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Preview Aston Villa v Spurs, 29.12.01

Villa's Last Six matches

Aston Villa 0 2 Leicester
West Ham    1 1 Aston Villa
Arsenal     3 2 Aston Villa
Aston Villa 2 1 Ipswich
Derby       3 1 Aston Villa
Aston Villa 1 2 Liverpool

League Record
Pos         P   W  D  L F  A   GD Pts
7  Spurs    19  8  3  8 30 26  4  27
8  A' Villa 19  7  6  6 25 24  1  27

As can be seen, Villa's recent record is a poor one, and whilst they have lost to lower league teams like Leicester and Derby, the only team they managed to beat was Ipswich. Villa have had as poor a Christmas as Spurs, and once again both sides have points to prove. The match is sold out, so Spurs will have to work hard to keep the Hoult End quiet. Ex-Spurs David Ginola has served his suspension, and will be available for selection, but he has not won John Gregory's favours, so I do not expect to see him play. Villa still have Delaney, Alpay and Hadji unavailable, whereas Spurs have no injury worries following the Southampton game. maybe Simon Davies will get a start, and instill some energy and enthusiasm into the Spurs side.

Here is Brian Judson's preview of the game

Prem          Pl  W  D  L   For-Ag  Pts
Home          10  3  4  3   11 -12  13
Away           9  0  3  6    6 -15   3
Total(Prem)   19  3  7  9   17 -27  16
Football Lge
Home (Div 1)  47 25  5 16   99 -77  62
Away (Div 1)  47 17 11 19   72 -75  48
Total(Div 1)  94 42 16 35  171 -152 110
Football Lge
Home (Div 2)   2  1  1  0    4 - 3   3
Away (Div 2)   2  0  1  1    1 - 3   1
Total(Div 2)   4  1  2  1    5 - 6   4
Total(Prem)   19  3  7  9   17 -27  16
Total(Div 1)  94 42 16 35  171-152 110
Total(Div 2)   4  1  2  1    5 - 6   4
Grand Total   117 46 25 45  193-185 130

As can be seen in the foregoing statistics, we have a deplorable record at Villa Park, which once used to be such a happy hunting ground for us. Our best sequence of results there is:

1950-51 W 3-2 Murphy Duquemin Medley
1951-52 W 3-0 Walters Duquemin 2
1952-53 W 3-0 Bennett Duquemin Dicker
1953-54 W 2-1 Walters Baily
1954-55 W 4-2 Dowsett Bennett 2 Baily
1955-56 W 2-0 Clarke McClennan
1956-57 W 4-2 Harmer Smith Stokes Robb
1957-58 D 1-1 Smith
1958-59 D 1-1 Norman
1960-61 W 2-1 R Smith Dyson
1961-62 A 0-0
1962-63 L 1-2 Medwin
1963-64 W 4-2 Jones Greaves 2 Dyson

One defeat in 13 visits to Villa Park. The missing season (1959-60) is accounted for as Aston Villa spent a single season in Division 2. I don't think Spurs have a better away record anywhere else, although I stand to be corrected. (We don't need to be reminded what is our current worst ever sequence against one club, do we?)

The current season for Aston Villa looks like becoming their best season since they won the Championship in season 1980-81, thus giving them the chance to win the European Cup the following season, which they duly achieved despite losing manager Ron Saunders in mid-season. Villa's greatest days were in the long Edwardian summer that ended in shots being fired at Sarajevo in June 1914. Since those distant days, Villa have struggled to compete at the highest level. Currently, their chairman and manager are rumoured to be at loggerheads as manager John Gregory wants to add to his squad to provide depth and chairman Doug Ellis is only said to be interested in balancing the books.

The Villa side that won the League in 1980-81 was a very attractive side yet it mostly comprised of other club's rejected players who were moulded into one of the most attractive sides I have ever seen. They played with a zest that suggested they enjoyed playing football unlike some players today. The side was so attractive that it looked impossible for such a team to be managed by the dour and grim looking Ron Saunders, who mostly managed defensive sides. But even in those days club manager and board were at daggers drawn and it came as no surprise when Saunders eventually walked out leaving rookie manager Tony Barton in charge.

Thinking of Aston Villa reminds me of how Villa prevented Manchester United from becoming the first side to achieve the League and Cup double in modern times. Manchester United had romped away with the title with an 11-point lead over runners-up Blackpool in season 1956-57 but in the Cup Final, Manchester United were forced to reshuffle their side after only six minutes after goalkeeper Ray Wood was injured in a collision with Villa winger Peter McParland. In today's sterile atmosphere, McParland would probably have been dismissed for an early bath but in those days shoulder charging the goalkeeper was regarded as a legitimate tactic even though goalkeepers had suffered serious injuries from being battered by strikers such as Bobby Smith and Nat Lofthouse.

One of the most famous players to have been associated with both clubs has been Danny Blanchflower. Signed from Barnsley in 1951, Blanchflower left Villa Park disillusioned with playing for the Midlanders. Arsenal and Spurs both tried to sign Blanchflower but Arsenal were not prepared to pay more than 28,000 for a 28-year old player supposedly coming towards the end of his career. Spurs met the Villa demands and never regretted their decision. It was Rowe's last signing before he took ill with the worry of keeping Tottenham afloat in relegation waters. Within weeks, Rowe had gone, broken under the rack of rebuilding an ageing team.

One former Tottenham favourite likely to miss the game is David Ginola, who was recently sent off. Ginola has largely been a peripheral player at Villa Park and must regret the decision he made to transfer there. It has been sad to see such a talented player wasting his time keeping the bench warm at Villa Park ......

As for the outcome of the match, much will depend on how hot or cold Villa decide to be. They have been increasingly inconsistent in recent weeks and are a difficult side to predict. However, Spurs ought to be capable of winning at Villa Park but I will be happy if Spurs return to London with at least a point.


Cheers, Brian

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