Premier League History Book: Aston Villa

The English Premier League is rich with football history in its 32 years of history. 20 teams compete each season in a promotion/relegation system throughout 38 matches. There have been 51 clubs that have had the honour of competing under the EPL banner.

After the season is complete, the three lowest-ranking EPL teams will be relegated each season to the Championship League while the top two Championship League squads will get the call-up. After a series of playoff games, a third team will join the ranks of the EPL to round out the next season’s 20 teams. This series will look at all 20 clubs of the 2023/24 season from a historical perspective. The second squad we will take a look at is Aston Villa. Check out the first entry, Arsenal, here.

Creation and Growth of Aston Villa

One of the oldest clubs in English football, Aston Villa F.C. was created in 1784, marking it’s 150th year this season. The club was created by church members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in Handsworth, located in the inner-city of Birmingham. Four members of the cricket team created the club as a way to stay fit during the winter months of the cricket season.

As crazy as it may seem, Aston Villa’s first official match was against the Aston Brook St. Mary’s Rugby team in half rugby/ half football rules. Each half was played under the respective rules of each team. Aston Villa was still able to pull out the 1-0 victory.

In what would turn out to be the organization’s greatest move for its growth, George Ramsay stumbled across a squad in need of a player to even the squads. After the scrimmage, the squad invited Ramsay to join and even made him the club’s captain. “Scotty,” as he was known, would go on to lead Aston Villa to their first championship, the Birmingham Senior Cup of 1880. Villa would go on to dominate, winning nine of the next 12 Cups.

When football became a professional sport in 1885, Aston Villa put out an advertisement to locate a new club manager. Among the 150 entries received, it was a no-brainer that Ramsay was selected as the club’s first full-time manager.

The Victorian Era (1837-1901) saw a no more successful club than Aston Villa. The club would tally five league titles and three FA Cups. The leader of the squad on the pitch in the captain role during this title run was Jack Devey. Also a first-class cricketer, Devey led the Villa squad as a right center-back. A master of all trades, Devey even spent time in 1890 in the National League of Baseball of Great Britain, leading in nearly every statistical category. Devey would make 268 Aston Villa football appearances and score 168 goals.

For the next 75 years, Aston Villa would only see mediocrity, if even that. Charlie Aitken, the club’s all-time appearance leader with 659 matches, struggled through many of the down years in the early to mid 1970s for the club. He would be there for the turnaround with strikers Brian Little and Andy Gray. in the 1976/1977 season, Aston Villa would earn the League Cup that season, followed by a first-division league championship in 1980-1981.

Since Joining the English Premier League

A founding member of the EPL, Aston Villa is one of three clubs to be a founding member of the EPL and the 1888 Football League. After finishing runner-up in the Premier League’s debut year, Aston Villa has not finished in the top-three since.

The club did win the League Cup in 1993/94, in 1999/2000 and 2014/15 seasons, we saw Aston Villa capture FA Cup championships. After some years of relegation, Aston Villa did win the playoff series, earning the third promotion spot in 2019.

Kits and Stadiums

Sporting the claret and blue since nearly day one, Aston Villa is the original club to dawn the claret color. It would not be until the 1970s (1974 exactly) before a kit maker would be acknowledged, which was initially Umbro until 1981.

With no real manufacturer consistently make their kits, companies such as Asics, Reebok, Diadora, and Nike have all had a stint. Currently, British manufacturer Castore has made Aston Villa’s kits since 2022. The kit sponsorship has been about as inconsistent has the manufacturer with BK8 as the current sponsor.

The largest football stadium in the English Midlands and the 10th largest stadium in England, Aston Villa plays its home games at Villa Park. Of course, the stadium has faced renovations since this time. Nevertheless it has been the home field for Villa since 1897 with a current capacity of 42,640. The stands are labelled in four different manners; North Stand, Doug Ellis Stand, Holte Stand, and Trinity Road Stand. Future renovations could see seating hold up to 53,000.

All-Time Record Holders

As previously mentioned, Charlie Aitken holds the all-time appearance record with 657 main as the squad’s left-back. With a lead of only two, Billy Walker (1919-1933) has the most goals in Aston Villa history, with 244 from 531 appearances.

Many consider Walker as not only one of the best to ever wear the claret and blue, but also one of the best English footballers ever. Walker also sits 17th all-time in the first division league scoring charts. Emiliano Martínez is the most successful Aston Villa player with a 2022 World Cup gold for his native country of Argentina.

The highest transfer fee made to Villa was in August 2021 for then-captain Jack Grealish by Manchester City in the amount of €100million. The highest paid by Aston Villa was €51.9million in July 2023 for Moussa Diaby from Bayer Leverkusen.

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