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Overall History & Timeline
There is no other football club that is both so old and so rich in history.

In 1981, Aston Villa had still won more domestic honours than any other club. In 1982, the club won the European Cup and throughout the 1990s was a leading club in the top-flight of English football. It is one of only three clubs to be founder-members of both the Football League (1888-89) and the Premiership (1992-93). On both occasions Villa were league runners-up - a unique record. Also winners of the inaugural Football League Cup (1960-61) and from 1896-97 until 1960-61 were one of only two teams to have won the championship and F.A. cup in one season - the famous 'Double'.
 
It would not be an exaggeration to say that over the long period of its existence, Aston Villa has proved itself to be the Midlands' only consistently achieving club. But, more than that, the club was the main standard by which football as we know it stabilised and grew as a spectator sport. In 1913, The Evening News stated:
 

"Aston Villa is the biggest news on the football canvas.
It is, in fact, a household word - one of the few the game has produced.
At the start of the League - Aston Villa.
After 25 seasons - [still] Aston Villa."

"The League" - the Football League - had, in fact, been created by the work of William McGregor (an officer of Aston Villa), supported by other members of Aston Villa. By 1915 the club was world famous and was the first club entitled to be called a 'Superclub' after dominating football for over 20 years.
 
The club's successes continued, though spasmodically, but even when not winning trophies the club has been a foremost challenger for major honours during nearly all of the competitive history of the game - since before professional football was legalised (1885) in fact. Aston Villa is statistically among the top-6 English clubs since the start of the Premier League in 1992, and has provided more players to the England team than any other club, the first being in 1882.

 
The club's ground, Villa Park, stands on what was once called 'Aston Lower Grounds' - the left (western) side of which was called "the magnificent meadow", where the Villa played a number of matches from the 1870s before Villa Park was opened in 1897. Across the road from Villa Park (in Trinity Road) is Aston Park, the exact location of where Villa played some of their first matches from 1874. This Park forms the grounds of the nearby Aston Hall which was built in the 1600s by the Holte family. The Holte name is still remembered in the famous 'Holte End' - traditionally the end of Villa Park where the most vociferous of the club's supporters are situated.
 
Click here for more about Villa Park.
 
Timeline of Significant Events

1874      Club Formed (in March).
1875-76	  George Ramsay arrives & becomes captain.
1876      First permanent ground (Perry Barr).
1877	  Arrival of William McGregor.
1878	  Arrival of Archie Hunter.
          Introduction of the lion as the club's
          logo and "Prepared" as their motto.
1879-80   First entered F.A. Cup.
          First won Birmingham Senior Cup.
          The Club and its Followers from now on
          known as "the Villans".
1880	  Archie Hunter becomes captain.
1885      The club turned professional
1886      William McGregor leads a re-organisation
          of the club's administration.
          George Ramsay appointed first full-time
          club secretary. 
1886-87   F.A. Cup Winners (First Midland winners)
1887      Claret and light blue become the club's
          colours, based on the Cup-winning colours
          of chocolate and sky blue.

1888      Villa's William McGregor founder of the
          Football League and its first chairman.
1888-89   Founder member of Football League
          Football League runner-up
1891-92   F.A. Cup Finalists
1893      (Feb) Fred Rinder leads a re-organisation
          of the club's administration
1893      Joe Grierson appointed as trainer.
          He oversees Villa's 
          first 6 championship wins
1893-94   Football League Champions
1894-95   F.A. Cup Winners (2nd time)
1895-96   Football League Champions (2nd time)
1896      (Jan) Limited company formed;
	  J.Margoschis the first chairman in
          this business form.
          Share capital raised for Villa Park.
1896-97   Football League Champions (3rd time)
          F.A. Cup Winners (3rd time)
          [Second winners of the 'Double'
          & the last till 1960-61]
1897      Villa Park opened
          Villa's John Devey first (co-)chairman
          of the PFA
1898      Fred Rinder Chairman of Aston Villa.
1898-99   Football League Champions (4th time)
1899-00   Football League Champions (5th time)
1900-01   F.A. Cup semi-finalists
1902-03   Football League runner-up
          F.A. Cup semi-finalists
1904-05   F.A. Cup Winners (4th time)
1906      (Sep) the Villa News
           & Record is launched.
1907-08   Football League runner-up
1909-10   Football League Champions (6th time)
1910-11   Football League runner-up
1912-13   F.A. Cup Winners (5th time)
          Football League runner-up
1913-14   Football League runner-up
          F.A. Cup semi-finalists
1915-19   WW1: No League nor F.A. Cup
1919-20   F.A. Cup Winners (6th time)
1923-24   F.A. Cup Finalists
1925      Opposition causes Fred Rinder to resign
          from the Board, ending 32 years in office.
1926      George Ramsay retires after 40 years.
1928-29   F.A. Cup semi-finalists
1930-31   Football League runner-up
          Record number of league goals: 128
          (still the record for the top division)
1932-33   Football League runner-up
1933-34   F.A. Cup semi-finalists
1934      First Professional Team Manager appointed.
1935      (Nov) Death of George Ramsay.
1935-36   Relegated to Division Two (1st relegation)
1936      Board of Directors replaced, with
          Fred Rinder returning after 11 years.
1937-38   Football League Division Two Champions
          Promoted to Division One
          F.A. Cup semi-finalists
1938      (Dec) Death of Fred Rinder.
1939-45   WW2: No League nor F.A. Cup
1944      Winners of Wartime League Cup (North)
1946      Gate record of 76,588 against Derby
          in the F.A. Cup
1956-57   F.A. Cup Winners (7th time)
1958-59   F.A. Cup semi-finalists
          Relegated to Division Two
1959-60   Football League Division Two Champions
          Promoted to Division One
          F.A. Cup semi-finalists
1960-61   Inaugural Football League Cup winners
1962-63   Football League Cup Finalists
1964-65   Football League Cup semi-finalists
1966      A host ground for World Cup finals
1966-67   Relegated to Division Two
1968      (Dec) The club is saved from financial
          ruin in a takeover. The reign of Doug
          Ellis begins, interrupted only by a
          short period at the end of the 70s.
1969-70   Relegated to Division Three
1970-71   Football League Cup Finalists
1971-72   Football League Division Three Champions
          Promoted to Division Two
1974-75   Football League Cup Winners (2nd time)
          Football League Division Two runner-up
          Promoted to Division One
1975-76   First Entry to European Competition (UEFA Cup)
1976-77   Football League Cup Winners (3rd time)
1977-78   UEFA Cup quarter finalists
1980-81   Football League Champions (7th time)
1981-82   European Cup Winners
1982-83   European Super Cup Winners
          European Cup quarter finalists
1983-84   Football League Cup semi-finalists
1985-86   Football League Cup semi-finalists
1986-87   Relegated to Division Two
1987-88   Football League Division Two runner-up
          Promoted to Division One
1989-90   Football League runner-up

1992-93   Founder member of F.A. Premier League
          F.A. Premier League runner-up
1993-94   Football League Cup Winners (4th time)
1994      Villa Park becomes all-seater
1995-96   Football League Cup Winners (5th time)
          F.A. Cup semi-finalists
1996      A host ground for European Nations Cup
1997      The club lists on Stock Exchange (a PLC)
1997-98   UEFA Cup quarter finalists
1999-00   F.A. Cup Finalists
          Football League Cup semi-finalists
2003-04   Football League Cup semi-finalists
2006      Mr. Ellis' reign as chairman at end
          after 24 years, and at Villa since
          1968, except 1979-82. American 
          Mr. Lerner takes over as sole owner,
          and club delists from Stock Exchange.
2009-10   Football League Cup Finalists
          F.A. Cup semi-finalists
2012-13   Football League Cup semi-finalists

 
 
Origin of the 'Aston Villa' name (click)
 
There was no specific founder of the club. The football club has its origins in The Aston Villa Wesleyan Chapel Cricket Club, which had been started two years previously (1872), and from the chapel's bible class 15 of its members began the soccer team.
 
It's unclear when Aston Villa played their first football game. One of the original members, Jack Hughes, stated many, many years later that Villa did play in March 1874, but other evidence suggests that it was the autumn of 1874. On record is what is popularly perceived to be their first game, against Aston Brook St. Mary's Rugby Club, who only agreed to the game if they could play rugby for the first 45 minutes and "association football" (abbreviated to form the word 'soccer', to differentiate this football game from rugby) for the second. Both sides fielded fifteen men and the Villa side held out for a 0-0 draw during the first half. Villa won the game with the only goal scored by Jack Hughes, of the second half playing the now very extinct 3-4-7 formation. This match is now known not to have been the first they played but the first that they won!
 
In 1876, George Burrell Ramsay walked through Aston Park at the same moment that Aston Villa were holding a practice match. The Scotsman arrived in Birmingham in around 1871 to work as a clerk in a brass foundry. He was 21 years old when he came across that Villa practice match deep in the winter of 1875-76. He asked to play a game after noticing that one side was a man short. Despite his small build he dazzled the other players with his dribbling skills and ball control. Such were the skills of the small Scotsman that he was immediately appointed captain, taught the Wesleyans how to play, led them to their first trophy win, the Birmingham Senior Cup in 1880, and their first run in the F.A. Cup the same year. By 1886 he was Club Secretary and steered Villa to their greatest triumphs until he retired in 1926. Then he became a vice-president and served the club that way until his death in late 1935, about 60 years since he became a 'Villan'. Remarkably, Villa were relegated for the first time at the end of the season in which Ramsay died.
 
Archie Hunter became Villa's first real playing legend and was club captain for a number of years from the 1870s and into the first years of the Football League. Tragically, Archie Hunter suffered a heart attack while playing for Villa against Everton in 1890 and never fully recovered, dying four years later. Hunter's headstone on his grave reads, 'This monument is erected in loving memory of Archie Hunter, the famous captain of Aston Villa, by his football comrades and the club as a lasting tribute to his ability on the field and his sterling worth as a man'.
 
The influx of great architects at Villa did not stop with Ramsay and Hunter. Another Scotsman, William McGregor came to work in Birmingham in 1870 and not only organisationally served Villa well from 1877 until his death in 1911 (saving the club from bankruptcy in 1886), but also became the founder and first Chairman of the Football League in 1888. In the early 1890s, Frederick Rinder - a member of the club since 1881 - made a great impact in pushing through a reform of the club that heralded a wonderful period of Villa success. Rinder became Chairman in 1898 (until 1925). Rinder's rise to fame was soon followed by the Trainer, Joe Grierson who coached the first team through all their glory years until 1915.
 
See a popup of the Early History of the Villa as sketched by Norman Edwards, famed cartoonist with the local Evening Despatch and Sports Argus

1891 also saw the arrival of John Devey , the man who would captain two Cup winning teams and five League Champions in eight years at the helm. In 1897, Devey also became the first of a pair of chairmen of the fledgling PFA, and later became assistant to Grierson before becoming a Villa club director.
 
Other remarkable players during this time were Howard Spencer ("Prince of Full Backs") who took over the captaincy from John Devey and who also captained England, followed by Joe Bache as Villa captain. Joe Bache's career mirrored that of 'Appy Harry Hampton, a remarkable goalscorer. Before the First World War came upon the world, Sam Hardy joined Villa - he is reputed to have been one of the greatest-ever goalkeepers. Sam and Clem Stephenson, who left Villa to lead Huddersfield to marvellous triumphs in the mid-1920s, are listed amongst the greatest 100 British players, in common with other Villa greats Archie Hunter and (the much later) Danny Blanchflower and Paul McGrath.
 
With the passing of World War One, two more of the greatest Villa players appeared on the scene: Frank Moss (snr) and Billy Walker. Both of these were to captain England and in Billy Walker's case he shattered the records for number of club and England appearances and remains Villa's highest career goalscorer even though he switched from being a striker to playmaker mid-way through his long career. Amongst other highly notable players from ca. 1928 were Jimmy Gibson, 'Pongo' Waring and Eric Houghton. Villa had extremely good seasons in 1930-31 and 1932-33 (league runners-up both times, and in 1930-31 Villa set a top-flight season's scoring record with 128 goals).
 
The mid-1930s saw a decline in the club's fortunes and the club's first relegation at the end of the 1935-36 season. George Cummings joined the club and ultimately became one of Villa's greatest full-backs and captain, and is famed for generally getting the better over Stanley Matthews. The then famed Jimmy Hogan became Villa's manager during this time, and planned Villa's rise back to the top by the start of World War Two. He developed Frank Broome's skills and fashioned a good footballing side. Hogan came back to coach Villa's youngsters in the early 1950s. Another fine player was Alex Massie, who went on to become Villa's team manager 1945 to 1949.

 
The years immediately following World War Two were not remarkable and Villa had ceased to win trophies since 1920 until a return to winning ways in 1957, Villa's seventh F.A. cup triumph. However, the post-war years had seen a few great players such as Trevor Ford and Danny Blanchflower, and also Johnny Dixon, who had a long Villa career and led the '57 cup triumph under the management of old Villa star Eric Houghton. It was Eric Houghton who introduced a young hard-shooting left-winger like himself, Peter McParland, who starred for Villa until the early 60s. He also signed one of Villa's greatest ever goalkeepers, Nigel Sims, and after the '57 cup win, the marvellous striker, Gerry Hitchens
 
Joe Mercer replaced Eric Houghton as manager in the middle of the 1958-59 season, but relegation was not to be avoided. However, there was a good cup run to the semi-finals, when Villa were beaten by Billy Walker's Notts Forest. Villa obtained immediate promotion in 1959-60, during which there had been some marvellous matches, in particular the 11-1 win over Charlton Athletic, followed by two 5-0 wins. 21 goals were scored in three matches, with Hitchens scoring 10 of them, and another cup run to the semi-finals. Hitchens went on to score 29 league goals (and 42 overall) in the next season back in First Division. This record led to the first of his England caps before his transfer to Inter-Milan of Italy.
 
With the retirement of Johnny Dixon and the departure of Hitchens (followed not long after by McParland), there was a break-up and re-building of the Villa side using young players, and these became known as Mercer's Minors. The most notable of these were Charlie Aitken (who holds the record for the most club appearances), Alan Deakin, John Sleeuwenhoek and Harry Burrows. However, they were joined by the seasoned and talented midfielder Phil Woosnam, and then young goalscorer Tony Hateley, who both had very successful seasons until their departure at the start of the 1966-67 season, the season that led to relegation and ultimately to further relegation to the Third Division.
 
In 1968 the club came very close to formal bankruptcy, but towards the end of the year, a consortium retrieved the situation and a certain Doug Ellis started his long executive career with the club! During this time, Bruce Rioch provided his very useful midfield and shooting skills before transfer to then high-flying Derby County, and there were marvellous times during the period of return to the top-flight, accomplished in 1975. Ray Graydon was another noteworthy stalwart, as were Andy Lochhead, John Robson, Ian Ross and Chris Nicholl , with the evergreen Charlie Aitken still playing his part. 'Chico' Hamilton was another popular player who remained with Villa from their nadir to their return to the top-flight.
 
See a popup of an article from The Times, February, 1972.
 
There was a plus-side to Villa being in the lower reaches in the early 70s. Wherever Villa went there were record crowds, and the Villa faithful were ever-confident that return to the top-flight was but a matter of time. Which it was! Ron Saunders appointment as manager in 1974 had proved to be a master-stroke!
 
The period immediately prior to the return to the First Division also saw the influx of marvellous young players from the youth ranks, initially John Gidman and Brian Little, followed by Gordon Cowans, John Deehan, Gary Williams and Gary Shaw. After arriving in the First Division, there were also some great signings such as Andy Gray and Dennis Mortimer, and some exuberant matches including the 5-goal demolition of both Arsenal and Liverpool in 1976-77 in the process of finishing in fourth place in the league, as well as winning the League Cup. Ron Saunders was keen to make improvements, and though Andy Gray and others left, in came other momentous signings such as Allan Evans, Ken McNaught, Des Bremner, Tony Morley and goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer. In 1980, the final chink was in place with the signing of striker Peter Withe, and Villa ended 1980-81 with the league championship for the first time in 71 years. This was accomplished with the use of just 14 players.
 
The following season (1981-82) saw Villa playing in the European Cup for the first time (though they had played in the UEFA Cup since 1975), and not only playing in but winning it (against Bayern Munich)! Although the final was more of a rearguard action (and with young 'keeper Nigel Spink needed to come in to replace Jimmy Rimmer only minutes into the game. Spink played a hero's role!), Villa's play in some of the earlier rounds was highly spectacular. What was more astonishing, however, was that Ron Saunders left his job before Villa had got to the final, and the remaining steps were achieved under Tony Barton' s control. This great triumph was followed the following year by winning on aggregate the 2-leg Super Cup against Barcelona.
 
By now, Doug Ellis had strengthened his position and had become Chairman, a post he still held over 20 years later. His control seemed only to put Villa into reverse for a few years, culminating with relegation following 1986-87. Graham Taylor came into the manager's job and was instrumental in getting Villa back somewhere close to their proper position by 1989-90, when the club were runners-up to Liverpool in the league. His marvellous signings included Paul McGrath and David Platt (who went on to exceed Billy Walker's long-standing record of England caps), and also the re-signing of Gordon Cowans following his sojourn in Italy.
 
Taylor left for the England manager's post in 1990 and, following the coming and going of Dr. Venglos, old Villan Ron Atkinson took the Villa post and motivated his re-built Villa team into runners-up spot in the first season of the Premiership (1992-93), behind Manchester United. During his tenure, Atkinson brought in several fine players, and the strike partnership of Dean Saunders and Dalian Atkinson (his namesake!) was often spectacular. Spoilt for choice, Spink and Mark Bosnich were in strong competition for the 'keeper's post. In 1994, Villa had a fine League Cup trophy win over Manchester United, led by the very experienced skipper Kevin Richardson. Another Atkinson signing was Steve Staunton from Liverpool, and though Staunton returned to Liverpool in the late 90s, he came back to Villa and celebrated over 100 Irish caps in the 2002 World Cup Finals, during which he captained his country. In the mid-90s, Villa had McGrath, Staunton, Houghton and Townsend all representing Villa for the successful Irish team.
 
Doug Ellis' ruthlessness was in evidence again when the team started slipping, and the fine old Villan Brian Little took up the managerial reins. With Paul McGrath nearing the end of his days, Little performed a miraculous purchase and conversion of midfielder Gareth Southgate into a centre-back. Southgate overtook Platt's recent new record and became Villa's most capped England international with 42 caps. Further, Dwight Yorke (brought from Trinidad as a youngster by Graham Taylor) was made into a specialist striker, and was so successful that Manchester United eventually bought him, and the fee for that sale in 1998 remained a Villa record for more than 10 years.
 
Ian Taylor is to-day remembered as a hero from that period, not only for his whole-hearted play, but because he was brought up a Villa fan and cheered on his team from the terraces. Andy Townsend was a worthy captain during Little's time, which saw another League Cup triumph in 1996 against Leeds United.
 
Little's reign was replaced by that of yet another old Villan, John Gregory, in early 1998. Initially, Gregory favoured a home-nations approach to the extent that his 1998-99 team selection was often all-English, and former youth players Lee Hendrie, Gareth Barry and Darius Vassell made their mark. Popular and skilful signings included Dion Dublin and Paul Merson. Later, however, foreign players were targeted by Gregory, including record signing Juan Pablo Angel. Also George Boeteng and Olof Mellberg, being the best of the other signings.
 
Gregory left in early 2002 to be followed by the return of Graham Taylor. Taylor enjoyed a one-year sojourn and was replaced by David O'Leary in 2003. This mercurial Irishman was shown the door after another inconsequential period in the summer of 2006, to be followed by Martin O'Neill, and also by the acquisition of the club by American Randy Lerner, ending Doug Ellis' long spell in charge.
 
Martin O'Neill continued with star defenders Martin Laursen and Wilfred Bouma who had been bought by O'Leary, but otherwise made many changes in the Villa's ranks. Mellberg stayed to the end of the 2007-08 season, but in the following season, both Laursen and Bouma sustained serious injuries. Laursen had to retire at the end of the season. Bouma also had to retire in 2010.
 
O'Neill brought Gareth Barry's talents to the fore to the extent that he regained his England position, but this time as a midfielder, and gradually brought in new players - sometimes at a considerable investment - to bring his team up to the required quality. In both seasons 2007-08 and 2008-09, sixth position was obtained in the League, and indications were that the Club would grow to better things despite Barry being sold to Manchester City in the summer of 2009 for a fee about equivalent to Dwight Yorke's fee in 1998.
 
2009-10 saw another sixth-place finish, but much better progression in the two domestic cups. Villa were defeated in the final of the League Cup and then were put out in the semi-final of the FA Cup. Thus Villa reached Wembley in both competitions. Another star player - James Milner - was transferred to Gareth Barry's new club (Manchester City) for a package deal which involved Stephen Ireland coming to Villa.
 
Season 2010-11 began with the surprise departure of Martin O'Neill and a difficult season followed. In 2011, Ashley Young and Stuart Downing were both transferred for big fees after Villa had bought striker Darren Bent for a club-record fee in January.
 
With the departure of manager Gerard Houllier through ill-health after the 2010-11 season, Villa escalated their re-structuring process to meet new financial criteria.
 
For events since 2011, please refer to these season-by-season accounts.
 


Aston Villa -
The First Superclub

The story of Aston Villa, 1874-2012
 
"...an excellent book by John Lerwill ...
a remarkable tome ..." (B'ham Mail)
 
"So much history and information. I'm sure I will be dipping into it for years to come." (A Villa fan)
 
If you want to know the major parts of the club's history and experience the peaks and troughs of a great club,
then this book should satisfy your yearning!

 
For SPECIAL OFFER and further info, click here.
 

 
For Club Honours and other records, click here.

John Lerwill is author of Aston Villa - The First Superclub (history 1874-2012)
The Aston Villa Chronicles (1874-1924) and After
and (with Peter Lupson) The Inspirational William McGregor

 
For details of these and other forthcoming publications,
please click here.