Villa Noise: 1994 cup focus, Tonev's choice and Vassell returns
27th Mar 2014
Atkinson was delighted that day - and even all these years on, he has a real satisfaction considering the quality of the opposition.
He told AVTV: "I believe - and I think Fergie would agree - that the 1994 side he had was his best-ever team.
"They were full of strength and power. They had Gary Pallister and Steve Bruce at the back, Roy Keane and Paul Ince digging in the midfield, Eric Cantona and Mark Hughes up front - and Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis storming down the wings.
"The story behind that final is quite interesting actually. Around five days before the final, I went to watch Man Utd play Arsenal in a league game.
"Arsenal played a certain system and I thought 'I like that.' "I thought 'we will play that way at Wembley against them.'
"It wasn't an exact copy - it was slightly modified. They played three up front whereas we played one up front - Dean Saunders and two wide players.
"Fortunately for us, on the day it worked well. Graham was a shock choice for a lot of people but he did great in that final."
Villa produced a magic performance to beat Man Utd 3-1 in 1994 - and here's categoric proof that Harry Potter wizard Ron Weasley was at Wembley to cheer us on.
It may be very hard to believe but, in fact, this isn't the actor who played loveable Weasley in the mega film series.
It's Mat Kendrick, the Birmingham Mail chief claret and blue reporter.
To be fair, he may be able to 'spell' but we often 'wand'er where he gets his stories from!
Highly-respected national reporter David Harrison was spot on with his prediction of 3-1 for the League Cup final of 1994 - but he had it the wrong way around.
He was one of only 19 media pundits to get the score right but he thought Man Utd would come out on top against Big Ron's men.
Interestingly, Harrison's son, Dan, now works for Villa as club journalist on both the website and programme.
A total of 12 press men went for a Villa victory but no-one was so bold as to suggest a 3-1 win - all went for a one-goal margin for the claret and blues.
Sports Argus writer Ian Willars - nicknamed The Duke - backed a 3-2 hunch, with Dalian Atkinson and Dean Saunders  getting the goals.
He was obviously smack-on for the Villa scorers but his Utd choices were Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona.
Guy Whittingham was on loan at Wolves in March 1994 - but Big Ron took him to Wembley as official cameraman.
Nicknamed 'Spielberg' on the day, Whittingham told us: "Ron told me right from the day we beat Tranmere that I would be involved with the rest of the lads on cup final day so I was delighted to go down and share the day with them.
"Dean Saunders and Tony Daley had started recording a video of the Wembley week from the Monday so the players would have a complete record of the build-up as well as the game itself.
"As Deano and Dales were otherwise occupied during the Sunday, I got the job of finishing the video.
"I did stuff on the coach to Wembley, in the dressing room before the game and then later on at the evening celebrations.
"The only problem was filming the end-of-match celebrations on the pitch as the final whistle went and the lads all ran on the pitch - the batteries went on the video camera!"
Didn't realise until this week that the original League Cup trophy was taken out of storage for Kevin Richardson.
Over the years, various sponsors have produced their own trophies for the competition.
But when Coca-Cola took over, they brought out of storage the original trophy that was lifted for the first time in 1961 - by Villa!
They were obviously thinking of their slogan: "It's the real thing."
News in this week that Graham Fenton performed on and off the pitch on Wembley 1994 final day.
Fenton came surprisingly into the team for the big match and performed admirably in the 3-1 win.
But he also made a name for himself during the later stages of the banquet celebration when, accompanied by the hotel's resident pianist, he delighted colleagues with renderings of several well-known songs.
Fenton said: "One or two of the lads had a go - so I decided to get in on the act myself. It didn't go down all that well, in all honesty. I have been getting stick ever since."
There was a Man Utd spy in the Villa camp this week, but we're assured he won't be passing any secrets to Old Trafford ahead of Saturday's game.
Mind you, he did slip away from Bodymoor Heath with a pile of hand-written dossiers...
Former United captain Martin Buchan now works for the Professional Footballers Association and was collecting votes for the PFA's annual player, young player and team of the year awards.
The ex-Scotland international, who was United's record signing in 1972, tells us he had a great response from the Villa players, who diligently filled out the forms he provided.
We would be interested to know, though, exactly who Aleksandar Tonev voted for.
As the Bulgarian midfielder filled in his form, Matt Lowton glanced over his shoulder with a questioning look and joked: "Stoichkov? Petrov?"
Despite their legendary status it's fair to assume Tonev didn't really vote for his fellow countrymen!
A special landmark was celebrated in British broadcasting this week as BBC Radio 5 Live marked its 20th anniversary.
The 24-hour news and sports network began in 1994 and has become a national institution - particularly for sports fans.
But did you know Villa featured in 5 Live's first-ever sports bulletin?
"In sport, Aston Villa end Manchester United's dream of the treble," read presenter Marcus Buckland, in reference to our League Cup final win over the Red Devils on Sunday March 27, 1994.
Another small piece of history on an unforgettable day for the club.
Villa are in the Champions League when it comes to the club's vocal away support.
The claret and blues finished third in the Barclays Football poll, which was centred around fans in the Premier League as part of their 'Thank You' campaign.
Manchester United led the way with 29% of the votes, Liverpool close behind on 23% and Villa in third on 12%.
From the remaining sides, Chelsea and Manchester City both earned 6% of the votes, matching Newcastle United, Swansea and West Ham in joint fourth position.
Barclays have sponsored the Premier League since 2004 with their current deal expiring at the end of the 2015-16 season.
The FA confirmed this week that 3G pitches will be allowed in every round of The FA Cup from next season - and Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner played a role in the key decision.
FA Cup rules currently state that 3G surfaces are not allowed to be used after the first round proper - but from the 2014-15 FA Cup campaign, surfaces that are on the register of 3G football turf pitches will be able to be used right through the competition.
Club CEO Faulkner is a member of the committee which voted this rule through - and he believes it's a good step forward.
FA General Secretary Alex Horne said: "We're delighted that The FA Cup Committee and the Professional Game Board have approved this rule change, as recommended by The FA Board.
"Clubs are increasingly seeing the benefits of using 3G surfaces across the football pyramid and clubs who play on those surfaces can now retain home advantage in the competition."
But, as well as the FA Cup boost, Faulkner also believes the decision has more far-reaching benefits.
He said: "For smaller clubs in the football pyramid, I suspect that 3G pitches are going to become increasingly important, as they are able to use these 3G pitches outside of their normal first-team activities to help generate revenues that can be essential for actually keeping the club going.
"For example, they can rent the pitches out for non-stop use with minimal maintenance issues.
"This is exactly what Sutton Town do - and they will host our Villa Ladies games in the new Women's Super League season, starting next month.
"The move is key from a weather perspective too. The value of 3G pitches has been clearly demonstrated during the poor conditions of the past few months, where leagues within the grassroots game have migrated to them to address fixture backlogs.
"This is a smart move by The FA and one that will hopefully help encourage more clubs and local authorities to invest in 3G pitches throughout the country, and help grassroots football."
Our young opposition mascot, Edward Elliott, will have wished he'd got Fabian Delph's autograph at the Villa v Chelsea game.
Delph, of course, scored the wonder goal which won the match 1-0 in B6.
One of the pre-match activities is for our first-team stars to meet and greet the youngsters and sign their replica shirts.
On the eve of this particular game, the 13-year-old Blues fan was obviously only interested in meeting his Stamford Bridge heroes, as you'd expect.
The young lad shared some good-humoured banter with Delph - before the midfielder carried on walking to the home dressing room.
After his goal-den display, Delph's signature would have been worth it.
His mum, Emma, says that Edward enjoyed the mascot experience at Villa Park - and even mentioned to her how friendly Fabian was!
Watch the big match highlights from that wonder win.
Great to see Darius Vassell here this week for Continental's Road to Rio Roadshow.
The Roadshow, which began on March 11 in Liverpool, stopped off at Villa Park with Fuleco the Armadillo - the World Cup mascot.
Former Villa hitman Vassell was on hand in B6 to welcome Fuelco and pose for pictures to help promote the supreme summer tournament.
Details of the Roadshow, including route and progress, can be found at www.contiroadtorio.co.uk.
Jores Okore is in a happy place as he continues apace on the road to fitness.
But, then again, Okore is always in smiling mode.
Great to interview him this week - read here - about his battle back from injury.
What struck me was his cheerful and jovial attitude as well as his top personality and high intelligence as he answered my questions for a full 30 minutes.
He took this contented pose into the photo-shoot below.
Jores must be the one player that Neville Williams doesn't have to ask to say 'cheese'.
Don't miss out on the AVTV exclusive interview this week.
Marc Albrighton is the man in the spotlight - and it's well worth a watch.
Jack Woodward is the man with the questions and it's very interesting conversation with the winger, as he discusses the season so far, his hopes for the coming weeks, the difference between starting and being a sub - and scoffing sweets on the bench.
Watch the exclusive interview here.
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