Feature: The Makers of the Villa - No.3 Fred Rinder
In point of personality - on the field or in the council room - we have not had an outstanding figure that has endured so long or had so large an influence on Aston Villa and all its ways and works as Mr Fred W Rinder, the chairman of directors for more years than I remember.
He has been a member of the club for 37 years and I do not think there is any exaggeration in saying it is due more to him than to any other man that the organisation holds the high public estimation that it does today.
He came into Villa politics like a stormy petrel. When he started that now historic agitation in 1892, the club was being run by a lot of well-meaning but hopelessly incapable men who held large committee meetings, talked of all sorts of things other than football, made so many mistakes and lived so greatly on the reputation of the Villa and then generally left things in a muddle for the secretary to clear up as best he could.
They were like a lot of uncles who alternatively coaxed and scolded their nephews, the players; and in many cases they spoilt them.
One could give instances - but ancient history of that kind would not be interesting.
Well, Mr Rinder was an agitator for reform, and he obtained it by dint of strenuous and plucky fighting, for it was a daring thing to attack the citadel in those days, since certain traditions had grown with the club, but Mr Rinder was an iconoclast, and he not only had his own way in the matter of management, but secured the distinction of leading the reform party.
The changes were drastic, and they unquestionably improved the club.
Mind you, I think there would have been an Aston Villa all right today had the architectural agitator never been known, because it was founded on sentiment and romance, and had heroes associated with it whose names will be household names as long as the game shall last; moreover, Birmingham has a strong regard for ancient sporting institutions; but I take leave to doubt if it would ever have attained the eminence, won half the trophies, or enhanced its reputation in the striking way it has, had it not been for the continuous and enthusiastic services of the man who not only told Villa members how the club should be run, but showed them how to do it.
I don't want to harp upon the subject too much, but I don't remember any case where theory and practice have gone so well together, or where the agitating influence gave such practical help to the institution whose management it had attacked with such overwhelming success.
This was a real epoch in the fortunes and reputation of Aston Villa, and probably the president - for Mr Joseph Ansell was the presiding genius as long ago as that - was as keenly appreciative as any member of the good work done at that period.
I know he talks of it now with admiration, and his eyes will twinkle at the humour which arose so spontaneously at that celebrated meeting in Barwick Street.
Having assured the better handling of affairs by a smaller and more compact committee, Mr Rinder, besides looking after the personnel of the team - and in those days it was sadly required - instituted two other reforms [in both of which, I think, it is right to say, he was greatly helped by the late William McGregor] - the making of Aston Villa into a limited liability company, and the removal of the club from Perry Barr to Aston Lower Grounds.
They were both necessary, and the example thus courageously given was copied by many of the leading football organisations.
His policy, though perhaps being a trifle sordid, stabilised the club in a remarkable way, and the public thereupon regarded them as responsible institutions.
Now all this amateur and professional work - for Mr Rinder gave wholeheartedly of his very best for the club he loved so well - is a fine tribute to the sportsman, who, if he is fond of having his own way [it is an inevitable quality in all genial autocrats], and it is because of the excellent labour he has performed for the club that he is thought so highly of.
He has dominated the fortunes of the Villa so long that one sometimes wonders what would be done without him; and all this was undertaken and has been carried so meritoriously forward, because Mr Rinder has made Aston Villa his hobby, and first-class football one of the aims of his life.
He may appear to some of his friends [and all of his foes] to be a trifle didactic, and to insist on his own ideas being carried through; but though he has had critics innumerable during the past 25 years, his policy has been found to be right, and he has made extraordinary few mistakes.
He is not infallible, as he himself would probably be first to admit; but he has a habit of carefully thinking about his schemes, and has considered the pros and cons before uttering them.
His work for Aston Villa may, without flattery, said to be con amore, and he has, without question, earned the respect and regard of all who are closely in touch with him.
Mr Rinder likes to hear both sides of a question, but usually sticks to his own; and he has proved beyond all cavil or criticism that he is one of the finest friends the club has had in its long and honourable career, and we all hope that it will be many a year before he will cease to be a leading light in its councils and management.
One of the best traits in a character that is at once genial and serious, is the hearty and even eager manner in which he will enter into any plan or purpose to assist institutions that require help; and as Aston Villa's record in this connection is a particularly bright and shining one through all the varying fortunes of its history it may be taken for granted that the chairman of its directorate for so long is to a large extent responsible for it.
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