Date: 26th February 2018 at 5:32pm
Written by:


The Peter Withe Autobiography:

Villa – Pinball Pete

I didn`t know much about Ron Saunders before joining Villa, only what I`d heard from other players and a bit about him on TV. He`d already enjoyed some success at Villa in winning the League Cup in 1977 and his Villa side had had a few top-ten finishes in the league. However, he saw the 1980/81 season as the time to really push for the championship. I was the only player in the squad who had won the league and I think that was why Ron brought me into the fold. It was Ron`s vision even before I joined the club to pair me with Brian Little, who had spent his entire playing career at Villa Park. Brian was a natural goal scorer and thrived when he played with a so-called ‘big man` up front. He had played alongside some top strikers like Andy Loch- head, Andy Gray, John Deehan and Keith Leonard, but his playing career effectively came to a halt in April 1980 during an away game at Old Trafford when he suffered a knee injury. He never recovered and, sadly, at the age of 26, Brian retired from the game. It was a great loss to the club. He must have been devastated and, for me, it was a shame I didn`t get a chance to play with him. However, later that year, Ron gave Brian his first break into coaching and a job as Villa`s youth-team coach.

****

The celebration continued that week with the Midlands Sportswriters Player of the Year Awards dinner, held at the old ATV studios in Birming- ham. It was a prestigious event hosted by Gary Newbon with a comedian on the bill called Ian ‘Sludge` Lees, who was hilarious. I won the Player of the Year award, as expected I suppose and Gary Shaw won Young Player of the Year. More fittingly, Brian Little received a lifetime achievement award. The weird thing about the evening was that Brian Clough pre- sented me with the award; it couldn`t have been any sweeter. When I was called up on stage to receive the award, Gary Newbon looked at Brian and put the microphone in front of him and said, ‘Just before you present this award Brian, can you answer this question? Were you right to sell Peter Withe?`

Brian replied quite matter-of-factly, ‘Yes I was right to sell Peter Withe but I dropped a clanger in not buying him back.`

That left Gary Newbon speechless. I suppose that comment by Cloughie, in itself, was a compliment from someone who didn`t do compliments.

****

You can buy from: www.peterwitheofficial.com

Jonny Gould, Talk Radio and Sky News presenter and life-long Villa fan reviews the book:

“All For The Love Of The Game is one of the best football autobiographies I`ve ever read. Peter Withe`s story is one of sheer determination to succeed wherever that road should take him – from Liverpool to South Africa, the USA, back home – and then out again to the Far East.

And he did succeed – at the very highest level: twice a league champion, a European Cup winner, who scored the winning goal in the final and a full England international. The champagne bubbles of his greatest moments have never quite receded for this Aston Villa fan!

It`s also a love story because Peter couldn`t have achieved any of it without his devoted wife Kathy by his side through the years.

The game gave Peter mobility and life experience which would surely not have been possible had he never donned football boots. That`s another part of thjs great story.

For any fan of Villa or Nottingham Forest, reading this autobiography is a must – but it`s also for those who want to understand what it takes to succeed at the top of any line of business, not just football.

Author Simon Goodyear captures the drama and life decisions Peter and Kathy had to take with page-turning ease.”