Aston Villa Football Club was founded in March 1874 by four members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel in Handsworth. Cricketers William Scattergood, Jack Hughes, Frederick Matthews, and Walter Price are seen as the club’s founding fathers. However, there was fascinating history about their formation in the years prior.
The pioneers of the athletic movement in the Birmingham area were the members of the Birmingham Athletic Club, which was founded in 1866. Their early activities seem to have been confined to indoor sports – gymnastics, boxing, and wrestling, amongst others.
By the early 1870s, they were practicing a full range of activities, including outdoor sports on the club’s grounds at Portland Road. Perhaps the earliest football club in the area was connected with the King Edward’s Grammar School, founded in 1863 and playing rugby rules.
At this time, forming a soccer team like Aston Villa was not even a thought.
Another early center of activity was at St Peter’s College, Saltley, a Church of England training college for schoolteachers. The sport was introduced to the college in 1870, and the earliest form of soccer played was “a kind of Rugby without rules.”
However, the students soon switched to playing rugby rules before eventually going over to the association code around 1874.
Football in Birmingham
There was, however, little football activity within Birmingham before the 1872-73 season, the impetus for its appearance undoubtedly coming from the success during the previous winter of the Nine Hours Movement in reducing working hours.
As a result, most clerks, skilled workers, and those in the building and engineering industries now had just about enough spare time in the winter months to allow a few hours of athletic activity on a Saturday afternoon.
There are various methods for quantifying the game’s spread. Perhaps the best being to record match reports and references to football clubs in the local and sporting press.
The results show that the various football codes became established in the Birmingham area from 1872 to 1875 when the Birmingham Football Association was founded. However, the game had still to develop into the mass activity it was to become.
Football or Rugby?
It is often said that Birmingham was a rugby stronghold before the emergence of the Birmingham Clerks’ Association team in 1873. Indeed, a rugby-style game was the preferred choice of the leading schools in the city, including the King Edward’s Grammar School, Proprietary School, and the students of Queen’s College Medical School.
Of the ten clubs that regularly featured during the 1874-75 season, six preferred the rugby code (Crusaders, Edgbaston, Grasshoppers, Gymnasium, Handsworth, and Moseley), while three played Sheffield Association rules (Birmingham FC, Aston Park Unity, and Aston Villa) and one London Association rules (Birmingham Clerks’ Association).
Invariably, the clubs playing football had previously been established as cricket clubs – this certainly applies to Handsworth, Moseley, Birmingham FC, Aston Park Unity, and Aston Villa.
Birmingham Clerks’ Association
Birmingham Clerks’ Association was the football section of a self-help organization formed in the autumn of 1871 when there were proposals to increase the hours worked by bank clerks. Their objectives included protecting the interests of clerks, raising the standards of clerks generally, and promoting intellectual improvement.
This provides some of the backgrounds to football in Birmingham at the time that Aston Villa was founded. There is no doubt that the club was initially formed to play cricket, probably around 1872. Principally by members of the Adult Male Bible Class attached to the Aston Villa Wesleyan Chapel.
The leading men recognized as the Aston Villa Football Club founders were William Scattergood, Jack Hughes, Walter Price, and Frederick Matthews.
The evidence is unclear whether the club was formally attached to the chapel or, as perhaps seems more likely, it was a case of young men with a common social background.
Aston Villa First Soccer Match
The first recorded soccer match was against St Mary’s from Aston Brook, in which the first half was played under rugby rules and the second half under association sometime in November 1874.
The Birmingham Morning News records that Aston Park Unity, who had just established a football section, was due to play Aston Villa at football in Aston Park on Saturday 2 January 1875, but the Villa club did not turn up.
Instead, a match was played between teams selected by the Unity captain and deputy captain. Amongst those listed as taking part were three names associated with the early Aston Villa club. W Price, J Hughes, and H Slack.
The following week, the two teams played a match under Sheffield Association rules in Aston Park. Unity defeating Aston Villa by one goal to nil.
The Villa team is shown as G Matthews (captain), W Price, J Hughes, McBean, A Walters, W Scattergood, H Matthews, E Lee, A Robbins, G Mason, Wies, C Midgeley, TF Smith, Lewis.
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Second Soccer Game
The clubs met for a second time on Aston Park on Saturday 30 January, when Unity again won, this time by two goals to nil. The third and final report of Villa’s activities relates to a game played on Saturday 13 March 1875 against St Mary’s from Aston Brook.
The information from the Birmingham Morning News for 16 March reads as follows: On Saturday, a match was played between the Aston Villa Football Club and the St Mary’s Football Club on the ground of the former. The first part of the afternoon was devoted to the Rugby rules, neither side getting a goal.
Half time being called, the sides changed goals and proceeded, as before arranged, to play according to the association rules. After about half an hour of spirited play on both sides, a goal was scored by the Villa team. A
t the conclusion of the game, the ball remained in neutral ground, neither side gaining any advantage. Special praise is due to J. Hughes, the Villa, and Mr. Youlden on behalf of the St Mary’s, who played exceedingly well.
Aston Villa First Fixture
This is the match that is considered to have been Aston Villa’s very first fixture. So what does this tell us about the date when Aston Villa was formed? Firstly we know that the Aston Villa CC members were considering founding a football team around November 1874.
Secondly, we know that the Aston Villa Football Club was formally established between November 1874 and March 1875. The initial game against St Mary’s was played. Where does this leave the two games played against Aston Park Unity in January 1875?
Indeed, these were considered full club matches by Unity, who played five games in the 1874-75 season. In conclusion, we can firmly date Aston Villa’s first-ever game as having taken place on 13 March 1875 and more accurately date the founding of the club’s football team to February or early March of 1875.
A member of the FA council and an active member of the International Selection Committee, he was presented with the Football Association’s long service gold medal just two weeks before his death in December 1911. Not only did McGregor shape Aston Villa, but he was also responsible for forming the Football League.
Born in Perthshire, Scotland, in 1847, McGregor moved to Birmingham in 1870, running a linen draper’s shop in Summer Lane with his brother. He was invited to join the Aston Villa committee in 1877 and subsequently held every office with the club. But his influence extended far beyond this corner of Birmingham.
After coming up with the idea to play competitive matches rather than friendlies, McGregor was appointed the first chairman of the Football League, becoming President four years later. In 1894 Villa played a Football League XI in a testimonial match for his benefit and was also elected the league’s first Life President.
The Barclays Premier League is often described as the best in the world – but the concept of league football all started with Villa director William McGregor. It was in 1888 when Villa took their place as founder members of the Football League, thanks to the vision of McGregor.
He had already played a significant role in bringing greater professionalism into football, but his most important work was undoubtedly the creation of the League. Like other leading clubs, Villa was finding even the most prestigious friendly matches were not attracting the same sort of attendances as Cup games.
McGregor, a draper with premises near Aston Park, set about gaining support for a competition that would offer clubs in the Midlands and the North regular competitive matches. He wrote to the clubs, inviting them to a meeting to discuss the concept, and the Football League was created with 12 founding teams.  He was elected the first chairman of the league by the other clubs.
The other founder members were:
- Blackburn Rovers
- Bolton Wanderers
- Derby County
- Notts County
- Preston North End
- Stoke City
- West Bromwich Albion
- Wolverhampton Wanderers 
A points system was agreed upon – two points for a win and one for a draw.
Since then, league football has been a success in leagues worldwide for decades. In England, the Football league has continued to be a success for over 100 years, eventually growing to four divisions.
In 1992, the first division effectively became the Premier League and is now a worldwide phenomenon.
When Did They Join The Football League
The Claret & Blue Army was one of the dozen teams that competed in the inaugural Football League in 1888, with William McGregor as one of the league’s founders. In 1893–94, Villa won its first league title as a result of its short, quick passing style of play.
Aston Villa won five league titles and three FA Cups in the Victorian era, turning into the most successful English team of the time.
The club has won the Premier League / First Division seven times. Their last championship came in 1980-81. Before that, 71 years had passed since a title was won. Aston Villa’s worst league performance was in 1969-70 when they were relegated to Division 3. They were promoted back to Division 2 in 1971-72.
Aston Villa Logo History
In addition to being a founding member of the Football League in 1888, Aston Villa has become a tremendous English soccer club.
William McGregor, the club’s first president, played a significant role in shaping its image and initial logo. Due to his Scottish heritage and the team’s connection to the Scottish community in Birmingham, he decided that the logo must include the lion from the Scottish royal arms.
It was first adopted in 1880 and used until 1886 where the lion was removed. The lion was reintroduced into the Aston Villa logo in 1956 and has been the central feature ever since.
Aston Villa Timeline
1874 – Jack Hughes, Frederick Matthews, Walter Price, and William Scattergood from the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel cricket team meet under a gaslight to form a new club.
1887 – Villa triumphed in the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory against West Brom in front of some 15,000 spectators.
1888 – Villa director William McGregor pioneers the formation of the first Football League by calling the country’s leading clubs together.
1894 – First League Championship triumph, followed by a second FA Cup triumph the following term.
1895 – The FA Cup trophy was stolen from a Birmingham shop window where it had been on display.
1896 – Aston Villa is champions for the second time in three years.
1897 – Villa moves from Perry Barr to Villa Park. The Villans take the league title by 11 points and secure the double by beating three top-quality sides to carry off the FA Cup.
1899 – A dramatic league season as Villa beat rivals Liverpool 5-0 on the final day to again lift the trophy.
1900 – Aston Villa retains their league title.
1905 – Villa, once again, captured the FA Cup with Harry Hampton scoring two goals against Newcastle United in front of 101,117.
1910 – Villa wins their sixth league title.
1911 – Villa buy Villa Park.
1913 – Villa wins the FA Cup for a record-equalling fifth time, beating Sunderland 1-0.
1920- Villa again triumphs in the FA Cup, beating favorites Huddersfield in the final.
1931 – Tom ‘Pongo’ Waring scores an impressive 49 league goals as Villa finishes runners-up to Arsenal in the league.
1957 – Eric Houghton’s Villa triumph in the FA Cup of 1957, beating Manchester United 2-1 in the final.
1961 – Villa won the newly created League Cup, beating Rotherham United over two legs.
1975 – Villa win the League Cup with a 1-0 win over Norwich, with Ray Graydon scoring the winning goal from a penalty rebound.
1977 – Villa beat Everton 3-2 at Old Trafford to win the League Cup again after two replays. The first match at Wembley finishes goalless, followed by a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough.
1981 – Villa wins the League Championship under the stewardship of Ron Saunders.
1982 -Tony Barton guides Villa into their first European Cup final. Peter Withe scores the winning goal against Bayern Munich in the final.
1982 – Doug Ellis returns to Villa Park as chairman.
1988 – The claret and blue troops hold out for a point on the last day of the season to go back up to Division One.
1994 – Villa win another League Cup, with Ron Atkinson’s men running out 3-1 winners over Manchester United.
1996 – Brian Little leads Villa to another League Cup final victory over Leeds United, winning 3-0.
2000 – Villa reaches the FA Cup final at Wembley but go down 1-0 to Chelsea.
2006 – Martin O’Neill arrives at Villa Park on the day he is appointed as the new manager. Soon after, the club changes hands, with Randy Lerner taking the reins from Doug Ellis.
2008 – Villa enjoy a fantastic second term under O’Neill. Attendances soar to a 58-year high, and the team are good value for a top-six finish, beating Ajax in a showpiece clash at Villa Park in the UEFA Cup.
2009 – Villa again finish sixth and compete in the UEFA Cup. Ashley Young is named PFA Young Player of the Year, while on the downside, Martin Laursen is forced to retire because of a knee injury.
2010 – Villa enjoy another campaign to remember, finishing sixth once again and beating Liverpool at Anfield, Manchester United at Old Trafford and Chelsea at Villa Park in the process. The team also reach the Carling Cup final and FA Cup semi-final. Former Liverpool and Lyon boss Gerard Houllier is appointed manager of Villa in September. Houllier brings a wealth of experience in the top flight and won five trophies while at Anfield.
2011 – Villa sign Darren Bent in a record-breaking transfer deal, the striker joining in the January transfer window from Sunderland. Gerard Houllier leaves Villa by mutual consent after a period of ill health ends his season as manager early.
2012 – Lerner put the club up for sale after the club announced a financial loss of £53.9 million.
2015 – Villa lost 4-0 in the FA Cup final to Arsenal.
2016 – After 29 years in the top flight, the club was relegated at the end of the season to the Championship. The club was purchased for £76 million by Chinese businessman Tony Xia.
2018 – An Egyptian company owned by a billionaire Egyptian and an American billionaire bought the controlling stake in Villa.
2019 – Following a three-year absence from the Premier League, the team reached the 2019 EFL Championship play-off Final and defeated Derby County 2–1.
2022 – The Spanish manager Unai Emery, who has won the Europa League four times, was appointed manager.
Villa Park History
Villa Park is one of the oldest and most famous stadiums in Europe.
Opened in 1897, it has hosted World Cup, European Championship, and other international football matches and more FA Cup semi-finals than any other venue.
The stadium was also the venue for the last European Cup Winners Cup final between Lazio and Real Mallorca in 1999.
World Cup Venue
This famous venue is also one of a select few that has hosted international matches over three different centuries, the first senior international in 1899. In addition, Villa Park hosted three matches during the 1966 World Cup.
And it’s not just football that has graced the club’s spiritual home.
Villa Park has also been the setting for music concerts featuring the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Barry White, and Duran Duran.
Even the famous evangelist Billy Graham addressed the masses at Villa Park. It truly is a blessed stadium.
Aston Villa Club Honours Since Its Formation
Aston Villa is the fifth most decorated club in English football history.
As well as 19 major domestic honors, including seven league championships, Villa is one of just five British clubs to have won the European Cup. The club also boasts another European triumph, the 1982-83 European Super Cup, which was won with a two-leg victory over Spanish giants Barcelona.
- 1982 – European Cup Winners
- 1982-83 – European Super Cup Winners
- 2001 – Intertoto Cup Winners
- Football League Champions (First Division/Premier League) 1893-94, 1895-96, 1896-97, 1898-99, 1899-1900. 1909-10, 1980-81 –
- Football League Runners-Up 1888-89, 1902-03, 1907-08, 1910-11, 1912-13, 1913-14, 1930-31, 1932-33, 1989-90, 1992-93
- Division Two Champions – 1937-38, 1959-60
- Division Two Runners-Up – 1974-75, 1987-88
- Division Three Champions – 1971-72
- FA Cup Winners – 1887, 1895, 1897, 1905, 1913, 1920, 1957
- FA Cup Runners-Up – 1892, 1924, 2000, 2015
- League Cup Winners – 1961, 1975, 1977, 1994, 1996
- League Cup Runners-Up – 1963, 1971, 2010
- FA Charity Shield Winners – 1981
- FA Charity Shield Runners-Up – 1910, 1957, 1972
- FA Youth Cup Winners- 1972, 1980, 2002
Aston Villa Club Records
Premiership – The first Premier League season started in 1992. Here is a collection of fun facts about our record-making players over the years.
- Most appearances: Gareth Barry (385)
- Most goals: Dwight Yorke (60)
- First Premier League Goal: Dalian Atkinson against Ipswich Town
- Biggest Villa win: 7-1 vs Wimbledon (Feb 11th 1995)
- Fastest Goal: Dwight Yorke (13 seconds)
- Biggest Transfer Fee: Emiliano Buendía £33m
- Biggest Transfer Fee Received: Jack Grealish £100m
These records belong to some true Villa greats.
- Most appearances: Charlie Aitken 660 (1961-1975)
- Most goals: Billy Walker 244 goals (1920-1933)
- Most England Caps: Gareth Southgate (42)
- Most goals in a season: Pongo Waring 50 goals (1930-1931)
- Record Football League win: 12–2 (vs Accrington, 1892)
- Youngest first-team player: Jimmy Brown, 15 years 349 days
- Oldest first-team player: Brad Friedel, 40 years 4 days
- Longest Serving Manager: George Ramsay
- Most Successful Manager: George Ramsay )6 League Championships and 6 FA Cups)
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— Football Memories (@footballmemorys) August 23, 2016
— Aston Villa Statto (@AVFCStatto) June 24, 2022
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!