It was thirty years ago

Last updated : 24 October 2005 By Tony Scholes
Peter Noble - scored for both sides on our last visit
Visits to Villa Park were never games to look forward to, simply because we were never able to get good results there although surprisingly we have lost only once in our last four games there against the Villa.

That defeat ironically came in the League Cup, one round earlier than this tie, in the 1970/71 season. It might be difficult for the modern day supporter to believe but Burnley were then two divisions higher than Villa but our superior status did us no good on that occasion, we suffered a 2-0 defeat.

We went into the game as underdogs, we had already slumped to the bottom of Division One and 3rd Division Villa had started the season well. It was a shocking performance from Burnley and we got exactly what we deserved.

Who was the last player to score for Villa against us at Villa Park? That’s a question that shouldn’t see you searching a list of their players from 1975 – that last game there against them ended 1-1 with Peter Noble scoring both goals.

Things were looking better for the Clarets (that’s us). A week earlier Frank Casper had made his long awaited comeback from injury with the winning goal against QPR and at Villa he was joined by Paul Fletcher who’d been ruled out since March.

Burnley’s team in that game was Alan Stevenson, Mick Docherty, Keith Newton, Peter Noble, Colin Waldron, Jim Thomson, Paul Fletcher, Frank Casper, Mike Summerbee, Brian Flynn and Leighton James.

We’d climbed to 17th in the table but it was all a false dawn and it was December before we picked up another point as five defeats followed this draw.

Three seasons earlier we had turned in one of our best performances of the season at the ground. In the first week in January, top (Burnley) played third (Villa) and top came out on top by a 3-0 scoreline. It took us eight points clear with 17 games to go and we still hadn’t lost an away game all season.

Keith Newton, Geoff Nulty and Billy Ingham scored the goals that day in front of a crowd of almost 39,000 to complete a double over them, following an early season 4-1 win at the Turf in which Andy Lochhead scored the Villa goal. It was a fantastic performance and a bigger win than 3-0 would not have flattered us at all.

The other game in the four game sequence came in Villa’s relegation season of 1966/67 and a first minute own goal from their goalkeeper Colin Withers was enough to give us a win. That day provided a first for Burnley when Sammy Todd came on as a substitute for Brian Miller.

Todd wore the number 12 on his back when previous Burnley subs had worn no number at all. Miller will certainly remember the game, it proved to be his last for Burnley the knee injury he sustained brought his playing career to an end at the age of 30.

A year earlier Willie Irvine had broken the club’s post way goalscoring record there with a goal in the opening minutes but we didn’t hold the lead and went on to lose the game 2-1.

My first recollections of the ground are from the early 1960s and in the space of a year we played in three cup semi-finals there, two in the FA Cup and one in the League Cup. Needless to say none of them were won.

Thirty years is a long time, apart from the new clubs to the league who we might not have met, the likes of Yeovil and Boston, we have played away games against everyone since we last played there.

For thirty years it has been nothing more than a ground next to the motorway that we could point out as we passed it on the road to grounds in the south but finally we are back at Villa Park.