BY DAVID MARPLES
There is something gloriously evocative about the banner running the length of the North Stand at Villa Park. The sadly missed Brian Moore’s TV commentary is forever resurrected to mark the occasion of Villa defeating Bayern Munich in the 1982 European Cup final:
“Shaw, Williams… prepared to venture down the left. There’s a good ball in for Tony Morley. Oh, it must be and it is! It’s Peter Withe.”
It matters not a jot that the ball scuffed in off Peter Withe’s shin. What is important here is the notion that words – simple words – can capture iconic moments and reverberate down through generations. Such a magnificent moment in Villa’s history is beautifully marked by such ordinary yet magnificent words.
Sadly, this book fails to capture the magnitude of such important games and moments in the history of this proud club.
In fairness, the intentions of the book are vast. It sets out to cover the club’s most glorious, epochal and thrilling games from its Victorian foundation to the Premier League era. As a historical document for the early games, it is detailed and enlightening. However for the most part, the language is that of ‘headers and volleys’ – descriptions of mundane incidents in the games that count.
Details can be interesting and insightful but there are simply too many in here. Take this from Villa’s denial of Manchester United’s treble in 1994 as they beat Alex Ferguson’s men 3-1 to claim the League Cup:
“A run by Pallister took the Villa defenders by surprise and a free kick was given on the edge of the area in a dangerous position but Irwin’s free kick went straight into the wall.”
Even the most ardent Villa fan could get by without that piece of detail. This isn’t an isolated example as such prose dominates throughout.
As a reference point for who scored when and how it happened, the book delivers but as an insightful and entertaining dip into the club’s history, it delivers little.