Life-long Aston Villa supporter John Flanner MBE had the opportunity to share his ambition for the club with CEO Tom Fox in the run-up to the Cup Final.
Solihull-based John’s passion for the Villa started when he attended his first match with his Dad in 1956 and he has continued to attend over 1000 matches since then, even after becoming permanently blind at the age of nineteen.
At the meeting with John, Villa CEO Tom Fox said:
“No-one better represents the loyal Aston Villa support than John Flanner. He helps us all realize that the highs and the lows are all part of the journey, in football and in life, and he serves as a constant reminder to everyone at the Villa of why we do what we do for this great Club. Every football club has supporters but few, if any, have people like John to inspire them to reach higher and achieve more.”
Explaining his passion for Villa, John Flanner said:
“My first hero was Peter McParland who I actually watched score the two goals that won us the Final in 1957 on my parents’ nine inch black and white television. The next day I was with my family in Steelhouse Lane, along with 250,000 others, welcoming the team back on their victory procession from Villa Park to the Council House.
“Nowadays of course teams come on to the field side by side in all league matches around Europe but it was the Aston Villa support group that I initiated, which I am convinced persuaded Doug Ellis and the then Manager, Graham Turner, to get Villa players to come out alongside Liverpool players at the start of the new season. The aim was to create a positive atmosphere in the stadium as the two teams walked out side by side. The move went well and I had no idea that it had become the norm; for years I just thought it was at Villa Park.
“What I love about Aston Villa is its wonderful family tradition and history in the game, and ever since its inception it has been at the forefront of innovation and change. It was our first Chairman, William McGregor, who formed the Football League. In the early years, back in the 1880s and beyond, it was the likes of Aston Villa, Preston, Blackburn, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers who dominated the game and, all in all, Aston Villa has supplied more players for England than any other club.
“When I went blind at the age of nineteen, ex Birmingham City goalkeeper Colin Withers who had come to Villa, came to see me. The other player who visited was Ron Wylie, who had moved from Villa to Birmingham and become their captain. I have kept in touch with Ron ever since.”