When this Aston Villa side faces its inevitable drop — likely at some point Saturday — it’ll become by trophy haul the biggest club to ever be relegated.
Of course, Villa’s 1986-87 already has that mark by quite some distance, sitting four trophies ahead of the 1966-67 team, five ahead of the 1958-59 team and six ahead of the 1935-36 team, Villa’s first to be relegated.
When you think about it, it’s kind of absurd: No club has ever had more trophies to its title at relegation than Villa’s first side to go down.
But note one thing about that: When Villa went down in 1936, the club had 12 major titles to its name. The club had 13 in 1959, 14 in 1967 and 18 in 1987. This year’s team will have 20.
Every time Villa have gone down in the past, they’ve responded with major titles. It’s evidence of something about the Claret and Blues’ history — that it’s been pretty cyclical.
Take out the early days, pre-World War I, and you’ll see a common trend. The club started out the 1920s strong, winning the first post-War FA Cup, and closed it strong as well in a period of five straight top-five finishes, but soon fortunes dipped and in 1936, Villa dropped.
Twenty-three years and an FA Cup after that relegation, Villa dropped once more in 1959 before returning immediately for an eight-season stint in the top flight. After eight years outside the top flight, the Villans thrived early on in their return. In 1977, the second year back in the First Division, the club finished fourth with a League Cup win. Four years later, the league was won, and the year after that, the club grabbed its biggest-ever title, the European Cup.
Of course, five years after that, Villa suffered its last relegation.
Promotion was won at the first attempt, and in the second and fifth years up, Villa finished second in the league. After a momentary dip, another strong period followed before the mid-2000s, when Randy Lerner purchased a club that had just placed 16th in the Premier League.
Had Villa gone down when it should have — the club really had no business staying up in Paul Lambert’s first season, and without Christian Benteke significantly outperforming expectations, the Claret and Blues would have — it probably wouldn’t be seen in the same light as this season’s impending relegation is.
But there’s a certain sentiment around the club now that this Villa is somehow "different" from ones in past years. This relegation has felt like an inevitability, largely due in part to stupid survivals in past seasons, and with that feeling, there’s been a growing concern about Villa turning into another Leeds United.
What do I take out of it, though?
Aston Villa is still just that — the one and only Villa. It has always been and forever will be.
And for the last 100 years, while the club has never been as big as its name and trophy cabinet indicates it is, every handful of years, Villa have experienced plenty of the ups and then the downs of life outside of the top classifications of clubs.
Villa isn’t and never will be Manchester United or Chelsea, and it isn’t ever going to be Liverpool or Arsenal either. And most importantly, I don’t think any of us particularly long for some universe where that’s true.
Just as the sky wasn’t falling 29 years ago, it shouldn’t be falling now. Because every time Villa have gone down in their history, they’ve come back a better club.
Remember that as we officially embark on the Championship journey this weekend. Do any of us love relegation? Of course not.
But it’s been part of Villa’s cycle for the past century. If history’s any indicator, brighter days are ahead.