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Dave Woodhall’s Villa Blog

THE PASSING OF A GOLDEN AGE

24-01-2009

Dave Woodhall reflects on the sad loss of two great Villa servants.

It’s been a sad time at Villa Park recently, with the deaths of Johnny Dixon and Vic Crowe.

Many words have been said about Johnny, and there is not only sadness at his passing, but also a sense of loss for a more innocent age, when footballers gave their all not for untold wealth but because they enjoyed the game and loved the club for whom they played.

It could be said that Johnny, like his playing contemporary Vic Crowe, was around during the last part of football’s golden era. Around the corner were the sixties, when players became celebrities and commercialism started to creep into the game.

Johnny was best known for his role as captain in Villa’s 1957 FA Cup-winning team, but that game was just one of over 400 appearances in claret and blue, mostly as an inside-forward but towards the end of his career as a wing-half. Johnny’s last game was in April 1961, when he scored in a 4-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday in a match also notable for the debut of Charlie Aitken.

Johnny later joined the Villa coaching staff, and after leaving Villa Park owned a hardware shop in Sutton. He was a devoted servant of the club until the end, playing in charity matches for the Old Stars well into his seventies and serving as honorary president of the Former Players Association from its inception in 1995 until his death.

It was ironic that Vic Crowe passed away as news was breaking of Johnny’s death. Vic was often overlooked, but his contribution to the cause of Aston Villa should never be underestimated. Despite playing over 300 times for the first team and making 19 appearances for Wales, Vic missed out on the 1957 cup final through injury but captained the side to promotion from the second division in 1960 and the League Cup the following year.

He spent time at Peterborough and in America before returning to Villa Park in 1969, first as reserve team coach to Tommy Docherty and then as manager following Docherty’s dismissal.

Vic was unable to prevent Villa sliding into the third division, but the time spent here is remembered with great nostalgia by supporters of the period. After leading Villa to the League Cup final in 1971 and the third division title the following year, Vic was sacked as the Aston Villa revival began to slow down in the summer of 1974. However, he had laid the foundations for what came after, even if his contribution is often overlooked due to the shadow cast by his successor Ron Saunders.

After managing in the USA and for a time at Southern League Bilston Town, Vic left the game and his contributions to football from then on consisted of watching his first love from a seat in the Trinity Road stand.

For these two devoted servants to the claret and blue cause, there can only be one fitting tribute. It isn’t a statue or the naming of a stand, it would be to take Johnny’s most notable achievement away from him. If, come next May, he’s no longer the last Aston Villa captain to hold the FA Cup aloft, I’m sure no-one would be happier than Johnny Dixon.

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