3. Ron Saunders
Whilst Tony Barton is the man who is celebrated for leading the Villans to the European Cup, his Birkenhead-born predecessor should also take some credit for laying the foundations. With promotion and a League Cup win secured in his first year, having established Villa back in the First Division as well as lifting another League Cup, he paved the path for European glory.
Saunders took a team that was lying mid-table in the second division and made them into a Championship winning side. Saunders frugality in the transfer market played a big part in the success of the team.
2. Tony Barton
Tony Barton is certainly worth his second spot here. Only two seasons in charge really, but having overseen European Cup win and the Super Cup win, I can’t imagine many will disagree here. We all know about Barton’s achievements, taking an already good side made by Ron Saunders and made it into the best side in Europe.
Originally his assistant, Barton took over the Villa reigns in 1982 following Saunders switch to rivals Birmingham City – it was days before Villa’s crucial away leg against the Soviet Union, champions Dynamo Kiev.
His success against the now Ukrainian outfit meant he was appointed on a full-time basis. A 1-0 win against Anderlecht meant Villa had their biggest game in history against Bayern Munich before Peter White’s goal consigned Barton to folklore.
Three top half finishes would follow before Barton left Villa, citing ill-health and the high pressures of top tier management for the change.
1. George Ramsey
It’s only fitting that the best manager in Villa’s history in terms of honors would also do the double and be the greatest Villa manager in terms of stats as well. The Glasgow-born manager was Sir Alex Ferguson of his time, providing success on an almost industrial scale. Ramsey originally came to Birmingham looking for work, yet his success as a player for the Villans lead to him becoming the club’s secretary, then manager in 1884.
Ramsey found success early in his time at the club, winning the FA Cup in his third season against fledgling rivals West Brom. What followed after the cup win, was a revolutionary rebranding of Villa’s tactics that made them unstoppable for most of the 1890s. Ramsey would lead his Villa side to five league titles in six years between 1894 and the turn of the century. Another title followed in 1910, as would another five FA Cups. His honors made him the most successful manager in history for over 100 years before the rise of Fergie.
Yet like his compatriot, part of Ramsey’s success was his adaptability. 34 years passed between his first and last FA Cup wins, and Ramsey was always praised for the forward-thinking tactics he employed. Ramsey would resign in 1926 after 42 years at the helm, becoming an honorary vice president. Before losing his life in 1935; Aston Villa were relegated that season.