Minnesota United welcomes Aston Villa of the Premier League to Allianz Field on Wednesday, July 17 for the second international friendly at the Loons’ new home. Villa is the third Premier League club the Loons have faced in their history, also hosting Swansea City and AFC Bournemouth. One of the oldest clubs in the world, Aston Villa has a history of success in England and across Europe and is looking to reclaim that former glory in its return to the English top flight.
Based in Birmingham, Aston Villa was founded in 1874 and became one of the original members of the Football League and helped found the Premier League. The club plays its home games at historic Villa Park, a ground it has occupied since 1897. It returns to the Premier League for the first time since 2016, after defeating Derby County in the EFL Championship Playoff back in May. Clad in claret and blue, Aston Villa has spent 105 years at the top level of the English soccer pyramid, topped only by Everton’s 116 years.
The Villans were dominant in the early years of English soccer, winning six league titles and five FA Cups before the First World War. The club began to slip from its old glory after 1920, and was relegated for the first time in 1936. World War II stopped play for seven years before the club reformed and began to fill the trophy cabinet once again. Villa ended a 37-year title drought by winning its seventh FA Cup in 1957, setting a new record in England.
Villa bounced around the middle of the table and suffered one year of relegation through 1964, when manager Joe Mercer was forced to retire due to health reasons. His absence sent the club into a tailspin, plummeting all the way to the third tier after the resignation of the club’s board of directors. The club had to rebuild itself over the course of a decade before it once again earned a spot in the First Division in 1975.
The club was revitalized in its return to the pinnacle of the English game, enjoying some of its best years since its founding. The team would win its seventh First Division title in 1980-81 and followed it up with a European Cup win the following season. The success would be short-lived as the team once against slipped into the Second Division in 1987, but would bounce back to finish second in the top league in 1990.
Following the formation of the Premier League in 1992, Villa would wildly swing from fighting off relegation to qualifying for European competitions. Though it found success with a couple League Cup wins, major titles evaded the club.
After falling back to the Championship in 2016, a series of new investors have taken over the club in hopes of revitalizing the team. It took three seasons for the investments to pay off and for the club to regain its spot in the Premier League, and now it must battle to maintain that spot in an ever more competitive field.
Aston Villa will begin to ready its squad for this crucial season at Allianz Field as the Loons continue a busy month of July. As the visitors get their entire squad back into competition form, MNUFC will be giving its players who have been out of the lineup recently some competitive minutes. Minnesota fans will be the first to see Villa in action this year, as another team from one of the best leagues in the world takes the field in the Midway neighborhood of Saint Paul.
“It’s going to give an opportunity for a lot of players who’ve not played a lot of minutes to get a good run out,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath, who played for Aston Villa in 1989. “We’ll put a strong team out but we’ll expect the team that goes out there to be really competitive as they did against Hertha Berlin. I think that’s the same sort of approach — that the guys who’ve not played a lot [will] come and play against a really good team. [Aston] will be really confident having just got promotion to the Premier League. It’s going to be a great night for our supporters to see some top-class players.”