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The (First) Time Aston Villa Won the FA Cup

This week in Holte History, we look at Aston Villa's wild ride to their first FA Cup triumph.

FA Cup Trophy Mascot Guy would like to see the return of Wednesbury Old Athletic, if only so Villa can smash them again.
FA Cup Trophy Mascot Guy would like to see the return of Wednesbury Old Athletic, if only so Villa can smash them again.
Richard Heathcote

In last week's Holte History, I said that I found Villa's 1886-87 FA Cup campaign interesting enough to get it's own piece and this is it.

Aston Villa first entered the FA Cup in the 1879-80 season. They drew their first ever match against Stafford Road Works 1-1 and went on to beat them 3-1 in the replay. That would be the only tie they played in that FA Cup season, as they went out in the next round without playing opponents Oxford University.

The following season saw them make the fourth round before losing to the aforementioned Stafford Road Works. Two seasons later they made it down to the last eight before losing to Notts County. Other than 1885-86, Villa made it to at least the third round in every FA Cup they entered prior to 86-87. They didn't manage to break through and win the cup, but they certainly didn't play badly.

Villa opened their Cup campaign with a home tie against local rival Wednesbury Old Athletic on October 30, 1886. WOAC (as Wikipedia calls them and who am I to argue) had been a bit of a nuisance to Villa in this period. They knocked Villa out in the 1881-82 FA Cup, and beat them in the final of the Staffordshire Cup in 1880. How did Villa respond to taking on this local rival? Oh, just beat them 13-0.

Their second match was against another semi-local rival, Derby Midland FC. The club was only around for about 10 years, before being merged into Derby County. Which was just enough time for VILLA TO BEAT THEM DOWN 6-1 in the second round.

The third round would pit Villa against another local rival, this time one that's still around today: Wolverhampton Wanderers. Villa hosted the first match on December 11, 1886, which ended in a 2-2 draw, which mean it went to a replay in Wolverhampton. The replay finished 1-1. Now today the replay would go to extra time and penalties. Not in 1886. So it was off to a third match in Wolverhampton. This match ended in a 3-3 draw, which meant: another replay! On January 29, 1887, over a month after the first match, Villa finally got rid of Wolves, beating them 2-0 in Birmingham.

For some reason, 13 teams got a bye in the fourth round and only six played this round. The only explanation I can think of for this is that it was 1887. Anyway, Villa were one of those 13, and they were off to the fifth round.

Fifth round opponent was Horncastle. Founded in 1873, Horncastle are actually still around today, competing in the Lincolnshire Football League, which is not actually part of the main English Football Pyramid. They are currently 12th in the Premier Division in that league, and I wish them the best of luck. But back in 1887, Villa smashed them 5-0 to advance.

The sixth round was a 3-2 victory over AFC Darwen, another club still around today. The wonderfully nicknamed Salmoners are currently top of the Northwest Counties Football League First Division, which is the tenth level on the pyramid. Funnily enough, this is a level below blog favorite Stockport Sports! Again best of luck to them.

But back in 1887, Villa had made the semifinals, where their opponent was Rangers. No, no, no, not Queens Park. Glasgow. Yes, in the semifinals of the 1886-87 FA Cup, Villa had to take on future Scottish Third Division champion Glasgow Rangers. Several clubs not from England entered this FA Cup, including Partick Thistle. Again the only explanation I have is that it's 1887. Villa beat Rangers 3-1 to advance to their first FA Cup final.

Waiting for them in the FA Cup final was yet another local rival, West Bromwich Albion. Villa won the match 2-0 after goals from Dennis Hodgetts and previously profiled Archie Hunter, and Villa were FA Cup champions for the first time.

Overall, Villa have won the FA Cup seven times, the last coming in 1957. If they were to win it this season, it would certainly be wild. But not as wild as in 1887.