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Villa Park is a football stadium in the district of Astonmarker, in Birminghammarker, England. It has been the home of Aston Villa Football Club since 1897. It is a UEFA Elite stadium and it has hosted 16 England internationals at senior level. The first international was in 1899 with the most recent being in 2005. It was the first English ground to stage international football in three different centuries.

Villa previously played at Aston Park from 1874 to 1876 and Perry Barrmarker from 1876 to 1897. Villa Park is the most used stadium in FA Cup semi-final history, having hosted 55 semi-finals. The stadium currently comprises four stands; Holte End, Trinity Road Stand, North Stand and the Doug Ellis Stand. The Club have planning permission to extend the North Stand. This will involve the 'filling in' of the corners to either side of the North Stand. If and when completed, the capacity of Villa Park will be increased from 42,640 to approximately 50,000.

History

Villa Park opened in 1897 at the cost of £16,400. It was officially called the Aston Lower Grounds and it was situated in the former grounds of a Jacobean stately home, Aston Hallmarker. The site had been used in the past as a Victorian amusement park, and also as a fishpond and kitchen garden belonging to the owner of Aston Hall, Sir Thomas Holte (the origin of the naming of the stand, the Holte End). The pitch was initially surrounded by a wide concrete cycle track and a cinder running track. When first built the stadium could house 40,000 spectators most of whom would stand in the open. The first match at the ground, a friendly against Blackburn Roversmarker, took place on 17 April 1897, one week after Aston Villa had completed the League and FA Cup 'Double'.
Villa Park during a match against Liverpool in 1907.
The ground is yet to be squared off and the cycle track can clearly be seen.


In 1911, Villa bought the land on which the ground is situated for £8250, the office buildings and car park area for £1500 and the carriage drive and bowling green for £2000. The purchase formed the first stage of plans drawn up by the ambitious Villa director Frederick Rinder, who wanted to take the capacity of Villa Park up to 120,000. However these plans were eventually scaled back, due to the outbreak of the First World War. Archie Leitch's 1914 plans incorporated original Byzantine Victorian buildings from the Aston Lower Grounds which were converted into sumptuous offices and a gymnasium and the bowling green remained a feature of Villa Park until 1966. The running track was removed in 1914 when work started on the Trinity Road Stand and the ground was squared off. Leitch's Holte End was not completed until the 1940s and plans for an equally vast Witton End were never realised. Together with The Ovalmarker, Villa Park was referenced by the poet Philip Larkinmarker in his poem about the First World War, MCMXIV.

When it was completed in 1922, the Trinity Road Stand was considered to be one of the grandest in Britain, complete with stained glass windows, Italian mosaics and a sweeping staircase. Several commentators including Simon Inglis consider it to be architect Archie Leitch's masterpiece. It was described as the "St Pancras of football" by a Sunday Times reporter in 1960.

Floodlights were installed at the ground in 1958, and were first used in a friendly match against Heart of Midlothian in November of that year. The Holte End was not covered until 1962, at a cost of £40,000, while the old rounded roof of the Witton Lane Stand was replaced with a plain sloping roof in 1964. Villa Park was chosen by FIFAmarker to host three matches for the 1966 World Cup. As a condition of this the Witton Lane Stand became all–seater, the players tunnel had to be covered by a cage and the pitch had to be widened by three yards. In February 1977, work began on the new North Stand with its distinctive 'AV' seating plan and executive boxes. Its design and facilities were impressive for the time, but the cost of completion caused a scandal. It was discovered that around £725,000 of the work was unaccounted for. As a result Villa were burdened with debt, which meant transfer money was restricted despite being League and European Champions at the time.

In the 1993/94 season the name of the newly rebuilt Witton Lane Stand was changed to the Doug Ellis stand. This change caused some consternation amongst supporters, and Doug Ellis subsequently claimed to know nothing about it until after it had happened, citing that the rest of the board had elected to change it as a surprise present for his 70th birthday which was in January 1994. Many Villa supporters still refer to the stand as the "Witton Lane" to this day, refusing to accept this change. Villa Park became an all seater stadium during the 1994/95 season when newly rebuilt Holte End became the last stand to conform to the Taylor Report when it became a 13,500 all seater structure. The Holte was claimed to be the largest End stand in Europe upon completion. In June 1996 Under-soil heating was installed. The old Trinity Road Stand was demolished in 2001 and replaced by a larger, modern stand, which took Villa's capacity from 39,399 to its present size of 42,640. It was officially opened in November 2001 by HRH The Prince of Wales, just as the old stand had been opened by his grandfather George VI, 77 years earlier.

Structure and facilities

Villa Park comprises 42,640 seats split between four stands. These four stands are the Holte End to the South, the Trinity Road stand to the West, the Doug Ellis Stand opposite the Trinity Road Stand, and the North Stand behind the northern goal.
A diagram showing the alignment of stands at Villa Park.
The Holte End (capacity 13,472) is a two–tiered stand. It originally provided standing accommodation for more than 20,000 spectators, but was demolished in 1994 and within a year a new stand was opened to give Villa Park an all-seater format. The roof is a variant of the "King Truss" system and the front third slopes forward slightly. It is one of the largest behind-the-goal stands in Europe. The Holte End is the most renowned stand at Villa Park amongst club supporters and supporters of other clubs. It is traditionally where Villa's most vocal and passionate supporters gather, including some Aston Villa hooligan firms.

The North Stand (capacity 7,086) used to be known as the Witton End, was built in the late 1970s and is now the oldest of Villa Park's stands. It is two–tiered, with a double row of executive boxes running across the middle. Planning permission has been granted for a new stand to be built in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. The club shop is at the North Stand end of the stadium. Manager Martin O'Neill expressed his desire to have Villa fans seated in the North Stand behind the goal for the 2007–08 season. This arrangement was confirmed by the club and they released cut-price season tickets for the Lower tier. This meant moving the away fans from the lower tier of the North Stand to the lower and upper tiers of the Doug Ellis Stand.

The Doug Ellis Stand (capacity 9,081) was formerly known as the Witton Lane Stand, is a two–tiered stand with a row of executive boxes dividing the tiers which was completely rebuilt replacing the old single tier structure during the summer of 1993. It saw slight refurbishment prior to the 1996 European Championships to meet up with the lower tiers of The Holte End and North Stand. The main TV camera viewpoint is situated here, so televised matches at Villa Park take the point of view of a fan who is sitting on the half way line of the Doug Ellis Stand. Opposite the Doug Ellis Stand is the most modern stand at Villa park, the Trinity Road Stand. Since the start of the 2007-08, a small amount of the Doug Ellis Stand houses away fans, which are situated in the top and bottom tiers of the Doug Ellis Stand nearest the North Stand.

The Trinity Road Stand (capacity 12,954) was completely rebuilt in 2000/2001. It is made up of three tiers with a row of executive boxes between the second and third tiers. This stand, although a much larger building than the other stands has roughly the same roof level as the other three sides. The players tunnel and the technical area where the managers and substitutes are situated during the match are in the Trinity Road stand, as are most of the written media and the directors VIP area. In order to expand in size, the upper tiers of the stand had to extend over Trinity Road (the street) that cuts behind the ground. Cars travelling along Trinity Road have to pass through what is effectively a tunnel formed by The Trinity Road Stand.

In the south west corner (between the Holte End and the Trinity Road stand) is a three-storey, pavilion-like structure which is used for corporate hospitality. There are two large television screens in the south west and north east corners of the ground.



Future

The Holte End during the 25th Anniversary celebrations of the 1982 European Cup win.
The Club have planning permission to rebuild the North Stand in the style of the new Trinity Road Stand. Owner Randy Lerner seems keen on the idea of increased capacity as average attendances reach new highs. When completed, the capacity of Villa Park will be increased to around 51,000. Although there were rumours to fill in the corners between The North Stand and The Trinity Road Stand and The North Stand between The Doug Ellis Stand.

Villa Park was originally listed as one of the six stadiums that will hold Olympic football matches in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Lord Sebastian Coe, head of the organising committee for London 2012, claimed that because Villa Park was to be an Olympic Venue, it would have been entitled to funding to help expansion plans. On 10 August 2009 it was announced that the organising committee for the games and the football club had decided that the uncertainty around the expansion plans meant that the club were "unable to commit fully to hosting matches."

In 2008, the club announced plans to honour former Villa chairman and founder of the Football League, William McGregor, with a bronze statue outside the stadium.

Other uses

Villa Park has hosted games for several Cup competitions. It is the most used stadium in FA Cup semi-finals history, having hosted 55 semi-finals. The club hosted the League Cup Final in 1980–81 in which Liverpool beat West Ham 2–1 in a replay. During the construction of the new Wembley Stadiummarker between 2001 and 2005 the FA Trophy Final was held at Villa Park.
Villa Park hosting an international between England and Scotland in 1899.
The first ever rugby league test series was secured by Great Britain at the ground, when they defeated the touring Australian Kangaroos side 6-5 on February 10, 1909. Villa Park has also hosted several international rugby union tour matches. On 8 October 1924 when North Midlands played the New Zealand side touring Europe and Canada at the time. The Invincibles beat the Midlands side 40–3. The second game came on 30 December 1953 when Midlands Counties played another New Zealand side on their 1953-54 tour of United Kingdom, Ireland, France and North America. The Midlands side lost 18–3.

Duran Duran at Villa Park 1983
Many athletics and cycle events were staged there prior to the First World War. The stadium has hosted several rock concerts,including Bruce Springsteen on 21 June 1988 with his Tunnel of Love Tour and on July 23rd Duran Duran`s charity concert at Aston Villa football ground 1983 raising money for MENCAP which also featured Robert Palmer .In the summer of 1984 Villa Park played host to the American evangelist Billy Graham

International Football

Villa Park was the first English ground to stage international football in three different centuries and it has hosted matches during several international tournaments. Villa Park hosted three World Cup matches during the 1966 World Cup and four matches during Euro '96. Villa Park has hosted a number of England internationals at senior level. The first of which was in 1899, the most recent being in 2005. In all it has hosted 16 international matches.

In 1999, Villa Park hosted the last ever final of the European Cup Winners' Cup where Lazio beat Real Mallorca 2–1.

Records

The chart shows the average attendance for each year since 1947 at Villa Park.
The highest attendance recorded at Villa Park was 76,588. This was recorded on 2 March 1946 in an FA Cup 6th Round tie against Derby County. The highest attendance in the all-seater era was 42,640 which was recorded on 11 August 2007 in a Premiership game against Liverpool, and again on 20 April 2008 against Birmingham City. The lowest attendance recorded at Villa Park was 2,900, on 13 February 1915 in a Division One, game against Bradford City. The highest average post World War II attendance at Villa Park was 47,320 in the 1949 season, while the lowest attendance post war was 15,237 in the 1986 season.

Transport

Villa Park is within a short distance of two mainline railway stations. Witton railway station is approximately from Villa Park, and Aston railway station is approximately . Under new owner Randy Lerner there have been discussions to change the name of the Witton Station to Villa Park in the same way that West Bromwich Albion's local train station is named The Hawthornsmarker. Aston Villa's former CEO, Bruce Langham, stated that Centro were amenable to the idea but that it would have to be done at the expense of the club. No action has yet been taken.

See also



Footnotes

References

  • Philip Larkin, Collected Poems, Faber and Faber, 2003, Appendix III.


External links




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