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Through the decades: Aston Villa

Sheffield United v. Aston Villa - December 2019
As founding members of the Football League in 1888, Aston Villa were regular opponents of the Blades until the ups and downs of the 1970s and 80s. The two sides have met 135 times in both the league and FA Cup, with Aston Villa winning 63 matches, Sheffield United winning 40 and 32 draws. 

1890s:

Sheffield United and Aston Villa first met on 2nd October 1893 in Division One, the Blades winning 3-0 at Bramall Lane with goals from Jack Drummond, Harry Hammond and Billy Fleming. Villa however, won the reverse fixture on 30th October 4-0 and ultimately finished the season as champions.

The two sides met in the following five seasons with the Blades finishing second to Villa’s FA Cup and Division One winning side in 1896/97.

Athletic News – Monday 16th September 1895

The meeting of Sheffield United and Aston Villa at Bramall Lane on Saturday produced a splendid struggle of strength, speed and skill, which, after a capital display of football by both teams, resulted in the victory for the Sheffielders by two goals to one…

The attendance, would, as near as I can guess, number about 10000, the new grand stand being well patronised.

The second half was a very lively piece of business. There was not a slow moment. Quickly charging from end to end the ball seemed likely to find a resting place in either net. The Villa however, stuck to that one goal like grim death, and with only ten minutes to go followers of the United began to regard the game as lost. Not so the United players however. Making one of those great efforts we have seen them do at Bramall Lane before this occasion, they made the ground resound with cheers by equalising from a corner beautifully directed by Watson…

Having made things level, the United then set to work to get in front. Five minutes before the finish they succeeded in a rather startling manner which fairly fetched the crowd. Yates sent in a fast, long shot. Wilkes beat at the ball which went straight up in the air. Down it came right in front of the goal with the whole body of United forwards dashing for it and somehow into the net it was scrummaged. Bob Hill, I rather fancy, having the final touch. How the crowd did shout! They are getting quite demonstrative at Bramall Lane nowadays.

Sheffield United did manage to temporarily halt Villa’s dominance with a double over them in the 1897/98 season and go on to win the league the same year but the Blades were unable to maintain their momentum into the 1898/99 season. Although winning the FA Cup, United finished sixteenth in the table as Villa retook the championship.

1900s:

The two sides were familiar foes during the 1900s as they met every season during the decade.

Notable results against Villa include the 6-0 victory at Bramall Lane on New Years’ Day 1902 with goals from Fred Priest, George Hedley and braces from Alf Common and Walter Bennett, in a season which also saw the Blades win the FA Cup for the second time.

Leeds Mercury – Thursday 2nd January 1902

At Sheffield in fine weather. Some 25000 spectators were present…

The United played brilliantly, and Priest and Common each scored in the first ten minutes… Bennett shot a third goal for the United and Common added a fourth…

The United made many attacks… Common put the ball through but was declared off side. Hedley shot a fifth and Bennett a sixth goal from Needham’s centre.

The league became more competitive during the 1900s as owners looked to capitalise on football’s popularity. Despite winning the FA Cup in 1905, it took until the 1909/10 season for Villa to once again finish top of the first division.

1910s:

War interrupted the decade as both sides struggled to match their earlier fortunes in the League.

Success continued in the FA Cup however, with Villa winning in 1913 and the Blades winning the “Khaki Cup” final in 1915.

Mid-table finishes followed for both sides on the resumption of the league in the 1919/20 season, but Villa recorded a double over the Blades this season and added a sixth FA Cup to their trophy cabinet.

1920s:

The Division One rivalry continued throughout the 1920s but both sides failed to recapture their early league form.

Villa were losing FA Cup finalists in 1924 while the Blades beat Cardiff City 1-0 to secure the trophy the following year.

Notable fixtures included two games in two days for the sides on 26th and 27th December 1921. With Villa winning 3-2 at Bramall Lane before an 8 goal thriller at Villa Park the following day. Goals from Harry Johnson, Albert Rawson and a Mercer penalty were not enough to beat the home side who ran home 5-3 victors.

The Scotsman – Thursday 27th December 1921

At Bramall Lane in dull weather and on heavy ground, before thirty five thousand spectators… The United had the assistance of the wind in the first half. Dickson and York scored for the Villa, and Young for the United. Afterwards Jackson saved luckily from Young and Parsons scoring in the last four minutes.

1930s:

Both sides yielded their First Division status during the 1930s. Sheffield United finished bottom of the league in the 1933/34 season to be relegated the Division Two with Villa joining them in the second tier for the 1936/37 season.

Villa had a Halloween to forget in 1936 with a 5-1 defeat at Bramall Lane. Two goals each from Bobby Barclay and Jock Dodds and one from Harold Barton secured the points.

Daily Herald – Monday 2nd November 1936

Sheffield United have always been a team for heavy grounds. For the first time this season they found conditions to their liking in this respect, as Aston Villa discovered to their sorrow.

United once they obtained the measure of their opponents, did much as they liked.

Villa were overplayed in all phases of the game in the second half, when United revealed form which recalled their great run in the second half of last season

Villa, by the way, drew a crowd of 31000 to Bramall Lane – further proof they are the most attractive team in the Second Division.

Aston Villa’s stay in the second tier was short as they finished champions in the 1937/38 season with the Blades gaining promotion back to Division One the following season having finished second to champions Blackburn Rovers.

The declaration of war on 3rd September 1939 saw the Division One fixture list abandoned before the two sides could resume their rivalry in the top league.

1940s:

Division One football resumed in the 1946/47 season but a particularly cold winter saw fixtures postponed and the season dragged on into June.

Villa’s 4-3 victory at home during the 1948/49 season contributed to Sheffield United’s woes as they finished bottom of the league and again were relegated into the Second Division.

1950s:

The sides met in four seasons during the 1950s as Sheffield United yo-yoed between the First and Second divisions. Goals from Jack Cross and Alf Ringstead earnt United a 2-1 victory on 26th April 1954 in front of a crowd of 12796 spectators at Bramall Lane. Villa managed to do the double over the Blades in 1954/55 with two 3-1 scorelines. The 1959/60 season found both clubs in the second division. While the Blades recorded a 1-1 draw at home and a Doc Pace hattrick at his old club earnt a 3-1 victory at Villa Park, Aston Villa finished the season as champions.

1960s:

The two sides met regularly through the 1960s.

The second division meeting between the two sides at Bramall Lane on 22nd November 1969 saw the Blades put five goals past the visitors without reply.

Sports Argus – Saturday 22nd November 1969

Ex-Albion man slams Villa by Geoff Beane

Villa, still without a win away from go home, held out until two minutes before the interval against a much superior Sheffield United side at Bramall Lane.

Then, after United had two goals “disallowed” in as many minutes, and Brian Tiler had appeared to be booked, former West Bromwich Albion defender Eddie Colquhoun came up to grab two goals, both from corners, in the 43rd and 48th minutes.

Reece added a third in the 68th minute and four minutes later Phillips scored from a penalty when Tiler brought down Reece.

Currie scored a fifth for the United a minute before the end…

Police had been constantly going into the crowd and bringing out single spectators, and soon after the second United goal new trouble broke out behind Hodgkinson, and two young supporters were pulled out and led away along the touch-line, one of them with blood pouring from his face. 

It was a miserable season for Villa who finished second bottom and were relegated to the third division for the first time in their history.

1970s and 1980s:

Although the decade started brightly, the 1970s marked the start of a period of turmoil for Sheffield United which culminated in relegation down to the fourth tier of English football. The two sides met only three times during the 1970s with Villa knocking United out of the FA Cup with a comprehensive 4-1 scoreline on 25th January 1975, having already booked their spot in the League Cup final. A single goal from Tony Field was the only consolation for the Blades who braved the heavy rain on an open Villa Park terrace. The sides met again in Division One the following season, both sides securing the win at their respective home grounds but United ultimately found themselves relegated back to the second division once more. In 1982, as Sheffield United were celebrating winning the Fourth Division, Aston Villa were preparing to beat Bayern Munich in the European Cup. Two 1-1 draws were all the sides had to show for their only 80s meeting in the 1987/88 Division Two season.

1990s:

Both sides were back in Division One for the 1990/91 season and had managed to remain there to become inaugural teams in the newly launched Premiership in 1992/93. The Premiership meetings were less than auspicious for United – Villa did the double over the Blades in both 1992/93 and 1993/94 and United were relegated back to the second tier at the end of the season.

The two sides met only once more in the 1990s. A Dwight Yorke penalty was the difference between the two sides in the FA Cup Third Round in January 1996 at Bramall Lane.

Sheffield United qualified for the play-offs in both 1997 and 1998 but promotion out of Division One remained out of their grasp while Aston Villa continued their stay in the Premiership.

2000s:

Another FA Cup Third round tie in January 2005 saw United run out 3-1 winners with goals from Danny Cullip and two from Andy Liddell despite Villa taking the lead through Gareth Barry.

With Villa in the process of spending 29 years in the Premier League, it took United to gain promotion before the two sides met once again in the league during the 2006/07 season.

The points were shared during a frustrating 2-2 draw at Bramall Lane. The visitors opened the scoring with just 76 seconds gone through Stiliyan Petrov and it took until after the break for United to mount a fightback. Stephen Quinn’s volley and Danny Webber’s neat flick saw the Blades in front but Villa’s response was immediate; Milan Baros taking advantage of some woeful defending right from the restart to equalise.

United’s trip to Villa Park marked the last away match of the 2006/07 season and despite the buoyant mood amongst the travelling fans who still believed that survival was possible, the team barely mustered a whimper as they suffered a 3-0 defeat.

2010s:

The 2010/11 season was one to forget for Blades fans. The only meeting between the two sides, Villa knocked United out of the FA Cup in the third round at Bramall Lane. Former Blades player Kyle Walker opened the scoring for the visitors and despite a Jamie Ward penalty and a sending off for Ashley Young, the final score was 1-3. Worse was to come as Sheffield United finished second bottom of the league and slipped down to the third tier for the first time since 1989.

Another FA Cup meeting in 2013/14 saw League One Sheffield United finally break their Villa Park curse as they won at the ground for the first time since the 1965/66 season. Goals from Jamie Murphy and Ryan Flynn put the Blades through on a cup run that was ended by Hull City in the Semi-final at Wembley.

Aston Villa made the FA Cup final the following year, but 2015/16 saw them suffer relegation from the Premier League – finishing just above Norwich at the bottom of the table.

The Blades finally escaped League One under the management of Chris Wilder in 2016/17, romping home to secure the title with 100 points.

With both sides back in the Championship for the 2017/18 season, the Blades fought back though two goals from Clayton Donaldson to draw 2-2 away from home but lost to a 90 minute Robert Snodgrass goal at Bramall Lane.

The 2018/19 season saw a return to the high-scoring games of old. Goals from Jack O’Connell, Mark Duffy, Oliver Norwood and Billy Sharp saw the Blades win 4-1 at Bramall Lane. While eight minutes of sheer madness at the end of the game on 8th February at Villa Park saw the home side come back from a Billy Sharp hattrick to grab a point.

The result seemed to galvanise the Blades’ spirit as they only dropped 11 points from the remaining 15 matches to finish second to champions Norwich. Promotion was confirmed on Sunday 28th April as Leeds United drew with Aston Villa under controversial circumstances. While Aston Villa argued that they conceded when a throw-in should have been returned to them, Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa ordered his players to gift Villa an unopposed goal to even up the match – a goal that was celebrated wildly by watching Blades! 

Aston Villa were soon to follow the Blades into the Premier League through the play-off route, beating West Bromwich Albion on penalties and beating Frank Lampard’s Derby County in the final.

They played for both...

James “Jimmy” Harrop (dob 05/02/1884 – 25/05/1954) – Aston Villa 1912 – 1921 Sheffield United 1921 – 1922

Derek  “Doc” Pace (dob 11/03/1932) : Aston Villa 1950 – 1957 Sheffield United 1957 – 1964

Ian “Chico” Hamilton (dob 31/10/1950): Aston Villa 1969 – 1976 Sheffield United 1976 – 1978

Trevor Hockey (dob 01/05/1943 – 01/04/1987): Sheffield United 1971 – 1973 Aston Villa 1973 – 1974

Gordon Cowans (dob 27/10/1958): Aston Villa 1976 – 1985 1988 – 1991 1993 – 1994 Sheffield United 1995 – 1996

Peter Withe (dob 30/08/1951): Aston Villa 1980 – 1985 Sheffield United 1985 – 1989

Kevin Gage (dob 21/04/1964): Aston Villa 1987 – 1991 Sheffield United 1991 – 1996

Paul McGrath (dob 04/12/1959): Aston Villa 1989 – 1996 Sheffield United 1997 – 1998

Dean Saunders (dob 21/06/1964): Aston Villa 1992 – 1995 Sheffield United 1997 – 1998

Carl Tiler (dob 11/02/1970): Aston Villa 1995 – 1997 Sheffield United 1997

Ugo Ehiogu (dob 03/11/1972 – 21/04/2017): Aston Villa 1991 – 2000 Sheffield United 2008 – 2009

Lee Hendrie (dob 18/05/1977): Aston Villa 1994 – 2007 Sheffield United 2007 – 2009

Alan Wright (dob 28/09/1971): Aston Villa 1995 – 2003 Sheffield United 2003 loan – 2007

Matt Lowton (dob 09/06/1989): Sheffield United 2007 – 2012 Aston Villa 2012 – 2015

Mark Bunn (dob 16/11/1984): Sheffield United loan 2009 – 2010 Aston Villa 2015 – 2019

Enda Stevens (dob 09/07/1990): Aston Villa 2012 – 2015 Sheffield United 2017 –

Samir Carruthers (dob 04/04/1993): Aston Villa 2012 – 2014 Sheffield United 2017 – 2019

Callum Robinson (dob 02/02/1995): Aston Villa 2013 – 2016 Sheffield United 2019 –

What do you think?

Written by Linz Fox

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