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My Favourite Villan: Tour Guide Pete Haden on Johnny Dixon

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My Favourite Villan: Tour Guide Pete Haden on Johnny Dixon

We have asked members of the claret and blue family - celebrities, fans, journalists, staff - to give us their all-time hero. Tour Guide Pete Haden selects a famous skipper.

Johnny Dixon played for Aston Villa for 17 years.

Just imagine that happening in this day and age, where some players don't even stay 17 months!

Johnny played well over 400 games for Villa, scoring 144 goals in that time, including one on his debut and another on his last appearance in the claret and blue shirt.

After retirement from the professional game, he continued turning out for the Villa Old Stars well into his 70s.

I can remember seeing him starring at my own club, Wake Green Amateurs, and there is a framed picture of him displayed in our clubhouse in Shirley.

Johnny, of course, is fondly remembered for being the captain of the 1957 FA Cup-winning winning side in their controversial victory over Manchester United at Wembley.

In my role as one of the stadium tour guides at Villa Park, I never tire of telling the story to any guests who are willing to listen that I was there to see Johnny lift the Cup!

And while Peter McParland's goals clinched victory, we shouldn't forget that Johnny was on target five times along the Cup trail - one in the 2-2 third round draw at Luton, a brace in the 2-0 replay win against the Hatters, one at Middlesbrough in the fourth round and the crucial opening goal in the quarter-final replay against Burnley.

The thing people recall more than anything, of course, is the final.

My friend and I, both of us worldly 15-year-olds, jumped on a train at New Street and ended up witnessing that famous victory against the Busby Babes, a 2-1 win which shocked the footballing world.

Unbeknown to me at the time, my dad had also travelled down to Wembley and got a ticket from a tout, although he never admitted to my mother exactly how much he had paid for it.

Whatever it cost him, I'm sure he felt it was worth every penny!

I think any Villa fan in my age group can name that Villa team of that day, probably at the same time as they can name England's 1966 World Cup-winning team and the Villa side who won European Cup in 1982.

It's one of those things that simply remains etched on the memory of any Villa supporter of a certain age.

After Johnny finished playing he opened a hardware shop in Erdington.

In the current cash rich footballing climate, I'm sure some of today's Barclays Premier League stars could afford to buy B&Q!

In his last few years, Johnny contracted the horrendous Alzheimer's disease and passed away in early 2009.

I was proud and privileged to attend his funeral and hopefully helped to pay tribute to one of Aston Villa's most well-known and best-loved players.

Johnny's daughter Helen has written a moving poem about the disease that took her dad and this can be found in a recent book, Seventh Heaven, which tells the story of that wonderful FA Cup triumph, all the way from the January mud at Luton to the May sunshine at Wembley.

Helen's words sum up how much Johnny Dixon was loved.

He will always be remembered by his family and friends - and, of course, those Villa supporters who were fortunate enough to have seen him in action.

I count myself fortunate to be among them.

Snap up your season tickets for 2013-14.


AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 27th May 2013
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