April 29, 1961 was the final day of the 1960-61 Football League season. Aston Villa hosted Sheffield Wednesday. It was the final game for Villa legend Johnny Dixon. Dixon scored a goal, and Villa won 4-1, clinching a ninth place finish in the First Division. The game was also memorable for the 19 year old Scottish left back making his debut for Villa that day.
Charlie Aitkenwas born on January 5, 1942 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He played for Gorebridge Juniors and Edinburgh Thistle in his youth, before moving to Villa as a 17 year old in August 1959. As was mentioned, he didn't make his senior debut until 1961. But the following season saw Aitken establish his place in the first team. And he would be there for a while.
Villa found themselves as a mid to lower table club, throughout Aitken's early career. The best finish was 7th place in 1961-62. Aitken made 42 appearances in all competitions that season. But after that Villa started to slowly slip down the table, culminating with a relegation from the First Division in 1966-67. Aitken made another 42 appearances that season, but couldn't help Villa avoid the drop.
Aston Villa's struggles continued in the second division. They finished 16th in 67-68, and 18th the following year. Then in 1969-70, Villa could only muster a 21st place finish and were relegated to the Third Division. It's tough to hold Aitken and the back line at fault, as they gave up 62 goals in the 42 game season, which was by no means bad in that time period. The problem was that Villa scored just 36 goals.
It was in the third division where Aitken's loyalty was made clear. Villa fell seven points short of promotion that season. Aitken made 55 appearances (scoring one goal), as part of a defense which allowed just 46 goals in as many games. The following season saw Villa start to get themselves together. Aitken made another 50 appearances, and Villa won the Third Division by five points. The back line was again the difference, allowing just 32 goals in 46 games.
Villa narrowly missed back to back promotions, finishing third in 72-73. In December 1973, Aitken surpassed Billy Walker to become the all time apperance leader at Aston Villa football club. It's a record he still holds as of today.
Before the 1974-75 season, Ron Saunders took over as manager at Villa Park. Aston Villa finished 2nd to Manchester United that season (yes, Manchester United, yeah, the Denis Law thing) and won promotion back to the first division. But Aitken was also part of the team that took to the Wembley pitch on March 1, 1975. Aston Villa won the League Cup that day, defeating Norwich City 1-0. Aitken was also named Midlands Player of the Year that season.
Aston Villa were back in the top league, but Aitken's time at Villa was coming to an end. He made just 21 appearances in the 75-76 season, but helped Villa to keep their place in the First Division finishing nine points above relegation.
Following the season, Aitken was granted a free transfer. He ended up going to NASL and joining the New York Cosmos. He only made 24 apperancesin two years with the Cosmos, but he was on a team with the likes of Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. Not too shabby. He retired following his time with the Cosmos.
It's a bit of a shame a man who clearly loves Aston Villa was with the team right in between two of the most successful periods in the club's history. He joined just months after Villa's famous win in the 1957 FA Cup final. He left just a few years before the European Cup win of 1982. But any man who makes over 600 appearances for Aston Villa can rightly be called a legend of Aston Villa Football Club. And that, Charlie Aitken is.