Aston Villa Football Club (pronounced /ˈæstən ˈvɪlə/; also known as Villa, The Villa and The Villans) is an English professional football club based in Aston, Birmingham, who play in the Premier League. The club was founded in 1874 and 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. The club was floated by the previous owner and chairman Doug Ellis, but in 2006 full control of the club was acquired by Randy Lerner.
They are one of the oldest and most successful football clubs in England, having won the First Division Championship seven times and the FA Cup seven times. Villa also won the 1981–82 European Cup, one of only four English clubs to win what is now the UEFA Champions League. Aston Villa has the fourth highest total of major honours won by an English club.
They have a fierce rivalry with local rivals 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. Their traditional crest 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.
Aston Villa Football Club were formed in March 1874, by members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in Handsworth which is now part of Birmingham. The four founders of Aston Villa were Jack Hughes, Frederick Matthews, Walter Price and William Scattergood. Aston Villa's 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. Villa soon established themselves as one of the best teams in the Midlands, winning their first honour, the Birmingham Senior Cup in 1880, under the captaincy of Scotsman George Ramsay.
The club won its first FA Cup in 1887 with captain Archie Hunter becoming one of the game's first household names. 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, winning no fewer than five League titles and three FA Cups by the end of Queen Victoria's reign. In 1897, the year Villa won The Double, they moved into their present home, the Aston Lower Grounds. Supporters coined the name "Villa Park"; no official declaration listed the ground as Villa Park.
Aston Villa won their sixth FA Cup in 1920, soon after though the club began a slow decline that led to Villa, at the time one of the most famous and successful clubs in world football, being relegated in 1936 for the first time to the Second Division. This was largely the result of a dismal defensive record: they conceded 110 goals in 42 games, 7 of them coming from Arsenal's Ted Drake in an infamous 1–7 defeat at Villa Park. Like all English clubs, Villa lost seven seasons to the Second World War, and that conflict brought several careers to a premature end. The team was rebuilt under the guidance of former player Alex Massie for the remainder of the 1940s. Aston Villa's first trophy for 37 years came in the 1956–57 season when another former Villa player, Eric Houghton led the club to a then record seventh FA Cup Final win, defeating the 'Busby Babes' of Manchester United in the final. The team struggled in the league though and were relegated two seasons later, due in large part to complacency. However, under the stewardship of manager Joe Mercer Villa returned to the top-flight in 1960 as Second Division Champions. The following season Aston Villa became the first team to win the Football League Cup.
Mercer's forced retirement from the club in 1964 signaled a period of deep turmoil. The most successful club in England was struggling to keep pace with changes in the modern game, with Villa being relegated for the third time, under manager Dick Taylor in 1967. The following season the fans called for the board to resign as Villa finished 16th in the Second Division. With mounting debts and Villa lying at the bottom of Division Two, the board sacked Cummings (the manager brought in to replace Taylor), and within weeks the entire board resigned under overwhelming pressure from fans. After much speculation, control of the club was bought by London financier Pat Matthews, who also brought in Doug Ellis as chairman. However, new ownership could not prevent Villa being relegated to the Third Division for the first time at the end of the 1969–70 season. However, Villa gradually began to recover under the management of former club captain Vic Crowe. In the 1971–72 season they returned to the Second Division as Champions with a record 70 points. In 1974 Ron Saunders was appointed manager. His brand of no-nonsense man-management proved effective, with the club winning the League Cup the following season. By 1977 he had taken them back into the First Division and Europe.
Villa were back amongst the elite as Saunders continued to mould a winning team. This culminated in a seventh top-flight league title in 1980–81. To the surprise of commentators and fans, Saunders quit halfway through the 1981–82 season, after falling out with the chairman, with Villa in the quarter final of the European Cup. He was replaced by his softly-spoken assistant manager Tony Barton who guided the club to a 1–0 victory over Bayern Munich in theEuropean Cup final in Rotterdam courtesy of a Peter Withe goal. The following season Villa were crowned European Super Cup winners, beating Barcelona in the final. This marked a pinnacle though and Villa's fortunes declined sharply for most of the 1980s, culminating in relegation in 1987. This was followed by promotion the following year under Graham Taylor and a runners-up position in the First Division in the 1989–90 season.
Villa were one of the founding members of the Premier League in 1992, and finished runners-up to Manchester United in the inaugural season. For the rest of the Nineties however Villa went through three different managers and their league positions were inconsistent, although they did win two League Cups and regularly achieved UEFA Cup qualification. Villa reached the FA Cup final in 2000 but lost 1–0 to Chelsea in the last game to be played at the old Wembley Stadium. Again Villa's league position continued to fluctuate under several different managers and things came to a head in the summer of 2006 when David O'Leary left in acrimony. After 23 years as chairman and single biggest shareholder (approximately 38%), Ellis finally decided to sell his stake in Aston Villa due to ill-health. After much speculation it was announced the club was to be bought by American businessman Randy Lerner, owner of NFL franchise the Cleveland Browns. The arrival of a new owner and manager Martin O'Neill marked the start of a new period of optimism at Villa Park and sweeping changes occurred throughout the club including a new crest, a new kit sponsor and team changes in the summer of 2007. The first Cup final of the Lerner era came in 2010 when Villa were beaten 2–1 in the 2010 Football League Cup Final. Villa made a second trip to Wembley in that season losing 3–0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup Semi Final. Just five days before the opening day of the 2010–11 season, O'Neill resigned as manager with immediate effect. Reserve team manager Kevin MacDonald took over briefly as caretaker manager, before the club appointed Gérard Houllier as permanent manager in September 2010.
Colors and CrestEdit
The club colors are claret shirt with sky blue sleeves, white shorts with claret and blue trim, and sky blue socks with claret and white trim. They were the original wearers of the claret and blue. Villa's colours at the outset generally comprised plain shirts (white, grey or a shade of blue), with either white or black shorts. For a few years after that (1877–79) the team wore several different kits from all white, blue and black, red and blue to plain green. By 1880, black jerseys with a red lion embroidered on the chest were introduced by William McGregor. This remained the first choice strip for six years. On Monday, 8 November 1886, an entry in the club's official minute book states:
(i) Proposed and seconded that the colours be chocolate and sky blue shirts and that we order two dozen.
(ii) Proposed and seconded that Mr McGregor be requested to supply them at the lowest quotation.
The chocolate color later became claret. Nobody is quite sure why claret and blue became the club's adopted colors.
A new crest was revealed on 2 May 2007, for the 2007–08 season and beyond. The new crest includes a star to represent the European Cup win in 1982, and has a light blue background behind Villa's 'lion rampant'. The traditional motto "Prepared" remains in the crest, and the name Aston Villa has been shortened to AVFC, FC having been omitted from the previous crest. Randy Lerner petitioned fans to help with the design of the new crest. The three kits that carry the new crest were unveiled on 17 July 2007, in The Mailbox, Birmingham. On 2 June 2008 it was announced that Aston Villa would forgo commercial kit sponsorship for the 2008–09 season; instead they would advertise the charity Acorns Children's Hospice, the first deal of its kind in Premiership history. The partnership continued in the 2009–2010 before ending in 2010 when a commercial sponsor replaced Acorns, with the hospice becoming the club's Official Charity Partner.
Aston Villa's current home venue is Villa Park, which is a UEFA 4-star rated stadium, having previously played at Aston Park (1874–1876) and Perry Barr (1876–1897). Villa Park is the largest football stadium in the English Midlands, and the eighth largest stadium in England. It has hosted 16 England internationals at senior level, the first in 1899, and the most recent in 2005. Thus, it was the first English ground to stage international football in three different centuries.
Villa Park is the most used stadium in FA Cup semi-final history, having hosted 55 semi-finals. The Club have planning permission to extend the North Stand; This will involve the 'filling in' of the corners to either side of the North Stand. If completed, the capacity of Villa Park will be increased to approximately 51,000. The current training ground is located at Bodymoor Heath in north Warwickshire, the site for which was purchased by former Villa Chairman Doug Ellis in the early 1970s from a local farmer. Although Bodymoor Heath was state-of-the-art in the 1970s, by the late 1990s the facilities had started to look dated. In November 2005, Ellis and Aston Villa plc announced a state of the art GB£13 million redevelopment of Bodymoor in 2 phases. However, work on Bodymoor was suspended by Ellis due to financial problems, and was left in an unfinished state until new owner Randy Lerner made it one of his priorities to make the site one of the best in world football. The new training ground was officially unveiled on 6 May 2007, by manager Martin O'Neill, then team captain Gareth Barry and 1982 European Cup winning team captain Dennis Mortimer, with the Aston Villa squad moving in for the 2007–08 season.