One of the country’s oldest teams (they were founded in 1874), Villa are also the Midlands’ most successful side. They’ve won seven league titles, seven FA Cups and the 1982 European Cup, but these days the team are struggling to maintain a place among England’s big boys.
In fact, for a number of years the club seem to have been stuck in a slightly depressing limbo. Although well-supported and well-heeled enough to never have to truly worry about relegation, they have lacked the financial clout to have a proper tilt at the top four. This has left Villa hovering perennially among the also-rans, and they've hardly overcompensated in the cups, winning just two League Cups in the last 30 seasons.
It’s frustrating for the fans, because with over 40,000 packing into a fine old-but-updated stadium in England's second city, they certainly feel like a big club. Villa looked to have acquired a dream team in near-billionaire owner Randy Lerner and medal-hoarding manager Martin O'Neill, but the latter left on the eve of the 2010/11 season, apparently frustrated at the club's inability to break the glass ceiling near the top of the Premier League. They had finished sixth for three successive seasons, and with Man City and Spurs launching determined assaults on the top slots, it's hard to see Villa competing for honours again without a major cash injection.
Nevertheless, it’s worth a trip to Birmingham to see some of the extremely promising young players currently wearing the Claret and Blue like Marc Albrighton, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Nathan Delfouneso, and enjoy the excellent atmosphere.
With a capacity of 42,788, Villa Park can generate a tremendous noise, and the place feels steeped in history: more than 50 FA Cup semi-finals have been contested here, more than any other ground. No wonder fans of many other clubs – especially Manchester United – feel at home at Villa. The handsome Holte End is one of the most attractive stands in English football, and speculative future plans to fill in the open corners of the ground could bring future capacity of the ground up to 50,000.
Villa Park is extremely close to two railway stations – Witton and Aston, accessible from Birmingham New Street Station, while number 7 and 11 buses also service the stadium from the city. Driving to Villa Park (satnav B6 6HE) is easy and there are several decent car parks around the ground. From the north west or south west, exit Junction 7 of the M6 and follow signs for Birmingham A34. After passing Alexandra Stadium stay in the nearside lane and leave the main carriageway. Matchday car parks are signposted. From the north east or south east, exit Junction 6 of the M6 and follow signs for the A38 (not A38M). At the island, turn right following signs for Villa Park.
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