Aston Villa met Leicester City for the first time at Villa Park on 4th February 1905 – a year in Edwardian England (Edward VII had come to the throne just over three years earlier following Queen Victoria's death) when the bill for women's votes was thrown out by Parliament, the Automobile Association (AA) was founded and the 'Penny Post' established between the UK and Australia. The Russian Empire was at war with the Empire of Japan and Kaiser Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, asserted German rights in Africa, triggering the 'Morocco Crisis.' Theodore Roosevelt began a full term in the United States and Las Vegas was founded. The Irish political party Sinn Féin was formed at the end of the year.
Aston Villa, from Birmingham in the West Midlands, had been formed more than 30 years earlier – in 1874 – and were founder members of The Football League in 1888. Leicester City, from the East Midlands, began life as Leicester Fosse, ten years after Villa – in 1884 – and didn’t change their name until 1919 following Leicester’s newly-found city status.
So, matches between these two teams are technically Midlands derby matches, though from different parts of the Midlands region of England: East meets West. That first match was an FA Cup first-round tie, played in front of 25,000 and which Villa won 5.1. Two of Villa’s goals that day were scored by Joe Bache, a local lad from Stourbridge, who was one of Aston Villa's greatest ever centre-forwards. He is fourth on their all-time goal-scoring list with 168 goals in 431 league appearances and 17 goals in 42 FA Cup appearances such as this one. He also played seven times for England, scoring four goals. He and Villa would go on to win the FA Cup that year and again in 1913. During WWI, Bache joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and served on the Western Front.
Aston Villa first played Leicester (still known as Leicester Fosse at this time) in the league on 31st October 1908. Leicester had been promoted as runners-up in the Second Division the previous season but were only to stay in the First Division for this one season which also included their worst ever defeat some six months later – a 12–0 defeat at East Midlands rivals, Nottingham Forest. It remains as Forest’s record league win. Leicester’s players were allegedly suffering the after effects of an ex-team mate’s wedding party!
Apart from in the seasons 1969-70 and 1987-88 all league meetings between the two teams have been in the top tier of English Football: The First Division of the Football League until 1992 and thereafter the Premier League.
The match at Villa Park ended in a 1.1 draw with Joe Bache again scoring for Villa. Leicester’s goal was scored by their centre-forward Shirley Hubbard. Hubbard was also a local talent and scored 37 goals in 153 appearances for The Foxes. Originally a shoe finisher he joined the Leicestershire Regiment and played army football in England and India until Leicester Fosse seemingly bought him out of the army in 1907. Hubbard had been a regular in Leicester’s promotion-winning side of 1907-08. Like Bache he also served in World War One – one of many players from the Leicester Fosse club – and saw action at Gommecourt during the Battle of the Somme.
Leicester got their own back for that first 5.1 defeat against the Villans when, on 27th November 1926, Leicester City (as they were now called) won 5.1 at Filbert Street in front of a crowd of 29,423. Billy Walker scored the solitary goal for Aston Villa whereas Arthur Chandler scored all five goals for Leicester. Chandler is Leicester City’s all-time record goal-scorer with 273 goals in 419 appearances, giving him an incredible goal ratio of 0.65. he also holds the record number of hat-tricks scored for the club (17), record number of goals (34) for the club in the top tier in a single season – twice – most consecutive matches scored in (8) and joint record for most goals in a single game (6). In spite of all this he never scored a penalty for the club.
On 19th January 1935, Villa beat Leicester 5.0 at Villa Park with Welsh forward Dai Astley scoring a hat-trick. Astley scored 92 goals for Aston Villa in 165 matches and also made 13 appearances for Wales. This result matched the score from the previous meeting of the two sides in that 1934-35 season but then it was the Leicester team that won 5.0 – with Arthur Chandler scoring one of his hat-tricks – on 8th September 1934.
A five-goal winning margin is the best Aston Villa have achieved against Leicester City at Villa Park and this was achieved again on 21st April 1962 when Villa won 8.3 in front of 24,184 fans. It is the highest number of goals the Villans have ever scored in a single match against Leicester City, which they have done twice. Derek Dougan – later of Wolverhampton Wanderers fame – scored two goals that day and Bobby Thomson scored a hat-trick. Jimmy Welsh scored two of Leicester’s three goals. Thomson scored 56 goals in 140 appearances for Villa in total and appeared in the first ever League Cup Final for them when they beat Rotherham United in 1961. Though born in Dundee, he was one of the great players of the West Midlands, having also played previously for Wolves – with whom he won two league titles – and then going on to play for Birmingham City.
This scoreline mirrored that of a match some thirty years earlier. On 2nd January 1932 Villa also scored eight in the fixture at Filbert Street in an 8.3 win. Five of their goals that day were scored by George Brown. Nicknamed ‘Bomber’ as per his namesake - another famous Midlands striker, Tony Brown of West Bromwich Albion - George Brown scored 79 goals in 116 appearances for Villa. He enjoyed a football career almost by accident, only attending a trial with Huddersfield Town because of a miners’ strike at his local colliery in 1921. He joined the Terriers at the same time as Herbert Chapman was appointed as assistant and then manager and, in the glory years that followed, including an FA Cup and two league title wins, Brown became their all-time record goal-scorer with 159 goals.
Eight goals were also scored at Villa Park on 22nd February 1995 but this time in a 4.4 thriller, watched by 30,825 fans and the highest-ever scoring draw between the two teams. Villa stalwarts Dean Saunders and Dwight Yorke were on the scoresheet as Villa went 3.0 and then 4.1 up. However, the Foxes came storming back with goals by Iwan Roberts and two from David Lowe who also scored against Midlands rivals Coventry City and Nottingham Forest that season.
Leicester City’s best winning margin at Villa Park is three goals. They first achieved this on 27th August 1927 in a league game in front of a crowd of 47,288 in a 3.0 win. This was Leicester’s first-ever win at Villa Park in league or FA Cup. They achieved the same winning margin again on 6th November 1954 before a crowd of 28,181. This time they won 5.2, representing the highest number of goals Leicester have ever scored at Villa Park in a single first-team match. Two of Leicester’s goals that day were scored by Fred Worthington, an inside forward, who went on to score a total of nine goals in 57 appearances for the club.
There are usually goals when these teams meet at Villa Park. Throughout the history of this football fixture since those Edwardian days there have only ever been two 0.0 draws: once in the league – in March, 1978 – and once in a League Cup tie in January, 2000.
Author: Mark Rasdall
Title: Founder, The Football Ground
Date: 14th January 2016