Then and Now At Villa (11)
Supporters of Manchester United don't realise it - that happiness or success cannot be a permanent condition. But 22 years of virtually continuous League, Cup and European qualification (and more) must make the mind a bit immune to anything different, of course. That level of success must affect you as intoxication gives you light-headedness. But when the morning comes - which eventually it must - the headache is there.
David Moyes must have been equally intoxicated when he took on that job.
But even Sir Alex at one time thought he was going to face tough opposition from the Villa. Imagine that! League runner-up in 1993 (to Man U) and defeating Man U in no uncertain terms at Wembley in 1994 must (in the way that Villa did it under Big Ron) have frightened Sir Alex.
With these two teams leading the table, the Villa braves went to Old Trafford with a few games to go in the 1992-93 season, when the Villa fans did not dare to hope that they would see their favourites come away with much except black eyes and sore shins. But, heavens above, Stevie Staunton drove in a peach from outside the area to put Villa ahead! As that happened, I was sitting at the wheel of my car in London waiting to chauffer my wife's relative to his wedding. By that time I was hoping that I did not have to turn off the radio! Then, as seems to be always the case with the Villa these last 20-odd years, the ecstasy soon evaporated when Mark Hughes levelled. But a point it was and the League title still looked as though it was in the balance. Sadly, though, Villa fell away at the last hurdle and ended the season with three successive defeats.
Always to be remembered is the first of those defeats against Blackburn Rovers, at home: Villa lost 0-3. And the architect for the opposition was none other than Gordon Cowans! The cheek of the (old) lad! Big Ron quickly signed him back for Villa and for his third spell at Villa Park.
The 1994 League Cup Final against Man U was orchestrated by Big Ron as though the thought of revenge was deep inside his frontal cortex. He seemed to cover every eventuality in his game plan and the result was that a very fine-looking Man U side (and Alex Ferguson) were utterly out-foxed. What a match! And what strikers we then had in Dean Saunders and Dalian 'Sick Note' Atkinson, prompted by the mature wiles of Kevin Richardson, the drive of Andy Townsend and the mercurial dash of Tony Daly. And there was Paul McGrath.
That day was like pure ecstasy. Brian Little's League Cup triumph two years later was also a fine win, but it somehow did not give the sense of satisfaction that we gained in 1994 against Man U. But at the start of his 1995-96 season, Little Brian again showed that Villa was a team to be afraid of as they put Man U to the sword at Villa Park by 3 goals to 1. That was the game after which a certain Alan Hansen said 'They [Man U] can't win anything with kids.' Well, they (Man U) did - they won the League again. And Villa have not beaten them at Villa Park since. And not since the incredible ex-Red, Paul McGrath, left Villa Park.
The time since 1996 (now 18 years) seems to have been a case of Villa wanting to catch up with Man U (and the rest of the moneybag teams), but lacking the wherewithall to achieve it. And now we're at the point where we can't sink any lower, having exhausted our attempts to do it while mis-spending money and, more frequently, peanuts.
The only way, surely, is now up. Man U has slipped (and in my opinion will not get back to top dog for awhile yet); their time is for a bit more pain while the Villans are due some happiness. But let's find that wherewithall to achieve it. It's a must.
Up the Villa!
For more history and stats , why not visit John's history site: www.lerwill-life.org.uk/astonvilla/. Further, why not enjoy an in-depth read of Villa's history? Click here for more info.