Author Topic: Another Villa Innovation  (Read 4090 times)

martin@

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Another Villa Innovation
« on: July 29, 2013, 02:52:00 PM »
from John 'who else' Russell:

Fred Rinder’s greatest contribution to football, apart from running English football for the better part of sixty years and helping to make Aston Villa the ‘Greatest Football Club in the World’, is the singing of Abide with Me at the F.A. Cup Final. Credit for this is usually given to Sir Frederick Wall, but as the F.A. Secretary he was merely the person who made the official announcement. Trust me, it was ‘our’ Fred who actually came up with the idea. 

Ironically Cardiff City who, after beating us in the third round of the cup, proved it was no fluke by making it all the way to the twin towers. They then found themselves having to play on St. Georges Day, 1927.

Community Singing was already in vogue partly as a way of calming the crowd down at big games and especially at the Cup Final after the debacle four years earlier.  Besides, standing around two or three hours before the kick off hurling abuse at the opposition was otherwise a fairly soul destroying activity so best to give the crowd something to try to keep them cheerful, anything. 

The Welsh contingent had already been conceded Land of My Fathers. The Welsh Guards did not get invited to perform it though. The Grenadier and Irish Guards had long since been booked to dig their heels into the hallowed turf.

King George V, one time Prince of Wales of course, actually enjoyed attending the Cup Final, so let us give him something he would like to hear, and a century old hymn, Abide with Me, was something he really liked. Mr. Rinder's inspired suggestion was greeted enthusiastically by the rest of the F.A. Committee and agreed upon unanimously.

The King took his seat after the singing of Pack up Your Troubles and Tipperary, the song which thirty years later inspired us to glory and has never been replaced since as a Villa anthem. 

Abide with Me had been popular with the troops in the trenches. It had been sung at games on Good Friday, perhaps as a sop to the fact that games were being played at all on such a sacred day. Anyone who objected to playing on Good Friday was be excused.

Everyone sang from the same hymn sheet but there may have been no need of a hymn sheet because everyone knew the words, at least of the first verse. With over 90,000 at Wembley it became the largest congregation ever to sing a hymn and because it was a hymn everyone stood reverently and removed their hats. Back then most wore hats, or rather flat caps. 

Perhaps nothing has ever been able to recapture the emotion of that first occasion but it is not hard to understand why the singing of Abide with Me became a tradition. Those who later scoffed at its inclusion at the Cup Final were scoffing at that tradition – and, perhaps without realising it, the memory of Fred Rinder. 

What a pity Fred never got to hear it sung at a Villa final. He must have been devastated more than anybody when we got relegated in 1936 but he at least had the consolation of seeing us back in the top flight just before he died suddenly at Christmas 1938.

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« Last Edit: July 29, 2013, 02:53:45 PM by martin@ »