Them and us – Brian Tiler (Aston Villa and Latics)

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Brian Tiler – Aston Villa and Latics

Brian was born in Rotherham on 15th March 1943 and signed professional forms for his home town club in the summer of 1962. He spent four season’s at Millmoor, making 213 appearances for the Millers, scoring 27 goals before a move to Aston Villa in the summer of 1968.

It was from the Yorkshire outfit that he signed for Aston Villa and it was after his second season at Villa Park that the Villans were relegated to the Third Division (now League One) for the first, and only time in their history. He stayed at Villa long enough to help them regain their former status two years later. He managed 107 appearances for the Villans during which he netted three times before signing for his final Football League club, Carlisle United in October 1972.

His stay at Brunton Park yielded 52 appearances and one goal, and deciding that his professional central defensive duties were getting too much for him he decided that his future rested lower down the league structure, whilst also learning a coaching/managerial trade.  So he arrived at Springfield Park as player manager in July 1974, replacing Les Rigby who had refused to go full time, preferring instead to keep his job as a PE teacher. In doing so he had beaten Coventry City’s Dietmar Bruck to the post.

His Latics career started pretty horribly with a 0-2 defeat at Northwich Victoria on 17th August 1974, the opening day of the Northern Premier League season. This was after some impressive pre season friendly results, most notable a 1-0 victory over Chesterfield (Billy Sutherland) and a 4-1 (Jeff Wright 2, John Rogers 2) thrashing of his former club Rotherham United. However by the end of the season, in which Brian played 11 times, Latics had won the league by a clear four points from Runcorn. Not only that, but their points total was 72 which at the time was a divisional record.

In addition he ensured that Rigby’s youth team went from strength to strength and they went on to win the Lancashire Youth Cup. He introduced public viewing of night time training sessions, but above all he was a very likeable man, and this was couple with great man management skills. His second season was one of failure with the Blues finishing in their lowest position in the league to date, sixth. He resigned in April 1976 and was replaced by Ian McNeill a few weeks later. He had been courted for most of the season by American outfit Portland Timbers who had promised him the earth and he joined them as player manager.

He later took charge of the Zambia international team and on 11th October 1978 he brought the team to Springfield Park for a friendly in which Latics ran out 2-1 (Ian Purdie 2) victors. In 1980 he became the assistant manager of the Miami Americans a franchised club that folded at the end of the season and then he had a spell with San Diego Sockers, another franchise and another team that went out of business after a single season.

He returned to England to become the Director of Football at Bournemouth, who were then managed by Harry Redknapp. Speaking about Brian several years ago Harry said,

“He never interfered. I’d identify players, and Brian would go and do the deals. He’d take players down the beach, wine and dine them, and that was it – they’d sign up. He was great with people, knew what made them tick. I used to get very down when we’d lost, but he’d put an arm round my shoulder and say, ‘Come on, let’s go to Sandown races’.”

He has also publicly revealed that it was Brian who ensured that he got the Bournemouth managerial job in the first place. They became close friends and on 30th June 1990, Brian was killed in a car accident in Italy when a car, speeding on the wrong side of the road, driven by three Italian youngsters, smashed head-on into the minibus in which Brian and Redknapp were travelling. Brian was killed instantly as were the Italian youngsters, Harry took a long time to recover both physically and emotionally.

Brian certainly has a place in Latics folklore and will be remembered forever.

For more information on Brian and the 1974/75 season read Tony Topping’s great article in the latest issue of the ‘Mudhutter’.

The accompanying photograph shows Brian caricatured during his Aston Villa days.

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