My Favourite Villan: Frank Pattison on Peter McParland
Perhaps the stars of our childhood shine more brightly. But, over half a century later, I do not believe that I have seen a more exciting Villa winger than Peter McParland.
Whenever I select an all-time Villa side from players I have seen, two names are automatic choices - the incomparable Paul McGrath and McParland, the match-winning left-winger with the cannonball shot.
When Peter scored the two goals that brought us our seventh and, for the moment, last FA Cup victory in 1957, the Sports Argus saluted him as "Peter the Great".
Richard Whitehead describes his first goal that day as "a flashing diving header of awesome power [which] ranks among the greatest of Cup Final goals," and who are we to disagree? His match-winning performance at Wembley has assured him of a permanent place in Villa's proud history; this was his finest moment.
Without Peter, however, we would probably not have reached the semi-final, let alone the final. Against Burnley in a tough sixth round tie at Turf Moor and against favourites West Brom in the semi-final, Peter scored late equalisers with unstoppable shots when Villa seemed beaten. He netted no fewer than six goals in the last three rounds of the Cup.
A year later Peter caught the attention of the wider football public when he hit two goals against West Germany and five in all to take unfancied Northern Ireland into the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Ireland were the smallest country ever to reach this stage of the competition.
In Peter Morris's definitive history of the club, a whole chapter is devoted to Peter, entitled "Mac the Goals".
Peter's 121 goals for us were scored at better than a goal every third game, a remarkable achievement for a wide player. Yet his impact was far greater than his goals. In partnership with the prolific Gerry Hitchens he was a key player in Joe Mercer's rebuilt side that returned to the top flight at the first attempt in 1960.
He created more goals than he scored, for example setting up the first nine in the famous 11-1 demolition of Charlton, before grabbing the last two himself.
With his determination, his courage and his ability to produce chances from nothing he inspired his team-mates.
With Peter in the side they expected the unexpected. Even more than his influence on the team, I remember Peter's effect on the supporters.
When he had the ball at his feet out on the left wing, running in on goal, panicking the opposing full-back, the excitement rose to a crescendo as the spectators in the Trinity Road and Witton Lane stands stamped their feet until the whole ground shook.
And then, almost inevitably, the goal, a rocket from the edge of the box across the keeper and into the top corner, greeted by the famous Villa Park roar.
No player in my lifetime has thrilled the Villa crowd more.
Villa may have had more subtle wingers over the years, but with his power, his speed and his eye for goal, Peter McParland remains unsurpassed. Peter the Great, indeed!
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