My Favourite Villan: Scott Paul on Ron Atkinson
I'm part of the Jilted Generation of Villa fans, neither old enough to really remember the glory years of winning the League Championship and European Cup, nor young enough for our earliest memories to be the club's renaissance under Brian Little and John Gregory.
Being an Aston Villa fan in the 1980s was a pretty miserable existence, as anyone in their mid-30s will tell you.
Only those of us whose first true memories of Villa are that of rapid decline under the tenure of Graham Turner and Billy McNeil understand true pain and suffering.
I cried the day we went down in 1987. I was only 11.
Things got better. Graham Taylor brought us back up at our first attempt and we even had the audacity to run Liverpool surprisingly close for the title in our second season back in the top flight.
But even under Taylor, we were never more than "functional" and a long way from being exciting.
So where did it all change? My friends, I give you "Big Ron" Atkinson - a man who had it all and finally brought back to Villa Park the star quality that had been missing for decades.
Ronald Frederick Atkinson swaggered into Villa Park with the charisma that every Villan had been craving, plus enough gold chains to make Mr T break into a cold sweat.
We instantly believed that the club could emulate those past glories.
Big Ron had over-achieved with West Brom - taking them to third in the League and to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals - before embarking on a short-lived career with Manchester United, where he delivered the FA Cup.
But he was really one of us! He always spoke fondly of his time at Villa as a player and always spoke like a fan.
It was a match made in heaven!
Big Ron transformed the team from being a workmanlike outfit to media darlings, thanks to a heady mix of the too-hot-to-handle strike partnership of Dalian Atkinson and Dean Saunders and journeymen such as Kevin Richardson and Ray Houghton.
For a time, Villa was everyone's favourite second team.
The first season of the Premier League was one of my proudest as a Villa fan, even though we ran out of steam when it came to the crunch.
To finish runners-up in that inaugural season filled me with such hope, even though Big Ron's side never quite fulfilled that potential. If only Dean Saunders hadn't hit the woodwork so often!
In a relatively short period at the helm, Atkinson's side left me with some of my most memorable Villa moments.
Thank-you, Ron, from me and the rest of us 30-somethings, for giving us our Villa back!
Make sure you pick up tickets for Newcastle.
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