Ron Saunders managed Aston Villa between 1974 and 1982

Former Aston Villa manager Ron Saunders has died at the age of 87, the club have announced.

Saunders guided Villa to the First Division title in 1981, before departing during their European Cup-winning campaign the following season.

He also won two League Cups during his eight years at Villa Park.

“Ron Saunders died at 15:00 GMT on Saturday and his family have asked for their privacy to be respected at such a difficult time,” a club statement said.

Villa players will wear black armbands and hold a period of applause when they host Leicester City in the Premier League on Sunday.

Saunders guided Villa to the top flight in 1974 with promotion in his first season in charge.

He also achieved the distinction of reaching three successive League Cup finals as manager of three different clubs – Norwich in 1973, Manchester City in 1974 and Villa in 1975.

He ended his managerial career at West Bromwich Albion, retiring in 1987.

He remains the only manager to have taken charge of midlands rivals Villa, West Brom and Birmingham City – leading the Blues between 1982 and 1986.

A distinguished playing career as a prolific striker took in spells at Everton, Gillingham, Watford and Charlton, but it was at Portsmouth where he enjoyed sustained success, scoring 162 goals in 261 appearances between 1958 and 1964. He remains the third-highest scorer in the club’s history.

Former Villa striker Stan Collymore was among the first to pay tribute, tweeting: “Sincerest condolences to Ron’s family and friends.

“The man who made many Villans fall in love with a club and a team that gave us the very best of days.

“Wembley, Old Trafford, Highbury, which all lead to one special night in Rotterdam. Rest in peace, boss.”

League Managers’ Association chairman Howard Wilkinson said: “I have always held Ron in very high regard and I have the utmost respect for his achievements throughout his career and, in particular, his committed service to the three midlands rivals.

“His record of reaching the League Cup final three consecutive times with three different clubs is testament to his determination and dedication to his profession.

“The thoughts of everyone at the LMA are with Ron’s family and friends at this sad and difficult time.”

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