Brian Little this week hailed his former skipper Ian Ross as a “great leader, great motivator and a great person”, stressing: “I’ve never met anyone who had a bad word to say about him”.
Ross died this past week at the age of 72.
He helped us to the Third Division title in 1972 shortly after arriving from Liverpool and then went on to skipper the side to promotion and the League Cup in 1974/75.
This weekend’s Baggies game will see a minute’s applause for Ross – and our players will be wearing black armbands to mourn his passing.
Little was one of his closest team-mates – and one of his biggest fans.
He told us: “Ian was unbelievably reliable. You hear from managers now about how consistent certain players are. He very rarely did anything wrong on the pitch.
“He wasn’t the quickest player in the world but he read the game so, so well. He was a great leader, great motivator. He was also very calm. He had a lot of qualities that made him stand out in the dressing room.
“But, for me, his key trait was as a motivator by encouraging people around him. He was good to me. He would come up to me and remind me what I could do. He used to encourage me to show my skill off. That was great of him. I was one of his biggest fans.
“I don’t think I’ve met anyone who would have a bad word to say about him. He was a good captain and had all the attributes to do that job very well.
“He was a leader, a true leader. They always say you need 11 captains. But he was above that even.
“He just did everything you’d want as a captain – led by example, pushed the team on to big things, motivated, organised events off the pitch.
“He was the perfect person to be in the dressing room with. If something needed doing, sometimes you’d have people who’d say ‘oh yes, I’ll sort that’ and then forget about it. Not Ian. He’d be a proper captain. And, more importantly in life, he was a good man.”
Ian played 205 games in claret and blue and scored three goals.
He was an ever-present in both 1973/74 and 1974/75 and missed only four games during the team’s first season back in the top-flight in 1975/76 – a trait that Little admired greatly.
He added: “The outstanding thing about Ian at Villa was that he very rarely missed games. I can remember one game in the 1974/75 season in particular.
“Ian got carried off with the biggest gash in his shin I have ever seen – yet he played the next game. I can still remember saying ‘how the hell are you playing?’ He replied: ‘Don’t worry about me, I’m all padded up.’ Incredible!
“He really, really wanted to play, wanted to lead, wanted to be there doing his job. That season, especially so, summed him up as a person as we won promotion and a trophy. He was proud to captain our great club. He’ll be deeply missed.”