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Midlands great Ron Wylie dies at 86

By Matt Maher | Aston Villa | Published:

Tributes have been paid to West Midlands football legend Ron Wylie following his death at the age of 86.

Karl Court ex-general secretary of the Former Villa Players Association with Ron Wylie

Wylie, who starred as an inside-forward for both Villa and Blues during the 1950s and 60s, also managed Albion during the early 1980s.

He later returned to Villa Park, where he took on the roles of assistant manager, reserve-team coach, scout and community liaison officer before retiring in 2002.

His influence as both a player and more significantly a coach in shaping the careers of countless other players is impossible to quantify.

In a statement last night, Villa described Wylie, who died following a long illness as being among the club’s “finest post-war players”.

Born in Glasgow in 1933, Wylie actually began his professional career at Notts County, where he was handed his debut in 1951 by former Villa striker Eric Houghton.

For a time, he was team-mates with a young Jeff Astle at Meadow Lane before Houghton, who had then moved on to manage Villa, took him across the Midlands for a fee of £9,000 in November, 1958.

The reunion with his former boss turned out to be a short one as Houghton was sacked a few days later and six months on, Villa were relegated following a draw at Albion.

But Wylie was a key member of the team which earned an immediate return to the top flight under Joe Mercer at the end of the 1959-60 campaign, going on to lift the first-ever League Cup with the club the following season.

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Wylie remained a regular for Villa, scoring 27 goals in 244 games, before moving to Blues in 1965 after being named Midlands footballer of the year.

At St Andrew’s, he made 150 appearances during a five-year spell, captaining the team in their 1968 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Albion, before hanging up his boots in 1970 and eventually joining Coventry, where he became assistant manager under Gordon Milne.

Coaching stints in Cyprus and Hong Kong would follow before he succeeded Ronnie Allen as manager at The Hawthorns in July, 1982.

His tenure began promisingly, with the Baggies winning seven of their first 11 league games.

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But a poor finish to the season, which saw a challenge for European qualification fade into a disappointing 11th-placed finish, carried on into the following campaign and Wylie was replaced as manager by Johnny Giles in February, 1984.

His later years in the game were almost exclusively spent at Villa, where he briefly took charge of the first-team following the sacking of Graham Turner in 1986.

Wylie’s role as a scout meant he remained a familiar face on the Midlands football scene until deciding to retire in 2002.

Former Albion, Villa and Coventry striker Garry Thompson was among those to benefit from Wylie’s experience and knowledge.

He told the Express & Star: “Ron was assistant when I joined Coventry in the 1970s. He then signed me for Albion in 1983 and was key to me joining Villa in 1986.

“I owe him a huge chunk of my career.

“The first thing you learned about him was he was an extremely gifted footballer.

“We used to have sessions at Coventry where none of us could get the ball off either him or Gordon Milne.

“As a coach he could work you very hard but he always did things for the right reason and he helped turn me from a promising youngster into the player I became.

“It was only looking back that you realise just what a big influence he was. Ron was a real Midlands football man. Everyone knew him and he was hugely respected. I loved the guy.”

In a statement, Villa said: “The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Ron’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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