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Aston Villa

the Villians
Aston Villa Aston Villa

In 1874, a group of cricketers needing something to occupy them during winter happened to see a game of football in the park - thus Aston Villa was born. Their first match was unusual in that the first half was played under rugby rules and the second under football rules. Villa fast became the Midlands' dominant side, beating Small Heath Alliance - later to become arch rivals Birmingham City - 22-0 on one occasion.

Aston Villa were one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888 and enjoyed instant success. In the 1890s, they won five titles in seven seasons. Villa won the league and cup double in 1897. A week later, they moved to Aston Lower Grounds, which the fans dubbed Villa Park.

Villa's winning ways continued into the early 1900s, but their fortunes dwindled and in 1937 they were relegated. After the Second World War, the team was totally rebuilt. But apart from a 1957 FA Cup win, previous levels of success were never achieved.

A new low was reached when Villa were relegated to the Third Division in 1971. The club's fortunes changed 10 years later when Ron Saunders led them to the league title. The following year, in 1982, under caretaker manager Tony Barton, the club won the European Cup with victory over Bayern Munich.

Villa were relegated from the top flight in 1987 but bounced back at the first attempt. They finished Premier League runners-up under manager Ron Atkinson in 1993 and League Cup wins over Manchester United and Leeds followed in 1994 and 1996 respectively.