Aston Villa is one of the biggest and most historical sides in English football. A storied past and huge success reached its peak in 1982 when the Birmingham side beat Bayern Munich in Rotterdam to win the European Cup.
After vying for Champions League places in the 2000’s Aston Villa are a team in chaos at the moment, but before everyone forgets them, while they drop the leagues, let’s not only look at the rich history of the club but the part Scotland played in it.
Aston Villa were formed in 1874 by Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, whose cricket team were looking for some way to keep active in the winter.
Their first ever game was against a local rugby team!
They agreed to play one half with rugby rules and the other with football. Unfortunately, no records of the score remain, but it would have been very interesting to see how the scoring worked.
Following a few years of amateur football, the arrival of Scot William McGregor, created the club we know today.
He was looking to give back to the city which had provided for him. Coming down from Glasgow, McGregor had forged a successful business in textiles in the area. Like many Scottish people of that period, huge migration took place into Birmingham from north of the border to work in the Industrial and Engineering sector.
McGregor also happened to be a devout Methodist who was keen on football since a young boy in Scotland, and therefore, Villa were the perfect fit.
McGregor not only had a huge effect on Villa, but the sport itself. He was chairman in the late 1880’s, a time when football was in its infancy. McGregor was getting frustrated with the amount of fixtures falling through and thought it was time to organise properly. McGregor, as well as various clubs started the football league and gave birth to football as we know it today. He currently takes pride of place now outside the Trinity Road stand, at Villa’s famed Villa Park, with a bronze statue.
Aston Villa’s livery one of the most iconic in English football. The claret and blue has been appropriated by many teams, but where did it come from? The Lion which emblazons the badge was reportedly brought from Scotland by William McGregor. The lion is almost a perfect duplicate of the one on the Rangers crest and the Villa motto ‘Prepared’, is eerily similar to Rangers’ ‘Ready’.
There is a report in Aston Villa’s history that a match against Hearts of Midlothian saw them playing in maroon for the first time. The rumour is that board members and players whose origins lay in Scotland were in a pub when they decide on the historic colours. They took the blue of Rangers and maroon from Hearts. This was then been refined to the Aston Villa colours we know so well now.
Scottish heritage is just as rich on the field as off of it. The first ever successful captain of Aston Villa was a Scot, George Ramsay. One of the first big names in Association Football was also an Aston Villa player too. Archie Hunter played for Villa for two years scoring a goal a game, and was a name known around the nation. After suffering a heart attack in a game against Everton, he was forced to retire young.
Scottish players have littered the Villa team ever since the early days. Alex Massie of Hearts was a Villa fan favourite. Andy Gray was popular for his incredible ability to score headers from almost anywhere on the pitch.
Aston Villa are currently a shadow of their former self but have still managed to continue the link to Scotland.
Their academy produced Barry Bannan in recent years and Alan Hutton is now considered one of the veterans of the side. With Aston Villa dead-certs to go down this year and play in the Championship they could look to the Scottish Premiership for players to help them secure promotion.
Whatever happens to Aston Villa in the future their link to Scottish football is undeniable and their penchant for everything Scottish could mean we can expect to see more Scots in the Claret and Blue for many years to come.
Written by Joshua Mason