You didn’t know? Do me a favour — you can’t call yourself a true Iron without being familiar with the albeit unsubstantiated story of Bill Dove and his historic bet with a bunch of Villa players at a fair in Birmingham. As the Thames Ironworks we originally played in dark blue — apparently because, unlike either of the present incumbents, the chairman was an Oxford graduate. But that all changed after Our William strutted his stuff in Brum.
Legend has it that Dove — who helped out with the Ironworks coaching duties — was challenged to a foot race by four Villa lads and, to make it more interesting, they were persuaded to put their money where their mouths were. Unfortunately for them, Bill was a top-class sprinter and he romped home a clear winner.
More unfortunate still, they didn’t have the cash to honour their debt — and no one took plastic in those days. Just as it was all on the point of turning ugly it transpired that one of the Villa boys was responsible for doing the club’s washing (hard to envisage Gabriel Agbonlahor being asked to do that now) and he offered a complete set of kits by way of payment. He later told his incredulous bosses that the gear had mysteriously “gone missingâ€.
Not only did Bill coach the Thames Ironworks, his son Charlie played for them. So it probably shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to the Villa management when Dove Jnr and his mates took to the field in claret and blue at the beginning of the following season. There’s a certain irony in receiving stolen goods from the Villains, I reckon. And the fact we’ve got them first up set me thinking about what we could usefully half-inch from other clubs now.
My first instinct was to liberate Lionel Messi from Barcelona but, on reflection, who needs a sawn-off show pony who bulged the onion bag a mere 793 times last season when we’ve got Jack Collison? You can keep other so-called superstars like Ronaldo, Rooney and Buffon as well — Big Sam’s brave lads are more than capable of ripping up the Premiership this year without their assistance. (Please note, if we are bottom at Christmas I reserve the right to amend that statement.)
Players come and go, but dignity is permanent. So top of my wishlist is a motto – now that would add a touch of class to proceedings at the Boleyn. It doesn’t matter much what it says, but it does have to be in Latin. It’s just not a proper motto otherwise.
There are a few to choose from. Tottenham go with Audere est facere (to dare is to do), but we don’t want anything from them, thank you very much. Man City’s motto is Superbia in proelia (pride in battle) while Everton’s is Nil satis nisi optimum. That translates roughly as “only the best is good enoughâ€ — but for my generation those words will always be preceded by the line: The Milky Bar Kid is strong and tough, so it doesn’t quite fit the bill.
For Blackburn the answer is Arte et labore — by skill and hard work — but look where that got them; Bolton’s Supera moras (overcome delays) sounds as if it was created as an early radio traffic bulletin for anyone using the M6; and, despite Martin O’Neill’s best efforts, Sunderland still have some way to go consectatio excellentiae – in pursuit of excellence.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Queen’s Park, the Scottish outfit whose home ground is Hampden Park even though they themselves are amateurs. There’s nothing like thinking big in my book. Their motto, Ludere causa ludendi, means “to play for the sake of playingâ€ — and while that may not quite tie in with Sam Allardyce’s ethos I reckon it sums up what West Ham are all about (Again, if we are bottom at Christmas, I reserve the right to amend that as well.)
Incidentally, if there are any Jesuit scholars reading this who quibble with the Latin translations I suggest you take up the matter with my learned friend, Professor Wikipedia. The other big acquisition we need to make is a new anthem. I know this is controversial stuff — we all love Bubbles blah blah blah.
But listen to what you’re singing: who wants to fade and die? We need something more positive if we’re going to compete at the top level in our shiny new Olympic Stadium (sorry mate, did you see who scored that goal?)
There are plenty we don’t want, of course. We all know where Chelsea can stick their blue flag, and Blue is the Colour has to be the lamest song of all time. (Incidentally, those of you who changed the words to suggest that not only is football the game, but Matthew Harding should have caught the train, can stop sniggering and stand in the corner for the rest of the lesson.)
I like Blue Moon, but I admit it took more than that to procure the title for Citeh. A fistful of petro-dollars from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nayan may also have had something to do with their success. Birmingham’s Keep Right on to the end of the Road is dull; I don’t want to have anything to do with Saints or Spuds marching in; Brighton’s Sussex by the Sea is too weird for words; and Glory, Glory Man Utd brings me out in hives.
There is only one other club’s trademark song that makes my the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, and you all know what it is. That’s right – You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Liverpool were rubbish before they adopted what started life as a rather forgettable number in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel and was then given the Merseybeat sound by Gerry and the Pacemakers in the early Sixties. Fifty years on and Liverpool are rubbish again.
They clearly need to freshen things up. And if they are prepared to sack King Kenny they may well let us have their theme tune — ideally on a free transfer. Give it a bit of Cockney knees-up, remember that the lyrics aren’t You’ll Never Walk Again, don’t make cheap cracks about the frequency of petty larceny in one of Britain’s major cities and it could well do for us what it did for the Scousers back in the day.
It’s either that, or we remix Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Have a great season … but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the missing ingredients if it all goes pear shaped.