Date: 30th April 2007 at 8:25am
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Goodbye to Villa… half-an-hour after kick-off

The FA Cup Final – 4th May 1957

Whilst Villa celebrate their famous European Cup 25th Anniversary win in 1982 I thought it would be a good time to reflect on another Anniversary which will be over looked during this time of reflection on the clubs European successes. It’s 25 Years since that famous night but sadly its 50 years, yes I said it right 50 long years since the most famous trophy in English football graced the trophy cabinet at Villa Park.

Aston Villa were massive underdogs for the Final, the team of:- Sims, Lynn, Aldis, Crowther, Dougdale, Saward, Smith, Sewell, Myerscough, Dixon and McParland were give little chance against Manchester United. English League Champions.

Respected journalist Frank McGee of the Daily Mirror penned the following headline


The story goes “Sudden death at Wembley”. That is what I expect to see on the lush green battleground this afternoon – With Aston Villa as the Victims… I expect to see them killed stone cold dead by 3:30 Manchester United should be well on their way to victory. I take United to make this D-Day that’s Double Day taking the Cup and the League which has not been done this century. The double I never expected to see and which is just 90 minutes away.


If you compare the teams man-by-man Manchester United look a class ahead of Villa in at least nine of the eleven positions. Villa keeper Nigel Simms is as good if not better than Manchester United’s Ray Woods on current form. Outside left Peter McPharland the flying Irishman has slightly more match winning qualities than David Pegg. In every other position the Villa men must give way to his Manchester United counter-part. Another vital match-winning factor on United’s side is the occasion it’s self. The arrogant young men of Manchester are used to the big matches. The size of the crowd and the Importance of it all will not cause any dry mouths or trembling knees in their camp. To Villa it will be bewildering, strange and frightening.

“That’s my guess and why they will fail in the first half hour”

And even if they hang on that long the best I can see them achieve is a draw for a replay at Goodison Park on Thursday.

Villa fans will be pinning much of their faith in the tremendous resurgence of team spirit, bought about by that solid, sensible, soccer citizen, manager Eric Houghton. He has made them proud of their great club again and they are entitled to feel proud on this seasons showing.


But even in team spirit, Manchester United can match them. Look at what happened before they travelled down to London yesterday. Inside left Dennis Viollet mat Manchester United manager Matt Busby at breakfast knowing that he had a great chance to play in the final. He could have kept quiet about the slight niggling pain from a groin injury, but instead he spoke up: “If I played I may let the side down, we can’t take that risk” Notice the “We” That my friends is team spirit. So in goes Bobby Charlton, the 19 year old who was born to play football, nephew of one of the famous cup fighters of all time Jackie Milburn. THAT TOO COULD BE AN OMEN.

Just right, says Houghton

Aston Villa travelled down to London by coach yesterday and then went on to Wembley (3rd May) They paraded round practically every inch of the turf and were delighted to find they have been allocated the North dressing room. That is the lucky dressing room out of which most winners have come. We’re all fit, the players could not be happier, trim and after careful inspection we feel this pitch is made for us, Eric Houghton.

The Road to Wembley

Third Round beat Luton 2-0 at home after a 2-2 away result.
Fourth Round beat Middlesbrough 3-2 away
Fifth Round beat Bristol City 2-1 home
Sixth Round beat Burnley 2-0 home after a 1-1 draw away
SEMI-FINAL beat West Brom 1-0 at St Andrews after a 2-2 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers

The FA Cup Final 1957

Headlines the following read: VILLA SET UP RECORD and McPARLAND KEY MAN. The babe’s dreams were blasted and Aston Villa made history by becoming the first club to win the FA Cup seven times. The old hoodoo, which since 1876 has up-set teams on the brink of achieving the FA Cup and League Championship double struck again at Wembley yesterday. It cost Manchester United their goalkeeper Ray Woods and the cup. The Busby babes who came close to achieving the treble of League, FA Cup and European Cup left the field amid the ruins of their broken dreams. Two-second half goals by Peter McPharland the Villa left-winger shattered it. McPharland! That name will remain Indelible fixed on the minds of Matt Busby’s boys. He was the cause of all their trouble.

In the sixth minute McPharland cutting in on a scoring chance, headed goal wards. Goalkeeper Ray Woods had the ball comfortably clasped in his capable hands when McPharland collided with him. Such was the Impact that both players fell, Irish International McPharland of great heart was certainly shaken by the collision. Ray Woods though he struggled was unable to rise, for four minutes United’s trainer tried to revive him. (For younger readers if any, there were no substitutes in those days) Ray Woods came back onto the field of play after 25 minutes clutching a sponge and smelling salts. He was a dazed and confused right-winger a stranger to United’s wing strategy.

McPharland became Villa’s second half hero with two brilliantly taken goals in 6 second half minutes.

In the twenty-second minute of the second half, he capped a smart move by Villas captain Dixon to head a glorious goal. Dixons cross out witted United’s marking system completely; Blanchflower who had gone in goal for Woods never stood a chance.

It was the kind of header United fans wanted to see from their star Tommy Taylor. Owing to the dominance of Villa centre half Dougdale United never got the chance. Then in the twenty-eight minute after a series of Villa attacks and shots spattered around the woodwork McPharland again. He hit the ball into the net after Dixon had hit the upright. After the McPharland goals, Woods went back in goal but it never made a difference. As it was United did score seven minutes from time, a headed goal that eluded Villa’s agile keeper Nigel Simms. So Aston Villa have successfully defended their double record set up in 1897 twice previously by beating League Champions in the final. In 1905, they beat Newcastle and again in 1913 they beat Sunderland. Yesterday in beating Manchester United they humbled League Champions for the third time to maintain their own proud Cup and League Double winning record.

Attendance for the Final 100,000 receipts for the game £49,816

But for today………

Oh how I dream of the day when the Aston Villa Captain walks up to collect the FA Cup, it sadly has not happened in my lifetime but I can dream, MON has had his success in the cup competitions over the years and I would love for him to continue that success with Aston Villa. The McPharland challenge on Woods was no doubt a turning point in this game; it will remain one of the most controversial challenges ever made in a Cup Final. However, you have to remember things were different in those days and keepers were fair game for forwards. No substitutes allowed, these days it may not have been such a big deal, McPharland, would have probably been sent off, the reserve keeper would have taken the field and Villa would have played most of the match with ten men. But that’s History.

With thanks to Col8 for an excellent submission


10 Replies to “Villa Memory Lane 4”

  • I live down in Dorset and a few years ago my mum found for me an old ‘History of Aston Villa’ booked, published in about 1960. There was a chapter McPharland, the cup hero of a couple of years before and it detailed his heroics in the world cup finals of (I think) 1958.

    Anyway, I was working in a book shop and someone who worked with me happened to mention that she lived next to a former footballer called Pete McPharland. He was described as a friendly old gent who didn’t take any **** from the local scallies. I got my colleague to ask Peter for a signature in the aformentioned book. He was more than happy to oblige of course.

    Not a particularly good story I know, it’s just I’ve never had the chance to tell it before seeing this article

  • Great article, how times have changed. Unfortunately I can see only teams in the top 4 winning all the cups for the forseeable. It needs a team to burst in there and break the cycle, why not Villa? We just need a bit of belief. The Champions League illustrates this perfectly this year. Also in the last few seasons the Carling Cup has been used as a “get of jail free” card for the top 4 too.

  • McPharland?? McPharland?? Do you mean McParland? How could you get it so wrong?

  • Peter McParland scored the first villa goal I ever saw at Villa Park, against Blackpool in 58 or 59 I think it was.

  • Dont know tarzan. The luck of the draw can and does play a very important part in Cup competitions, so disagree on the top four having the domestic Cup tournaments sewn up.

  • I am just desperate to see Villa life the FA Cup….. would I give a kidney to see it? Good Chance.

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