Then and Now At Villa (2)
But let's stay with the opening of the new season. The fragrance of it's blossom ushers forth as we contemplate on what might be. We always trust that the new season will end as one to be remembered, and we even hope that the first match will give us something to hold onto to consider that it might be this season that will end up with a major trophy on display down at t' Park. The fact that Villa have twice scored five in two pre-season friendlies (against lower league opposition) should not cause me to get too excited, but scoring five in pre-season friendlies hasn't been happening much in the last decade has it?
I've always been happy if Villa's fixture list showed the opening game to be at home to West Ham, as that match always seemed to find Villa in charge against the other claret-and-blue team - as it did 3 years ago when James Milner delighted us in his last match. But this year the Villans visit London to face two of the capital's best before our team have chance to put themselves on display in front of their own fans, against another toughie: Liverpool.
Realistically, any hopes of starting off the season with a blockbuster win in the first match have to put off till we see next season's fixture list, but even at home it has very rarely been the case - despite West Ham's ability to roll over - that Villa have gone on a scoring spree in their first match of the season.
Back in 1930-31, Villa opened their record goalscoring season account with a 4-3 at Man U with our 'Pongo' getting all four - and that was in spite of most of the Villa team having an off-day. But even that scoreline could hardly be considered a blockbuster win. To find such an opening day occurrence we have to travel all the way back to 1925 and a 10-0 win against Burnley (Capewell 5, Walker 3). It appears that Villa had done some proper homework on the new offside laws that had been implemented that season, and triumphed so well because of that. Dicky York even popped in an eleventh 'goal' but the whistle blew for time before it hit the net.
Villa so shocked themselves by that event they didn't win another match for four games! And it finished an average season by their standards in those days.
The previous season, Villa opened with a 4-2 win at Liverpool, but then finished poorly in the League.
1920-21 started well, with Billy Walker scoring 4 in the 5-0 demolition of Arsenal, but again the season did not finish too well. However, in the 1909-10 opener Villa again put 5 against Arsenal in the season in which Villa went on to win the championship.
But to find another opening blockbuster before 1925 we travel back to the 19th century and a 9-0 win over little Glossop in the first home match of the 1899-1900 season. Again, Villa went on to win the championship.
That home match brought to an end a remarkable goalscoring sequence as in the previous 3 consecutive home matches (ending the championship-winning 1898-99 season) Villa had scored 18 goals. Added to the 9 of the next season's first home match the Villa thus scored 27 goals in four successive home matches. Villa's next home opponents - Albion - were warned that they might expect a pasting. But the joke backfired on Villa as the Albion turned up and played all kinds of spoiling tactics - and won 2-0!
So the days of getting the season off to a blockbusting start seem to be well behind us. Perhaps we can, however, look forward to a season that will bring warmth back into our bellies. This year I shan't hope for more than that.
Up the Villa!
For more history and stats , why not visit John's history site: www.lerwill-life.org.uk/astonvilla/