Then and Now At Villa (4)
The news filtered through this week that Peter Broadbent, aged 80, had died. A lovely player in the old tradition of inside-forwards.
What connection does he have with Villa, some might ask! Famous with Wolves and England in the 1950s and 60s, of course, he did have an interesting sojourn with the Villa, joining Villa only a few months after the departure of Phil Woosnam in 1966. Phil only died (strangely enough) just a few months ago, also aged 80.
Now the recent death of these two makes me recall that Phil Woosnam's departure left Villa without much by way of creative talent. Alan Deakin was often out with injury by that time, and that did leave Villa short on skills. The situation was made worse by the fact that Villa's coffers were at a low ebb, despite the lucrative sale of striker Tony Hateley a few months into the 1966-67 season. Owing to this combined situation, Villa purchased Peter Broadbent, not from Wolves but from Shrewsbury, as this veteran had by then gone down to the third tier!
At the age of 33 Peter's skills were still visible in the top flight, but by himself he was insufficient talent to prevent Villa's relegation that season and their resulting absence from the top flight for eight years. Interestingly enough, however, striker Barry Stobart was re-introduced into the first-team half-way through the season and that successfully re-ignited a partnership as he and Broadbent had been at Wolves and both had played in the 1960 Cup Final. Stobart had his best scoring patch for Villa at this time with 11 goals in 18 games, due to Broadbent's skilful prompting. But it was not enough.
After a spell in the reserves, Peter (by then aged 35) came back to play in season 1968-69 and was outstanding in a couple of marvellous FA Cup games for Villa against top-flight Southampton and Spurs and in these matches scored his only goals for Villa. These matches were played shortly after Tommy Docherty came in as manager, but despite those performances Broadbent was dispensed with to make way for youth in the summer, probably just when Broadbent's skills and experience were most needed. He made a total of only 68 appearances for Villa over 3 seasons.
But this reminder of a time that is now over 40 years since causes me to recall the late 60s too well - a time when I still went down to Villa Park even when reason told me there was no reason to expect a win. But I have to agree that even in those days of desperation, the players' will to fight (at least well into the 1966-67 season) stood out even though they didn't have the skill of the best teams. You continued to support Villa then because you knew they'd try to make a match out of it.
Of late (this season, and the previous 2 seasons), we noted the absence of will in the players in many of the home matches. We looked to the Man City match with trepidation, particularly as our main 'guns' were not playing. What a marvellous surprise we all had, instead, and how pleased I am (we all are!) that a true spirit seems to have returned! However, we thought the spirit had returned when Villa trounced Sunderland 6-1 at the back-end of last season, but since we've had a few disappointments.
Team spirit has been a traditional aspect of the Villa's play since the club was founded, and when that spirit has waned then the warning bells have sounded. Let's hope we see the spirit maintained - but not through the imbibing of whisky!
Up the Villa!
For more history and stats , why not visit John's history site: www.lerwill-life.org.uk/astonvilla/.
The site has been extensively updated during this summer. Further, why not enjoy an in-depth read of Villa's history? Click here for more info.