Date: 6th October 2007 at 11:20am
Written by:

The issue concerning the planned William McGregor statue comes up from time to time. Particularly that there’s a way to go to obtain the requisite £50,000 to have it made and installed. I am happy with the idea of a William McGregor statue; but…

As I understand it, the raison d’etre behind this particular statue is because of Mac’s great work in bringing the Football League to fruition. Not so much because of his work for the Villa (which I suspect many do not know much about) but for this one act that helps to put Aston Villa – not really William McGregor – back on the Football World Map.

Don’t get me wrong, his initiative and wherewithal to move the matter forward is highly commendable, and we indeed should be honoured that Mac was first and foremost a Villan. His work associated with the Football League (he was chairman for its first four years in operation) was a marvellous contribution in its embryonic period.

But this fixation that Villa should be made more famous for this one act does not put a proper reflection on the club. There is far more reason for the football world to remember and celebrate Aston Villa.

For example: How many people realise that when George Ramsay retired in 1926, he was the most celebrated club secretary in the world of football. That he had spent 40 years in the job at the Villa and was a major reason for its rise as the greatest club of its age. Overall, he spent 60 years with the club, as he first arrived in 1876 and was the man – as player, and captain – who first directed the style of the club to its ultimate glory, before he had to retire from playing in 1880. He continued as a highly active member of the committee before being appointed the first paid secretary at the club in 1886. Even after retirement from the post as secretary, he was soon after made a vice-president and in that role continued to be a fine ambassador for the club until his death at the end of 1935.

Effectively, Aston Villa was the work of George Burrell Ramsay – he was the architect of its infrastructure. It was not until after he died – ironically at the end of the season in which he died – that the club was first relegated from the top flight.

But – and this is where William McGregor comes into focus again – GBR’s fame was brought about by the work of Mac, who had been struggling as the club’s Hon. Sec. *and* Hon. Treasurer in the year up to 1886. In that year, Mac (and this was perhaps his second great act for the club, for he earlier led a reorganisation of the Villa administration to clear out serious deadwood) encouraged the appointment of his fellow Scot (GBR) as the club’s paid secretary/manager. It was also the time of Fred Rinder’s first appearance on the Villa committee, and what wonders the three must have worked, as within 12 months the club’s morale had been recovered and they won the FA Cup – the first Midlands side to do so. What happened after that is generally well known; how it was that Fred Rinder led another organisational revolution in 1892, following which the club quickly rose to be the top club in the world. Fred Rinder became chairman in 1898 until he was ousted in 1925.

After the departure of Rinder then Ramsay, Villa did not appear in another peace-time cup final for over 30 years, and won no other peace-time senior trophy in the same period.

So, dear Villans, what is this article about?

There were many great men in the first 50 years of the club’s history. Several of those deserve special mention, not just one; but it has to be said that there were three men in this club that were the very cradle of its existence and great development – and its great influence on the world of football. It was not one man, despite the Football League.

I have put it to leaders of supporters’ groups; I have also put it to the club – that a memorial to the three men mentioned above is not just desirable, but essential. Yes, I would agree that McGregor deserves to be standing in front of the other two – but only so long as those other two are also remembered.

However, I am a lone – and ignored – voice in the desert. But a voice that probably is the only one who has bothered to do the 1,000 hours of research that substantiates my argument.

I leave it with you. If you can see the argument I am making, please use your voice to influence others.

Thank you very much.

My Villanous Best Regards,

John Lerwill

Pro-tem Archivist at AVFC