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Aston Villa: The past, the present. Out with the old, in with the new

15 July 2016

2015/16 was one to forget for Aston Villa, but they've arrived in the EFL with renewed vigour and optimism after a close-season of change.

They finished last term bottom of the pile in the Premier League with only 17 points to their name, and that saw them fall from the top table for the first time in nearly 20 years.

But it's a club well-versed with the EFL, having been a founding member when the world's original league football competition kicked off way back in 1888.

The past

Aston Villa's rich history dates back to their creation in November 1874.

They were one of 12 founding members of the EFL in 1888/89 and finished as runners-up behind Preston North End's Invincibles. The Villans were on course to win every single home match during the first season but North End ended any hope of that with a 2-0 away victory in Villa's last outing at home.

Villa will be reunited with the Lilywhites next season in the Sky Bet Championship, along with fellow founding members Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, and Derby County.

Since those days, the club has enjoyed plenty of success, lifting 10 divisional titles – seven of those being top-flight crowns – alongside the FA Cup on seven occasions and the EFL Cup five times. They have also triumphed on the European stage, winning the European Cup (1981/82) and the European Super Cup (1982).

You have to go all the way back to 1987/88 for the last time Villa played in the second tier and, during that campaign, they finished as runners-up in the Second Division. Under the management of Graham Taylor, Villa amassed 78 points from from 44 matches, finishing only behind champions Millwall in the standings.

The same again this time around, on their return to the second tier, will have the Villa faithful smiling once more.

The present

New season, new start – and that really means new start. Not just new players and a new manager, but new owners too.

Chinese businessman Dr Tony Xia now runs the show at Villa Park, and his first task was to install a manager.  A relatively young boss? Check. Experience of both playing and managing in England? Check. A UEFA Champions League-winning manager? Check!

Roberto di Matteo is the fresh face in the Villa dugout who's tasked with restoring the club to its former glory. Honours aplenty with Chelsea as a player and manager, Di Matteo has also overseen promotion from this league, finishing second with West Bromwich Albion in 2009/10 – and there's only one direction he's looking this term.

“My message to the fans is that the only way is up," the 46-year-old told avfc.co.uk. “It's a fabulous club that's had some problems in the last few years. I think if we manage to turn it around it can be a very happy place and exciting place for the future.”

Read more: Aston Villa - Roberto Di Matteo excited for the future

The Italian has started to shape his squad with a trio of signings so far, possessing varying levels of Championship know-how. The first arrival was Tommy Elphick, who lifted the title with Bournemouth in 2014/15.

Next, a newcomer to the English game – 21-year-old goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini – who has joined from Serie A outfit Verona. And, most recently, Aaron Tshibola, another promising talent with a handful of EFL games under his belt.

#AVFCinAustria: Proud to be Villans! #AVFCpic.twitter.com/uNlRvefO1w

— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) July 12, 2016
After leaving Reading to sign a four-year deal with the Villans, the combative midfielder has vowed to give his all to help Villa climb out of a hugely competitive division at the first time of asking.

Speaking to the club's official site, the 21-year-old said: “I am 100% in every game. I always fight for the cause – and I will never hide.

“I know that’s what fans want to see too – commitment from every single player on that pitch. That’s what I am willing to do.”

Read more: Aston Villa - Aaron Tshibola's promise to the Aston Villa faithful

And speaking of battling midfielders, there's one player during the close-season who has perhaps caught the eye more than any other...

Step forward, Stan!

Im so happy I've been given the opportunity to join @AVFCOfficial 1st team for pre-season. I've put a lot of hard work to come to this stage

— Stiliyan Petrov (@StanPetrov19) 23 June 2016

What a sight! @StanPetrov19 back in the #AVFC shirt. 😍😍😍 #AVFCinAustriapic.twitter.com/VqT1RRVvi0

— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) July 9, 2016
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