Wednesday 26 June 2013
Premierleague.com profiles all 20 Premier League venues, continuing with Aston Villa's home ground, Villa Park.
Year built: 1897
First League match: Aston Villa 5-2 The Wednesday, 1 September 1897
Villa Park is one of the oldest football stadiums in the world and one of a very select few that has hosted international matches over three different centuries. Situated two miles from Birmingham city centre in the former premises of Aston Hall, a Jacobean stately home, and initially known as the Aston Lower Grounds, Aston Villa have resided at the venue since 1897 when a new stand was built for its opening on 17 April that year.
The inaugural match at the ground was a friendly between Villa and Blackburn Rovers just a week after the high-flying hosts had completed the League and FA Cup double. Two years later Villa Park hosted the first of 16 England internationals to take place there at a venue that soon became known nationwide as one of the best in the country.
Its location in central England and large capacity have led to Villa Park's selection as a neutral venue for FA Cup semi-finals on no fewer than 55 occasions, while it also staged three matches during the 1966 World Cup, four fixtures at Euro '96 and the last ever European Cup Winners Cup final between Lazio and Real Mallorca in 1999. Villa Park also staged the 1981 League Cup final replay as well as the 2012 Community Shield between Chelsea and Manchester City.
Steeped as it is in history and tradition Villa Park, which played host to Villa's best Barclays Premier League campaign in the inaugural 1992/93 season, remains one of the best loved football arenas in the country.
19 Sep 1992: Aston Villa 4-2 Liverpool
Dean Saunders scored twice on his home debut against the club that had sold him at the start of the month to usher in the start of the 'Deadly D's' strike partnership with Dalian Atkinson. The latter, who together with the Welshman would plunder 60 Barclays Premier League goals over the next three seasons, and Garry Parker also scored as the side who had won the title three seasons earlier, were brought to heel.
Mark Walters and Ronnie Rosenthal were on target for the visitors in a match largely remembered for 'that miss' by the Israeli striker, who rounded goalkeeper Nigel Spink and smashed the ball against the bar with the Holte End goal at his mercy. This inaugural Barclays Premier League campaign proved Villa's best to date, as they finished second to Manchester United, thereby securing qualification for the UEFA Cup.
16 Apr 2006: Aston Villa 3-1 Birmingham City
Two years later Villa would hammer their city rivals 5-1 but this match is probably remembered more fondly among the Villa faithful as it was their first home win in the top-flight over the Blues in six attempts and getting on for 23 years. It also pulled them 10 points clear of the relegation zone while leaving their opponents three points from safety with four matches remaining.
Milan Baros opened and completed the scoring for the hosts, but after Chris Sutton levelled from an Emile Heskey knockdown, a 20-year-old Gary Cahill, on only his fourth appearance for the club, lit up Villa Park with an acrobatic volley into the far corner of Maik Taylor's net. The Villans finished the campaign two places above Steve Bruce's side, who were relegated to the Championship.
13 December 1998: Aston Villa 3-2 Arsenal
The Gunners looked destined to move level on points with third-placed Chelsea when Dennis Bergkamp earned his side a two-goal half-time lead. However, Villa, who were level with early pacesetters Manchester United at the top of the standings, staged an impressive second-half recovery against the titleholders.
The start of the second period was delayed when a parachutist, dressed in a seasonal Father Christmas outfit, crashed on to the roof of the Trinity Road stand before plunging 40 feet onto the perimeter track, sustaining serious injuries to both legs, as a skydiving display went wrong. Jim Walker, Villa's physiotherapist, was among those who raced to the injured man’s aid.
On the pitch, manager John Gregory's decision to bring on Stan Collymore for Gareth Barry to trouble a defence shorn of the absent Tony Adams, paid off, with Julian Joachim pulling a goal back and Dion Dublin scoring twice to send the home side three points clear at the top. Villa were unable to sustain their table-topping form and they finished sixth in the Barclays Premier League.
After Aston Villa beat Sunderland 6-1 in April 2013, manager Paul Lambert described Villa Park as "rocking": "It was a high pressure game. The stadium was rocking and the crowd was fantastic. Shooting into that Holte End can be a magnet at times. They draw the ball in. If you get that on your side and you keep them pressing, the crowd can definitely help them."
For a 3D tour of Villa Park and a video profiling Aston Villa and their home ground, click here >>