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From the Archives: When Villa got shirty with Hammers
Paul Brown looks back to a historic game from 2009.
6th Feb 2014
From the Archives: When Villa got shirty with Hammers


Brown

There was an air of astonishment as Villa came walking out of the tunnel for their home game with West Ham on April 18, 2009.

You see, they were wearing all-white.

No, not in their matchday warm-up jackets - on this occasion they were donning their third kit.

Yes, their change strip at their home ground of Villa Park.

But, as then manager Martin O'Neill made clear in his programme notes for the following week's fixture against Hull, the situation was unavoidable.

He wrote in the Villa News & Record: "You will be pleased to know we will be playing in our traditional claret and blue shirts tonight.

"I'm sure you were surprised to see our players coming out in an all-white kit for our last home match against West Ham a couple of weeks ago, so perhaps I should explain why it happened.

"Essentially, the referee was unhappy because the sleeves of West Ham's all-blue away kit clashed with the sleeves of our shirts, and I had some sympathy with him in that respect.

"But the Hammers didn't seem to have any other kit with them - and the ref was adamant the game wouldn't go ahead unless the clash was resolved.

"Reluctantly, we agreed to change, which meant we had to get our third choice white shirts from the Villa Store warehouse.

"The ironic thing is that the Barclays Premier League had approved West Ham's change kit but the referee was unhappy on the day. Quite simply, something had to give, or there would have been no game.

"For the sake of all the people who were at Villa Park eagerly looking forward to the action, we decided to change, even though the onus is on the away team to provide alternative colours.

"I have to say, though, that it was an incredible situation, and one I had never previously experienced, either as a player or a manager. It's certainly something which should have been sorted out days in advance."

Young

As well as the disbelief in the stands, there were also logistical issues.

At 2.30pm, merchandising manager John Greenfield and his team were asked if they could get a set of shirts numbered in time for kick-off.

The deadline was duly met but John decided that it wasn't good enough.

He and four members of staff spent the first half preparing another set which featured the names of the players, the Barclays Premier League logo and the logo of club partners Acorns.

He said at the time: "We estimated we'd get the job done by the interval and we finished with five minutes to spare.

"Kit manager Ian Paul was on standby and he rushed the shirts from the Villa Store to the dressing room.

"The referee had been willing to accept shirts with just numbers but we like to do things properly."

The game itself was as exciting as the events off the field.

Villa looked on course for three points for much of the contest as they dominated for long periods.

Emile Heskey made a scoring return to the starting line-up, firing the hosts into the lead on 10 minutes.

Heskey was back from an achilles injury and replaced Gabby Agbonlahor.

The striker finished off a flowing move which began with a flick-on from John Carew just inside the Hammers half.

He found Gareth Barry, who switched play to James Milner on the right-hand side and Heskey made no mistake in converting the winger's low cross.

Villa could and should have added to their lead, with Carew, Barry and Milner all going close with efforts on Rob Green's goal.

But West Ham stunned the hosts with a late strike from Diego Tristan.

Villa were hit by a sucker punch five minutes from time.

They were unable to clear a West Ham corner and Tristan intelligently flicked Kieron Dyer's volley inside the post to level the scores.

There was still time for a penalty shout when James Tomkins looked to have handled inside the area but Rob Styles waved away the appeals - just as he did with claret and blue officials before the game.

Snap up match tickets for Villa v West Ham.

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