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Ron Saunders the Legend


JohnCresswell
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By AVFCinWales

I couldn't put 'Ron Saunders the Man', few outside of his own family could I'd guess, even many of his closest players never knew the real man

Many were the rumours, many the 'hints' of his character, few really knew, even fewer could tell, he was a daunting prospect close up and not the sort to have a disagreement with

Boxing was his passion evidently, I know I saw him twice at the Villa Leisure centre and at a big fight at Digbeth, can't remember who and many others gave reports of similar sightings.

His treatment of players was legendary, although even when I've asked those involved they still never confirm or deny the rumours, and some of them were extra ordinary.

His treatment of Morley was one of the few well documented, which isn't surprising, every match you could see Saunders winding him up, criticising even his best moments, pushing him on, pulling him back, whatever he did never seemed right.

Of course rumours abounded about the quiet man, he rarely gave interviews even when he did and of course every one knows he never smiled. Anyone who was in that crowd as the bus came in and the heroes appeared on the balcony will never forget the smile that greeted the chants. The sort of thing Legends are made of.

Not that he was perfect far from it, his tactics were often lacking and on many occasion we lost an important game we should have won, in my opinion, before a ball was kicked in anger. But he managed to build several decent and one great side for Villa and of course won the Ultimate prize even though he'd resigned, it was still his team, his choices, his options.

Many a player fell by the wayside, his training methods were, shall we say hard and only the hardy survived, those runs up the hills with the prospect of an angry Saunders to meet any slackers meant he was feared or was it respected or was it both.

He was renowned I'm told for his fairness, and of course for his decision making, many a player even when doing a good job, was moved on if they crossed him, or broke his moral code, ask Gray, Gidman, Burridge, Nicholl. He nearly ruined the team when the last two fell out and had a big fallout at the training ground. Rumour had it that fisticuffs were involved, Legend has it Saunders took both on and won. Fact was both had black eyes, and Saunders wore a smile when he told news teams it had been an internal disagreement. Both players were moved on quickly and in came Rimmer and McNaught, McNaught possible his biggest signing, a man who never really gained the kudos his performances rated.

But then in my view, outside of Villa Park, few gave enough credit to our great side, no one, even many Villa fans, gave enough credit to the great man himself.

When you talk about Villa legends we all know of our favourites, mine are Danny Blanchflower, Gerry Hitchens, Brian Little, Gordon Cowans, and Alex Cropley.

Above them all remains Ron Saunders the man who once told me, to my face, that I was dead right but he was the manager and that's why he, not me, a humble fan, would continue to make the decisions whilst all I could do was complain and moan to no effect.

He was smiling when he said it too !

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Fantastic Malc, chimes with my memories of The Great Man exactly (although I never had the privilege of meeting him).

I still get goosebumps remembering how pumped up I felt when he did that interview with a journo who reckoned that Ipswich had the league title sewn up - the look on his face as he growled "You wanna bet against us?" made me so proud to be a Villa fan, and at that moment I knew we were going to win the trophy. Because if he could inspire me like that via a TV screen, what must it have been like to be a Villa player in the dressing room?

All I can say to the younger generation of Villans is "You should have been there".

Mike

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one memory I will add to the above - if ever villa had a duff first half - you just knew the second half would be better - and it usaully was - all down to the half time rollicking. Wouldn't happen nowadays, players would be on the phone to there agents far to swiftly.

One question I would love to ask him:-

'Ron, what do you think of the modern footballer who wears gloves, hairbands, ponytails and multi color boots'

top bloke - side of 77 was good as well !

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Malcolm, have to say I was yellow carded for your comments on something the other week, but you get Ron Saunders dead right. He was the man in charge and no one crossed him. Got to say I think your inclusion of Alex Cropley is inspired and Brian Little was my first hero, see him score in his first full start. Disagree a little about the tactics, cos they rarely changed, he would play the normal formation and in general it did us proud. Maybe you can explain an occasion when we lost before a ball was won because I dont remember that much in that era. I used to go to bodymoor heath to watch them train and he was superb, showing he was the man in charge but a sense of humour as well. On the same point, Peter Withe was immense when he joined. Saw him almost throttle Gary Williams and the next day hugging him as a goal was set up. He was the most important buy in my opinion as had such an influence on the whole team

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Fantastic Malc, chimes with my memories of The Great Man exactly (although I never had the privilege of meeting him).

I still get goosebumps remembering how pumped up I felt when he did that interview with a journo who reckoned that Ipswich had the league title sewn up - the look on his face as he growled "You wanna bet against us?" made me so proud to be a Villa fan, and at that moment I knew we were going to win the trophy. Because if he could inspire me like that via a TV screen, what must it have been like to be a Villa player in the dressing room?

All I can say to the younger generation of Villans is "You should have been there".

Mike

That journo was Gary Newbon, and yes it was inspiring.

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one memory I will add to the above - if ever villa had a duff first half - you just knew the second half would be better - and it usaully was - all down to the half time rollicking. Wouldn't happen nowadays, players would be on the phone to there agents far to swiftly.

One question I would love to ask him:-

'Ron, what do you think of the modern footballer who wears gloves, hairbands, ponytails and multi color boots'

top bloke - side of 77 was good as well !

I think he would be suitably unimpressed. There again, he had the balls to play a winger like Tony Morley (know he slagged him off all the time) because it was best for the team. He changed Kenny Swain from a left midfielder on his debut into a right back. Des Bremner was awful in most peoples views after a few games. What I am trying to say is give MON a little time before going against him. We have got decent players on board IMO.

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one memory I will add to the above - if ever villa had a duff first half - you just knew the second half would be better - and it usaully was - all down to the half time rollicking. Wouldn't happen nowadays, players would be on the phone to there agents far to swiftly.

One question I would love to ask him:-

'Ron, what do you think of the modern footballer who wears gloves, hairbands, ponytails and multi color boots'

top bloke - side of 77 was good as well !

..... 77 Brilliant side

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Ron Saunders did a fantastic job.....but so did Tony Barton who was instrumental in spotting the talent that Ron & Roy McLaren Developed.

Whilst we all recognise it was Ron's team ......He Left the club and we were in the lower reaches of the division when Tony Took over.Tony Barton once said if Villa had of been relegated that year ..."would it of been Ron Saunders team then or Tony Bartons Team".... with a wry smile on his face

...... I guess Tony was saying you can't have it both ways.

...... I prefer to remember Ron Saunders, Tony Barton & Roy McLaren as all for one and one for all.......and what a fantastic job they all did too.

I was fortunate enough to have had one or two personal meetings with Ron & Tony due to my friendship with a few of the players in that era...... enough of my name dropping its boring.

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Spoke to Ron Saunders on a few occasions when the team were training, he was a top man. I agree with you about Tony Barton, was a nice man, but not in the same class of manager IMO. He had a massive act to follow and probably never got the recognition he deserved because it was someone elses team. however, we got through the latter stages with him in charges and won the little cup.

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Tony Barton did one thing, he bowed down to pressure from Ellis and broke up a great side too early, ask any of them, I have and they all say the same, Saunders would never have bowed to the pressure, he didn't when Bendall pressured him, and he often did.

He was great in his background role and took the chance well when offered, but the players were in place as were the tactics he needed to keep a cool head and did but rightly the European Cup team was built by Saunders, trained by Saunders in his image and won in Rotterdam for Saunders, no one else :)

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