Aston Villa have apologised for the ticket fiasco which forced their Worthington Cup tie with Liverpool to be delayed by 80 minutes, after thoudands of fans were still outside the ground waiting for tickets to be distributed at the scheduled kick-off time of 19-45.

The problem related to a higher than usual number of tickets having to be picked up at the ground due to concerns that they would be delayed in the Christmas post. The game eventually kicked-off at 21-05, over an hour later than scheduled.

A spokesman for the club said: “We will be asking for a report into why it was delayed but there is unlikely to be a formal investigation.

“The reasons for the delay are pretty clear and certainly all clubs should learn from what went wrong and act accordingly to make sure a similar incident does not happen again.”

Villa chairman Doug Ellis said: “We sell tickets through the Ticketmaster agency and there were several thousand for Villa and for Liverpool. “They had been saying there is no point in putting the tickets in the post because the fans would not get them because of the Christmas post.

“Unfortunately, 17,000 people turned up to try and get into the ground at twenty to eight.”

A club statement later said: “Aston Villa wish to apologise to all supporters who were inconvenienced.

“Under normal circumstances thesales of tickets for collection at the stadium on a match day are restricted to 500.

“This restriction enables the club to ensure swift and efficient collection.

“However, because of the potential for delays caused by the Christmas post, a higher than usual allocation of tickets were sold for collection at the stadium.

“Both the club and the police wish to place on record their gratitude for the patience of all supporters in difficult circumstances.”