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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Villa Epic



By Steve Wade

Beside the muddy winding Tame and beneath an ancient Jacobean pile
Lies a pristine patch of green, first sown in England's industrial age
Where since Victoria's ancient reign Football's spirit doth beguile
Writ large and bold on sporting History's broad and ample page.

Where once had bobbed a boating lake and Holte's failed Eden green
Is Villa's proud Jerusalem builded here, among ancient tumbled mills
While the Midland smoky landscape fades to shadows of what had been
And Britannia's trident's lost it's edge since she discarded her old skills

Where McGregor helped to form the League in Eighteen-eighty-eight
Where Ramsay brought the rampant lions from his native northern land
Each shirt the Villa soldiers wear with pride up to the present date
Should bear that feline king`s visage for all honour to command

Up until the Great war when poppies shared the red of Europe's blood
There was no greater team in all the land in that century's early years
Five cups were won and a double too before many fell in Flanders` mud
The boys came home and two years on a trophy helped to dry their tears

Now Wembley's football cathedral stood with its feet in London clay
St James in monochromic black and white flew their banners high
And the silver tankard we thought was our own was taken on that day
A mournful tune we learned to sing was a lamenting Thieving Magpie

While the Twenties roared and flappers danced in hope of endless peace
The King did bless the holy Trinity's splendid brick built monument
So in triumphal architectural style was born a classic football edifice
Where of yore the towering lion Prepared, did a stand once augment

Flames of war did re-ignite a murderous blaze across the earthly globe
Lightning storm brought rain of searing fire upon that scepter'd isle
The evil claw of greed and hate had rent the fragile virgin's robe
So football's simple outdoor sporting life was suspended for a while

With the evil one in his bunker dead and the pride of Europe razed
Two wars had lost Man his pantheons place and left a dubious moral stain
And upon the sun-lit uplands the hopeful eyes of Britons gazed
Could Culture assert itself once more and build a lasting peace again?

King Aron took his throne, the twin towers decked in claret and blue
And seven was the year and seven the number of that silver chalice
Newton Heath they took the field and scorned the young pretenders true
A charger scattered the thin red line and subdued their early promise

As Europe built it's long dividing wall once more was silver trophy raised
Who`s name was first engraved upon the glistening jorum's elegant plate?
Who`s name in football's pealing anthem was with glorious rapture praised?
It was but one of England's greatest names that accepted that historic fate

If into the hands of the prodigal should fall the care of precious treasure
Then even the gold of Croesus will waste away as sand upon the desert wind
So was the hard won crown of England's elite discarded with equal leisure
And all ambition the dissolute keepers did for the honoured house rescind

So as the red of Mersey town did begin their staggering upward flight
The once proud Villa arrow did find its arc moving in a downward curve
Falling, falling to new lows and depths. Falling, falling and without a fight
But at last the cock did Crowe to call the dawn and steel the trembling nerve

Once more the Lions were prepared and rampant beneath those mythic towers
And brave hearts burning with the flame of passion did tread the sacred turf again
Alas it was a day when men did taste the salt of tears that fell those tragic hours
But that proud day they did the bravest thing and their repute shall bear no stain

Although the way to the Olympus peak was so hard, so rocky, so steep
The roaring lions did climb once more and faced each awesome uphill test
They met the challenge, faced the foe and Victory's great harvest they did reap
So once more despite the odds they shared the worthy company of the best

Once more they stood among the gods, while another page did open chapters new
It was the herald of things to come and the bright new dawning of a greater age
They were now among the very best and yet their hard won reputations grew
They took their cherished place and prepared their entry to a broader stage

So arose a stoic king whose grim visage refused the blessing of a warming smile
He trained the lions with a rod of iron and so a passing whirlwind did make
Of men whose graft and grit did so enhance their sharp incisive artful style
The Villa banners were now unfurled as the honoured silver trophies they did take

Twice they took the southward path to mark the famous verdant London earth
Twice the silvered prize returned to rest again in the shallow valley of the Tame
Again Fortune's fair face did smile and bless these days of an honoured rebirth
Twice the engravers burin broke the burnished skin to write that sacred name

Now the Goddess Europa's seductive song was heard sweet upon the wind
Now came the time to mount the steps upward to that well lit sacred edifice
First all England's sacred cup the famous colours would soon be pinned
Then Germanic pride was laid to waste as they took home the greatest chalice

As Gibbon wrote his mighty work that details the decline and fall of Rome
So from a similar dizzying height the Villa Empire did make its tragic fall
Of who, Of why, Of how, could yet fill an equally long-neglected dusty tome
And which Nero played that long and mournful tune will not be named at all

The curse of drought and famine did then fall upon this fallow untended place
Only meagre seed was sown and the stunted thrifty harvest could only fail
The Lions` courageous strength then bled away but to leave the faintest trace
Yearning hearts were left unfed and despair was known in that midland vale

Cometh the hour, and cometh the man as the wise old saying so tersely goes
In this time of greatest need came forth a man to reverse that bitter hated trend
A Taylor cut the cloth to suit the re-emerging men as fortunes once more rose
The steps on fate's worn ladder moved upward and decline so soon did end

Its a conjuring feat to produce a silken purse from the coarsest swine-like ear
And when managed such a pretty trick does to that name such fame gather nigh
The needful Nation's resolute demands were soon echoed both far and near
So departure was the inevitable step and the Villa ship was left so high and dry

A shrewd and able steersman of the highest grade, is hard to find indeed
Beyond the snowy Carpathian range, a doctor knight was held in high repute
It was hoped the gentle Slav would steer a course and gain the wanted speed
But the unknown tricky English waters proved a mystery he could not transmute

Now the jocund jesting Falstaff did strut his mighty girth upon the Villa stage
Bejewelled his full round fingers bore each one, a gem of every sparkling hue
Much mirth did he express and dilute the determined torrent of his subtle rage
A dancing master he proved to be, a pleasing style was enjoyed once more anew

Twas the cause of jocund fame, his love for every sparkling, glistening thing
A charming man he was and a winning style did seduce the faithful at the door
Gold chain upon his wrist and throat an honoured silver cup he soon did bring
But how soon the sated drunkard's thirst does prime the heart to yearn for more

The sharpest blade does the more, its said , so soon its cutting edge begin to lose
And each thing we see that does reach a peak, we then surely must see decline
So it was that their splendid hour seemed short and the master let go his muse
The faltering steps then seemed to miss their beat and hopes were left to pine.

'Tis a sad and tearful thing to watch a favourite mount the fatal gallows stair
The rotund one was a well beloved, it was with wetted eyes they saw him fall
But short did play the funeral dirge, and soon the trumpets called the latest heir
Step forth once more a favourite son, return and answer your heart's eternal call.

The boy returned a learned man, his weathered features etched by father time
The determined drive of sprightly youth became the basis of his ambitious plan
Swiftly the reward it came and the lofted cup was praised with cheers sublime
The little man had brought glory back and so a portentous modern age began.

But too soon did the seductive siren`s song provoke the prideful meddling hand
The untold truths remain unshared, mysteries deepen dark, of the departing son
The runes withhold their close secrets yet and the diviner`s art they still withstand
Now deals the joker a pair of knaves and another fretted course is again begun

The year it marked a hundred score and to the sacred place they went once more
But alas not for them the yearned-for glory day, aloft those numbered victory stairs
For them the tearful silent journey home, with aching hearts and feelings raw
The spoils belonged to those in Blue, the bankrolled barons, the cup was theirs

Flying so high the dower Daedalus felt the heat upon his waxen, self-made, wings
Up, up, up, the intrepid Icarus cried, down, down, the fearful father countermanded
Caution quenched the passing hope of glory, fear put an end to ambitious things
A flightless meagre kite of colours, each earthbound pilot, too brutally candid

But no Lear did sit upon that honoured throne, no fool did hold the seal and ring
For he summoned to the court one magic Merlin, in his emerald cloak of gaelic green
For he summoned the Yankee bullioned ships, for there the glistered gold to bring
To glorify this ancient Minster, the greatest football club the world has ever seen

One hundred years have quickly passed and have marked the span of countless men
The cheering ghosts of Villa spirits past, haunt the shaded new-built precincts still
This season brings the faithful back, this season lifts the human heart to hope again.
For a century Villa Park has stood, immortal will be the one, who will its dreams fulfil
The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday September 28 2006

Time: 10:43AM

 

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