A mystery Villa medal

There’s somewhat of a mystery about this ‘Aston Villa’ medal. It was awarded to W. Vale in 1893 as first prize for attendance. Close inspection reveals that the ‘Aston Villa’ may not be the football club (fc) but Aston Villa CC, possibly the Cricket Club. And yet the medal features the famous Villa lion. So who could this W. Vale be and did he have a connection with the football club?

A decade in polyester

Villa fan and collector David Hitchman has kindly send me an unusual booklet: A Decade in Polyester – The good , the bad and the beautiful of Aston Villa shirts, 1990 to 1999.

David explains on his website that he used his ‘lockdown time’ to design and produce the 32 page publication which contains a look through Villa’s shirts in the 1990s.

The booklet is a brief story of those shirts and the stories behind them, told through photographs of his collection. It contains pictures of every outfield shirt worn in the 90s, and some we didn’t, as well as the pick of the goalkeeper shirts and all the rarities and oddities that cropped up throughout the decade.

The book, which can be orderd from David’s website, is £12 (includes p+p) with all profits going to St Giles Hospice in Staffordshire.

Against the odds

This is one of my favourite images – and not a Villa player in sight. It shows subsititute goalkeeper Jackie Blanchflower and Dudley-born Duncan Edwards in action for Manchester United during the 1957 FA Cup Final against Aston Villa.

Blanchflower put on the green jersey after goalkeeper Ray Wood left the field with a broken cheekbone following a collision with Villa’s Peter McParland in the sixth minute. No substitutes in those days! Wood eventually returned to the field with just seven minutes left to play, taking up an outfield position as a virtual passenger.

Villa won the game against the odds (see prices on offer by a Birmngham bookmaker at the time). McParland went on to score both goals in Villa’s 2-1 victory.

Albert Wilkes, photographic artist

Here’s a brief bio (courtesy of cartoonist Wayne) on Albert Wilkes the Aston Villa half-back who also enjoyed a fine reputation off the park as a sports photographer. His photo library is now archived with Colorsport Images in London.

An interesting character, Albert Wilkes was much respected in and out of football. Educated at Walsall Road School, he played his early football with Oldbury Town and Walsall before joining Aston Villa in1898. Albert was a fine singer who appeared around Midland music halls in the 1920’s. He became a Villa director in 1934 and was a Grand Master in the Freemasons. Albert kept a photographic studio in West Bromwich where he continued to be a snappy operator! Known for his competittive streak and sheer hard work, Albert went south to join Fulham in 1907-08, then Chesteerfield where he wound up a great career. He made 150 senior appearances and scored eight goals for Aston Villa and was capped by England five times. Albert received the Royal HUmane Society Award for saving a young fan from drowning. A West Bromwich-born Villa hero!

Another striking cover

Here’s another striking programme cover from the past. It’s from the 1947-48 season and was produced for Villa’s home match against the eventual League champions, Arsenal. The Gunners had beaten Villa 1-0 earlier in the season but Alex Massie’s men took revenge at Villa Park notching up a 4-2 victory with goals from Johnny Dixon, Trevor Ford (2) and Leslie Smith. Joe Mercer, who later became manager of Aston Villa, turned out for the visitors. The attendance was 65,690. Villa finished sixth in the League, on level points (47) with Wolves in fifth place who had a better goal difference after beating Villa twice (1-0 and 4-1) in two matches played over the Christmas period.