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Not So Young After All (Part Two)


ChrisVillan
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by SheriffVilla

The Sheriff takes us down part two of three of this trip down memory lane.

When I finished part one, we were just entering the Ron Atkinson era. His first summer was an active one, with a few players going out – including David Platt for a large fee to Bari – and a LOT of players coming in. The team was always likely to need a bit of time to gel, and the season started poorly as we went 2-0 down to Ron’s former side at Sheffield Wednesday. However, we soon come back – in the same match! We made a full recovery to win 3-2, and fans of Wednesday – still furious at the way Ron left (he had promised he wouldn’t) probably could not have imagined a worse opening day.

Overall the season was a relatively decent, albeit unspectacular, one. We finished 7th, and Dwight Yorke was top goalscorer. Leeds won the last ever ‘proper’ First Division championship, pipping Man U.

Funny, really; 91-92 was my last year at junior school. As 92-93 was my first year at senior school and ultimately brought a lot of changes, football in England was undergoing even more changes…

The Premier League came in, and so did Sunday afternoon/Monday night games on BSkyB. Match of the Day came back, and the back-pass rule was introduced. The allowed number of substitutes went from two to three, and referees started wearing green…

On the Villa front, Andy Gray left to join the Sky revolution, and Jim Barron moved up to right-hand man for Ron. Dave Sexton came in on the coaching staff. Contrary to the previous summer, only one signing came in – Ray Houghton; a player very underrated, in my humble opinion.

It was a great season. We had two excellent goalkeepers, a solid defence, a creative and dynamic midfield and a dangerous forward line. That said, it started in a fairly average manner…

Three 1-1 draws started off the season. Away to Ipswich on the opening day, Leeds in the first home game and then Southampton – which included an appearance from Frank McAvennie on loan. Next up was a 1-0 defeat at Everton.

First win of the season came next though, which was a 2-0 victory at Sheffield United. Both goals were spectacular efforts from Garry Parker. So, the season was ready to kick off from here, right?

Wrong.

Next game was at home to Chelsea. We went 1-0 up, everything was going to plan… then Chelsea scored three times and we had our second defeat of the season.

However the season did start to take off after that. We went on a long unbeaten run, which started with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace. That was made more memorable by the fact that Big Ron came on the pitch to explain to the fans that we were looking to sign Dean Saunders; he did just that, and the next game was the debut of Deano. He had a goal disallowed in a 1-1 draw at Leeds, but the next game, his home debut, was very memorable…

It was against his former employers, Liverpool. They went 1-0 up through a former player of our own, Mark Walters. His goal came just before half-time, in front of his former fans in the Holte End. However, late in the half as that was, Deano still managed to get the equaliser before the interval, in front of HIS former fans. As he stuck it away, he ran off and it was almost like he waved at the Liverpool fans. In true friendly Scouse style, they waved back…

The second-half was cracking. An awful shot from Parker fell straight to Dalian Atkinson who put us 2-1 up, Deano added his second and Parker grabbed the fourth. Rosenthal grabbed their second towards the end…

Ah, Ronny Rosenthal. Before any of the above action happened, he provided THE most memorable moment of the match; David James knocked a long pass upfield, Rosenthal beat Teale to the ball and went round Spink. He had an absolute open goal, and… hit the crossbar. The ball fell to McGrath, who cleared the danger. Honestly, it had to be seen to be believed…

Next up were two away games against Boro and Wimbledon. We won both 3-2, and you really got the feeling this was a darn good side. Most memorable moment was THAT goal from Dalian against Wimbledon, where he ran from his own half and ended up chipping the keeper, going past a few Dons defenders in-between for good measure. The sight of that fan with the brolly running on to cover Dalian, with Deano on his back, is fairly iconic in recent Villa times.

The run continued, including the first Monday night game at Villa Park, which was a 0-0 draw with Blackburn and mainly memorable for that huge annoying speaker accompanying us in the Holte End! Two victories in ten days over Man U, both 1-0, one in the League Cup and one in the League, were also pretty sweet.

Sadly the run come to an end with a 3-2 home defeat to Norwich. That, if I remember correctly, was the horrible debut of Ugo Ehiogu… Towards the end of 1992, Dalian Atkinson got an injury which I believe had a hugely negative impact on our championship potential. Dwight Yorke and Cyrille Regis both did well but realistically, the extra dimension Dalian gave us was gone for the rest of the season.

Early 1993 saw us draw Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup, which lead to a bit of a feud in the press with Big Ron and Malcom Allison. Unfortunately we let the manager down at Villa Park as we only drew 1-1, but we eventually got the right result in the replay, winning 3-0. Around that time we also had the reverse fixture with Liverpool, where we once again came out the victors, winning 2-1. Deano got the winner, at the Kop end. Brilliant!

A 5-1 home victory against Boro soon followed, which I believe was the first time we went top of the league. One thing that I recall about that game was Paul McGrath and Shaun Teale both scored. Earlier in the season, they both scored in the same game too, in the League Cup away to Oxford, where we won 2-1. Even in goal scoring they were a top duo!

A home game against Ipswich (a 2-0 win) came soon after, which had the second best goal of the season in my opinion. Deano scoring an outrageously superb volley, and I can still recall my Dad shouting ‘goal’ while the ball was in the air. Fantastically, the old man was spot on. Another brilliant goal came from Dwight Yorke in another home game (and another 2-0 win) against Sheffield Wednesday. Every Villa player apart from Shaun Teale touched the ball in the build-up to the move. Great stuff.

Sandwiched in-between those two games had been a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford including ANOTHER great goal, this time from Steve Staunton. Mark Hughes got an equaliser for them, but if anyone deserved to win it was us, and in three attempts we hadn’t lost once to Man Utd.

Dalian Atkinson made a return not long after. It was a 1-0 win away to Nottingham Forest, where Paul McGrath got the winner (He had also got the winner against Cloughies doomed side earlier in the season in a 2-1 victory at Villa Park) but really Dalian was not the same player after. Ever again, either, for that matter.

It coincided with the fact that we lost the league soon after. It came in three stages – the first was realisation, which came as we drew 0-0 at home to Coventry on the same day Man U beat Sheffield Wednesday with the assistance of eight minutes injury time. Then, despite victories away to Arsenal (1-0) and at home to Man City (3-1), we got to stage two of the league championship campaign failing, and that was acceptance. We lost 3-0 to Blackburn. I watched it on the big screen at Villa Park, and actually had tears in my eyes on the way home as I thought about how Gordon Cowans had just tore us apart.

The third and final stage was clarification, as we lost 1-0 to Oldham in the last home game of the season. The final game, away to QPR, was a 2-1 defeat, but it was irrelevant. Second place was cemented and, although we didn’t win the league, it was a campaign to be proud of.

Overall we were excellent. Paul McGrath won the PFA Players Players of the Year, and there was a spell in the season while Deano & Dalian were flying, where I honestly believe we could have given any side on the planet a damn good game.

I firmly believed we would be up there again the season after, but we weren’t. We finished 10th. However it was still memorable, as we won the League Cup. A 3-1 victory over Man Utd was a small bit of revenge for the previous season, especially as we prevented them from gaining the domestic treble. The season also provided a memorable 1-0 victory over Inter Milan through a Ray Houghton goal. That made the tie 1-1, and the fairly average Phil King forever immortalised himself in Villa folklore as he rammed home the winning penalty of the shoot-out.

Then, in that summer, John Fashanu signed, which was just strange, quite frankly! We didn’t start the season well, and Big Ron ended up getting the sack after a 4-3 defeat at Wimbledon. There was one game before his successor came in, and that was another 4-3, this time in our favour, at White Hart Lane. We went 3-0 up, they pulled it back and Deano got the winner right at the death. Cracking stuff, eh?

As I finished my last article, I commented how my musical taste changed in 1991, the same time as big changes happened at Villa. In 1994 the same thing happened. As I discovered Oasis, my life changed forever. When Brian Little came in to replace Big Ron, Villa were also on the verge of some very big changes.

To be continued once more...

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To be continued once more...
I'm glad to hear it. You are a bloody good read, SheriffVilla. For me just the right amount of personalisation among a sea of solid facts. Living outside the UK and TV coverage then not being what it is now, this is like history for me, history that I missed.
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