sundaylife

| 13.4°C Belfast

Peter McParland: Our long wait to finish the season in 1961 proved well worth it

 

Close

Aston Villa celebrate their long-awaited League Cup win in 1961.

Aston Villa celebrate their long-awaited League Cup win in 1961.

Former Aston Villa star and Northern Ireland international Peter McParland

Former Aston Villa star and Northern Ireland international Peter McParland

Presseye.com

Aston Villa celebrate their long-awaited League Cup win in 1961.

Northern Ireland legend Peter McParland has told his modern-day counterparts that good things come to those who wait.

McParland, who turned 86 yesterday, scored the winning goal for Aston Villa in the inaugural League Cup Final in 1961 after fixture congestion caused by horrendous weather had forced it to be held over until September of the following season.

There is no sign that the coronavirus pandemic lockdown will be lifted soon, with a provisional June 30 deadline now likely to be extended until the late summer or even early autumn.

"It was a strange situation knowing you had to wait until after the summer to complete the season," says the Newry-born man, who won 34 caps and scored five goals on the road to the Quarter-Finals of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

"It was one of those things that you are caught up in and you have to abide by the rules and go from there.

"At the moment, no one knows when we are going to get out of this predicament.

"Back in 1961, we ran out of time to finish the season because of a bad winter, but at least we knew we had a trophy to play for when we came back."

The two-legged Final against Second Division Rotherham meant that Villa had 10 games in the opening month of the 1961-62 campaign.

A congested schedule could face current players if and when the season is resumed.

He adds: "You liked midweek games because you would rather spend your energy playing matches rather than on the training pitch, where we were hammered day in, day out.

"The big complaint now is the number of games in a short period of time. In our day, it was survival of the fittest. We played three games in four days at Christmas and the same at Easter for good measure.

"We did that without the marvellous facilities and pitches that they have nowadays and with much smaller squads, too."

Villa lost the opening League fixture of the 1961-62 season at Everton before their trip to Milmoor three days later for the first leg of the Final.

"They were a hard, uncompromising side and we got away with a 2-0 defeat, to be honest," recalls McParland, who now lives on England's south coast.

"We then went on a good run against Chelsea, Sheffield United and Wolves and by the time of the return leg, we were ready for them."

Close

Former Aston Villa star and Northern Ireland international Peter McParland

Former Aston Villa star and Northern Ireland international Peter McParland

Presseye.com

Former Aston Villa star and Northern Ireland international Peter McParland

 

Villa dominated the second encounter but had to be patient before a goal blitz saw them lift the trophy, with McParland notching the winner in extra-time.

He adds: "Someone asked me about the game when I was at the Tower of London ahead of this year's League Cup Final in February.

"There is no known film of the game, so I told them that for my goal I beat three men, nutmegged the centre-half, ran round the goalkeeper and knocked it into the net. But then I came clean and told them it was a porkie pie and was, in fact, a tap-in from about two feet.

"I was the first player to score in an FA Cup Final and a League Cup Final and that is a nice little thing about it."

Aston Villa are currently in the Premier League's relegation places but have a game in hand over their rivals and are just two points adrift of safety.

The fear is that ending the season now with current standings and points-per-game determining final League positions, Villa would be sent back to the Championship.

West Ham are just above the drop zone and chief executive Karren Brady recently called for the season to be declared null and void.

That scenario would suit not just the Hammers but Villa, too.

"You cannot hide behind this disease," stresses McParland.

"You have to show you are deserving of getting out of what you are in.

"I think that Karren Brady is looking at the easy way out. I can understand her concern. It is big, big money and the last game of the season is the Villa at West Ham. That could be a nail-biter. I hope it still takes place."      

Belfast Telegraph