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Author Topic: Toon Tales  (Read 82 times)

martin@

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Toon Tales
« on: December 07, 2019, 09:25:06 PM »
Our recent defeat against Newcastle, heroic as it may have been, was not unexpected. Even though the Toon’s recent record is as dismal as ours, they have always been difficult opponents and, as history shows, no game against them can be taken for granted. I first saw them in 1960, just after we had returned to the top flight. Joe Mercer had made important new signings who helped Villa to gain promotion at the first attempt, and three played in this game: Jimmy McEwan, Bobby Thompson and John Neal. Harry Burrows, one of the first of Mercer’s Minors, stood in for Peter McParland on the left wing. The goals in a 2-0 home win were scored by Vic Crowe and Ron Wylie, who a decade later would be managing the club together. The season marked an important stage in Villa’s revival and by the end of the campaign we had achieved a creditable ninth position, while Newcastle suffered relegation for only the second time in their history. Newcastle, with Wolves, had been one of the teams of the 1950s, but their last trophy, unless you count the Fairs Cup, was an FA Cup win in 1955. Apart from their exciting adventures under Kevin Keegan in the early 1990’s, the past half century has largely been a period of stagnation and decline, and the erratic rule of Mike Ashley and bizarre managerial appointments have frequently turned a proud club into the butt of jokes. During the farcical attempt to rename the stadium, it was suggested that Ashley had settled on Ashley Sports Direct Arena, or ASDA for short. Newcastle’s ground is, in fact, one of the country’s great stadiums and despite the ridiculous location of the away seating up in the clouds, a visit to St James’s Park is always a special occasion. In recent years, however, our fortunes there have been mixed. In August 2010 it was the scene of one of the heaviest defeats I have ever experienced. The background was that a year earlier we had beaten Newcastle at Villa Park in the last game of the season, a result which relegated them. The jubilant mocking by the Villa fans had hurt deeply, and Newcastle were out for revenge. Before the game that seemed unlikely. Newcastle had just been heavily defeated by Manchester United and Villa’s uninhibited performance against West Ham in Kevin McDonald’s first game had promised great things for the post-O’Neill era. Over prematch drinks my Geordie friends said they’d settle for a draw and I was confident of a Villa win. Nobody could have predicted the 6-0 humiliation, made worse by a John Carew penalty blazed feet over the bar before Newcastle had scored. Needless to say, the Toon army savoured its revenge.