One of the oldest rivalries in professional football resumes on Tuesday between two teams who met numerous times prior to the establishment of the Football League in 1888.
Our first competitive visit away to Villa came eight months before the league was inaugurated, when we won an FA Cup fifth round tie at their Wellington Road ground 3-1.
Indeed our first ten league games were held at the same venue before Villa moved to their new home in the Aston Pleasure Grounds in 1898. Wellington Road was not a rewarding venue for North End as we only won twice in the league, losing the other eight although we did draw a third round FA Cup replay there on our last ever visit.
Our record didn’t improve at Villa Park, where we have played 40 league games prior to today, winning only seven times whilst last season’s 2-2 draw was only our fourth at the ground.
Between 1920 and 1954, we lost 14 consecutive league games to our hosts, one of worst league runs in our history. Highlights have been few and far between, with 4-2 victories way back in 1909 and 1919, whilst we have conceded five goals on three occasions, although the most recent was in 1935.
The highest scoring game saw us lose 5-3 in September 1889, the first time we had conceded five times in a league game and the only time in our first 182 matches in the competition.
Last season’s game was the first league fixture between the clubs at Villa Park for 44 years as we went our separate ways from the early 1970s onwards.
Jimmy Brown moved north to Deepdale in 1975 having made almost 80 appearances for Villa as a combative midfielder. He turned out in 72 games for North End at a time we were in the third division before becoming something of a football nomad with spells in Greece, Portmouth, Belgium and his native Scotland before moving into non-league football in the 1980s.
Tony Morley became a European Cup winner with Villa in 1982 when they overcame Bayern Munich in the Final. Tony started his career with North End before moving to Burnley in 1976 and then Villa three year later.
He went on to become one of a very select group of players to appear for both Villa and their arch-rivals Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion before ending his league career back at Turf Moor. He too was something of a globetrotter, playing for teams in Hong Kong, Holland, America and Malta at the end of a career that began with 99 games and 20 goals in a lilywhite shirt.
On This Date
North End great Alan Spavin, who sadly died in 2016, was born on this date in 1942. A member of our FA Youth Cup Final side of 1960 that produced a crop of talented players, Spav made his debut at the start of the following season aged just 18.
Over the next 19 years, he went on to reach third place in our all-time appearances chart, his 484 games just three behind Willie Cunningham and only 28 between team-mate, great friend and business partner Alan Kelly senior.
Spav’s time at Deepdale as a midfield general was interrupted for three years from 1974 to 1977 when he moved to America to play for Washington Diplomats and set up a soccer school with Kelly and he also played for Morecambe and Dundalk before returning to North End in 1977.
He only made ten appearances in his second spell, but he was as important on the training field as on the pitch as he passed on his wealth of experience, which included playing in our 1964 FA Cup Final side, to the club’s younger players.
Pavel Pergl made the first of his six appearances for North End on 20th February 2007. The only Czech Republic player to represent North End to date, he made a goalscoring debut in a 2-1 home win over Norwich, but was released at the end of the season having filed to establish himself in the side. He is currently appearing for FC Chur in Switzerland – the seventh country he has played in.
Frank O’Donnell scored a hat-trick on this date in 1937 in a 5-3 home win over Exeter City, his second treble in three weeks. North End were a First Division side whilst Exeter were from the third division south so an easy win was expected but it turned into a real battle before we emerged victorious. Hugh O’Donnell and Jimmy Dougal also scored as we made progress towards the final, where we lost 3-1 to Sunderland.
Last Five Games At Villa Park
Aston Villa 2 (Adomah, 2 (1 pen)) Preston North End 2 (Hugill, 2), 21st January 2017
Aston Villa 5 (Vassell, 2; Dublin, Angel, Hitzelsperger) Preston North End 0, 4th December 2002
Aston Villa 2 (Hockey, Aitken) Preston North End 0, 25th August 1973
Aston Villa 1 (Aitken) Preston North End 1 (Bruce), 17th February 1973
Aston Villa 2 (Lochhead, 2) Preston North End 0, 19th September 1970