and his overall commitment. However, perhaps he has not seen more playing time because he generally does show up better coming on as a sub rather than as a match starter. Time for him to make more of his opportunities, I think. As well as Kienan Davis.

As for the whole team, they have become rather classy to watch in their general play, but their ability needs to be matched in the number of goals they score, in my opinion. That lovely dribble by Kodjia put him in a glorious scoring position, but his attempt went wide. As did so many other attempts at scoring when in most cases those attempts should at least have been on target.

But despite all that, 10 successive wins have been achieved, and also the 20th win of the season. Well done the Villa!

Next up it be Leeds, who we cannot catch. Unfortunately. I'd be happy if we get a point from there. There's no need to try too hard with the play-offs looming, for which we have already qualified.

And the play-offs will be a big test, I'm sure, with Leeds and the Albion being amongst the fellow-hopefuls.


Wednesday, 17 April 2019

More About When Aston Villa Started

In Rob Bishop and Frank Holt's book "The Complete Record" (2010), it is stated that the Club's most likely official startup date was in the middle of November, 1874, contrary to the long-accepted assertion that the Club's official start date was March 7, 1874.

Frank Holt (whose research it was) is most certainly correct in most of what he has deduced, as it is known that the Villa played a few matches from at least November, 1874, but nothing has been found before that date. They did not, however, win their first match until March, 1875, the real occasion of the famous 15-a-side match against St. Mary's. This match was formerly believed to have been in March, 1874, but 1875 is now known to be correct.

Hence there seems to be some fabrication that occurred as to when the Villa did start and that seems to be based on a lecture given by one of the co-founders, Jack Hughes, on the occasion of the club's silver jubilee in 1899.

I should mention here that when I was working in the Villa Archives, the diaries of Charles Wheelwright were kept there. Wheelwright wrote as "Brum" in the Athletic News from 1881 right up to its cessation in 1934, and was very close to the Club. His diaries are interesting in that he quotes Villa as having been founded in October, 1874 in his earlier diary, yet by WW1 he is quoting March, 1874 - in response to Jack Hughes' crusade for March, I suspect, or because Hughes had persuaded the Club that March was the date.

Another authority is the respected journalist Sidney Gilbert who says (in his 1893 series of Villa history articles) that Aston Unity were founded in November, 1874 "just after the Villa", and I took it that he meant October as so many other writers of those days quoted October.

Interestingly also, Ian Johnston (in his 1981 book "The Aston Villa Story") intimates that Villa started off proceedings on a Friday evening in October, 1874. From memory, I think that Johnston says that he got that information from a note that was passed to him or handed down to him, or something like that. What they would be doing on a Friday evening in October I don't know, but perhaps they were deciding in a meeting on what they should do before they formed the club. In which case Frank Holt may be spot on as to his mid-November date of official startup: they had decided to do their checks on what football to play etc before they did officially form a club.

Perhaps everyone was quoting "October" back then as that was when the move towards starting a club was initiated, although not yet officially formed.

I'm trying to be conciliatory to Frank Holt here, but the trouble is that it seems we want to reject Jack Hughes' assertions of February/Marc 1874 when things first happened yet by the same token we are willing to accept his account about the Grasshoppers v Handsworth match and other particulars. However, we are lucky that Sidney Gilbert relates the same stories, but is not clear when they happened.

So, at the end of all my writings and gesticulations (!), I remain very open to Frank Holt's findings of mid-November, 1874 when the official foundation took place, but still cannot support it 100% simply because it's so long since the event and not really supported by anything concrete other than logical assertions. Why there should be that attempt to set Villa's foundation so many months earlier still puzzles me somewhat. Perhaps there's something that we don't know about.

The one thing that Jack Hughes says that does ring true is that he was consistently saying that all 15 original members were the founders of the club and not the 4 that met under the gaslamp. It resonates with me particularly because Hughes was himself one of the 4 under the gaslamp, so was clearly not trying to claim special credit.

I blame my grandad, who was living in Lozells near the AV Chapel soon after that time, for this intensive investigation!

(c) 2019 John Lerwill

Saturday, 13 April 2019

It's Good When We're Winning!

Today's win was the Villa's 8th consecutive win on the bounce, which equals the final charge of the 1974-75 season when Villa won their last 8 matches in style to gain promotion that year.

Those 8 wins in the last 8 matches of 1975 will always stand out in my memory, particularly after being at Hillsborough during that run.

Achieving 9 successive wins, though, would not be quite the same thing as the club record of 9 wins in season 1910-11. That 1910-11 side was a really fine team and should have won the championship that year, but was nudged on the post.

But should we get 10 wins on the bounce this season, that would truly be a fine achievement, though, if they can do it.

Nevertheless, we've still got a mountain to climb to get through the play-offs; it's going to be tough, and if they do it (get promotion) they'll be worthy for the Prem.

Actually, seeing that Villa have had quite a lot of misfortune in not having key players available, they have been doing very well these last few games. The team spirit is clearly at a high, and as there's good ability in the team there's no reason to doubt that Villa have a real chance of getting there.


Wednesday, 3 April 2019

I Look To The Owl For Wisdom Here

For Villa to stretch a winning run to 5 games is unusual. And when such a run has transpired before then we usually find that it comes to an end on an away pitch. And this Saturday whose pitch do we play on but that of the Owls, who also have an eye towards reaching the play-offs, and have Steve Bruce as their recently appointed manager.

Added to that, Tammy Abraham has not been putting many away since January and, indeed, has been somewhat profligate with his chances.

If Villa is going to fall, then this fixture has every ingredient for the recipe of such. A draw is the minimum we need to achieve in my view.

But, on the other hand, if Villa win a 6th on the trot then surely it would do everything to raise the confidence of the club and to move on to face another play-off pretender, Bristol City, the next Saturday along. In between, we face a lesser team in the shape of Rotherham, but let's not be fooled into thinking that it's an automatic 3 points. That match is on their ground and they will not want to lose face in front of their own supporters.

And in the last two matches we face the two league leaders.

Let's not be despondent, though! We have won 5 on the trot, and the football Villa is playing is mostly good stuff. The main worry is that we miss too many chances, and if the opposition is tough, then those matches are the ones where we need to take up what's on offer.

At least Villa is in the position it is. A couple of months back it was not so easy to be opti about our chances.