During his playing career, Ron Saunders was a bustling, old-fashioned centre-forward who made up for a lack of height with pure workrate. He was Portsmouth’s top-scorer for six consecutive seasons at the turn of the 1960s, but it is his contributions as a manager that he’ll be best remembered for. In an era of “jobs for life” managers he was a sign of how coaches would be in the 21st century, with a string of short tempestuous gigs taking him from Yeovil to Manchester City at the start of his career. However, on becoming Aston Villa boss in 1974 he found the perfect fit, winning promotion in his first season, bagging two League Cups and, in 1981, winning the Villains’ first league title for 71 years. However, the follow-up season saw a drop in form and a complete drop in relationships with the board, and Saunders quit his position with the club still in the quarter-finals of the European Cup (which they would go on to win under caretaker Tony Barton).
Saunders’ passing leaves Howard Wilkinson as the only living Englishman to have won a English league title.