Monday, February 02, 2009

More melancholy for Aston Villa

It's been a truly wretched Winter for Aston Villa supporters. In the space of the last two months, four key people from its long and illustrious history have sadly passed away, all of them playing their part in bringing glory and silverware to Villa Park.

Today we hear the sad news about the death of Paul Birch, a Villa midfielder for eleven years. Having joined the club as an apprentice in 1980, he went on to become a fixture in the middle of the pitch and was a true fans favourite due to his versatility and work ethic.

In 1991, he moved onto Wolves where he played under Graham Turner and Graham Taylor but by 1996 his career was nearing its end as spells with Doncaster and Exeter came to pass. A career in coaching gave Birch the chance to remain involved in the game, linking up with former Villa team mate Nigel Spink at Forest Green Rovers and then Birmingham City.

In May 2008, Paul Birch was diagnosed with bone cancer. Friends and former colleagues rallied around to support him in his plight, but his death at the age of only 46 will come as a terrible blow not only to them but the many Aston Villa fans who have also recently suffered the loss of other legends synonymous with the club.

Last November, former full back and Villa stalwart Peter Aldis died at the age of 81. He played for the club between 1948 and 1960 and was described by many as being a player with 'a sunshine smile'. Aldis made 294 appearances in the claret and blue and was a member of the team that won the 1957 FA Cup Final.

Then a couple of weeks ago came two more pieces of sad news. Johnny Dixon was Peter Aldis' captain in the 1957 Cup Final winning side against Manchester United and enjoyed a 17-year career in which he scored 144 goals in 430 appearances. He later suffered from Alzheimers Disease and died on January 20th aged 85 in the same Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield where Paul Birch died earlier today.

Vic Crowe was a former player and manager of Aston Villa, and his death at the age of 76 was announced the day after that of Dixon's. Crowe won the League Cup with Villa as a player in 1961 and took them to the League Cup Final as manager in 1971 while the club were still in Division Three.

A member of the Wales squad that played in the 1958 World Cup, Crowe played 350 times for Villa leading them to the Second Division championship in 1960 and a League Cup win in 1961.

The loss to Aston Villa of these four former players is something which fans of other teams would hope never to experience themselves. It goes without saying that Villa Park will echo to their cheers for a long time to come, but as this club falls silent once again it's worth acknowledging that Villa's current form owes a lot to the huge amount of effort and dedication they gave in the past.

They will be greatly missed.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Thanks for a great write-up Chris. Very sad couple of weeks.

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