'Ron Saunders at 80' first programme notes: I want Villa to climb 'Everest'
We could not have asked for better opposition for our Centenary Match.
Without doubt, over the last decade, Leeds United have proved themselves the outstanding team in the country, a team whose stars have become household names.
It is the ambition of everyone at Villa Park that ten years hence Aston Villa's players will be held in the same esteem throughout the country.
That is the 'Everest' that we are all aiming to conquer and just as the Leeds revival had to start somewhere, so our immediate sights have to be promotion back to the big time of the First Division this season.
When you look at the Second Division you are instantly struck by a very strong First Division flavour.
Teams like Manchester United, Sunderland, Albion, Blackpool, Forest, Bolton, Southampton, Fulham, Portsmouth, Sheffield Wednesday and, of course, ourselves.
All have made important contributions to the premier division since the war and now find themselves battling to regain their former status.
The competition is going to be so intense that I cannot really see any side doing what Middlesbrough did last season and romping away with the Championship.
Of the teams who were members of the First Division when I first became a professional with Everton in 1949, only a dozen still retain that status and all but one of them, Arsenal, have been in the Second Division at some time since.
This goes to show that everyone tastes disappointment at some team or other in this game but at the same time all through those years of Villa's decline they remained a great club, a great 'name' in soccer because of the mystique and traditions of the club.
Since the players reported back on July 15, we have had over three weeks training, during the course of which we have played two matches in a five-day stay in Germany.
This has given the players and myself the opportunity to get to know one another and by now the players know what to expect from me.
Leeds United will provide us with an excellent yard-stick of how much we have progressed in our preparations for the coming season.
I have been impressed by the promise of the club's younger players and one only has to look at the record of the youth team over recent seasons - with FA Youth Cup and Blauw-Wit Youth Tournament successes the highlights - to realise that the playing potential of the club is very strong indeed.
Soccer is not a game for promisers but I can guarantee one thing: everyone who pulls on a Villa shirt, no matter which team he's playing for, will be giving 110% effort.
Editor's Note: Interesting to read the quote - It is the ambition of everyone at Villa Park that ten years hence Aston Villa's players will be held in the same esteem throughout the country. Of course, Villa went on to win the League Cup, League Championship and European Cup. Ron certainly delivered on his promise!
Make sure you're here to roar on the lads against Manchester United.