Today it was announced that former Aston Villa player and 1957 FA Cup winner Stan Crowther passed away. While we send our condolences to his friends and family, let's take a look at the life and career of Mr. Crowther.
Stanley Crowther was born September 3, 1935 in Bilston in Staffordshire. In 1955, at the age of 19 while playing for local side Bilston Town, Crowther was signed by Aston Villa for £750.
His first real opportunity to prove himself didn't come until September 1956, when an injury to Bill Baxter allowed Crowther to make his debut. He impressed on debut and from then on found regular playing time. Crowther's time in the first team coincided with Villa's run to the 1957 FA Cup final.
Villa were heavy underdogs, yet came away with a 2-1 win over Manchester United. United defender Jackie Branchflower was named man of the match after he was forced to play in goal following United keeper Ray Wood's injury. However, it was said the after the match, FA secretary Stanley Rous told Villa manager Eric Houghton that "Crowther was the best player on the pitch." In a 2012 interview, Crowther said that winning the FA Cup was "the best day of my life."
However, a few short months later, Crowther would be playing with, rather than against, Manchester United. In February 1958, following the horrific events of the Munich air disaster, Manchester United signed signed Crowther for £18,000 just a few hours before an FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday. Having already played for Villa in that season's FA Cup, Crowther normally would've been cup tied. But due to the circumstances, the FA gave United special dispensation, allowing him to play. Crowther was supposedly uneasy about moving to United, but would eventually be convinced and helped United to the 1958 FA Cup Final. For the second consecutive year, Stan Crowther started in the FA Cup Final. But he would not come out a winner this time, as Bolton Wanderers won 2-0.
Crowther would not stay for long in Manchester and moved to Chelsea in December 1958 for £10,000. He made 51 appearances for Chelsea before moving on to Brighton & Hove Albion. Crowther made just four appearances for Brighton before leaving after refusing to play for the club's third team. After that, Crowther had brief stops playing for non-league teams Hednesford Town and Rugby Town. He retired at the age of just 27.
Following his football career, he spent 30 years working as a foreman. After a diagnosis of osteoporosis, Crowther spent most of his later life in Wolverhampton, unable to come see Villa matches. In the aforementioned 2012 interview, Crowther said that he was "never as happy as I was at the Villa."
Crowther didn't spend that much time playing for Aston Villa. But he seemed to really love the club and was a major cog in one the club's most important teams. And for that we thank him.
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