Monday, October 24, 2011

Aston Villa legends

A new feature in the Villa programme is where fans choose their team of Aston Villa players from the ages. I also spent many a cold winter night debating this over a bottle of cheap brandy in Kyiv and on the what now seem like prehistoric internet chat sites of a decade or so ago.

After having a decent think of it here is mine.

Goal Keeper: Nigel Spink 361 Villa League appearances (0 League goals)1977 - 1996

Spinky joined Villa from non-league Chelmsford City when he was only 18 years old. He had to wait nearly 5 years until he made his debut though, and what a debut it was. He came off the bench, well legend has it he was actually having a hot dog in the stand to make his Villa debut in the European Cup Final in 1982, which Villa went on to win 1-0 against Bayern Munich, which was thanks in no small part to his goalkeeping prowess.

He went on to become a regular in the Villa team for the best part of 14 years and the poster I had of him on the wall nearly faded out.

After Villa he went on to play for West Brom where at 39 years old he became their oldest goalkeeper ever. I also caught up with him when he was Forest Green manager in a game against Burton Albion. Nowadays he's a gaolkeeping coach at Sunderland.

Right Back: Chris Price 111 (2) 1988 - 1992

Villa have had some decent right backs in the past, but unfortunately I'm too young to remember some of the legends and have therefore opted for Chris Price. He hardly ever missed a game in his 4 years at Villa, which were sandwiched between 2 spells at Blackburn. He was also one of those full backs that loved to get forward, which was a bit more unusual then and unlike a lot of today's full backs who love to get forward he could defend as well. He always gave 100% to the team and he had no hair and we didn't care.

Nowadays he lives in Australia and in January miraculously survived being washed out to sea.

Left Back: Colin Gibson 185 (10) 1978 - 1985

Colin Gibson was a member of the Villa team that won the league in 1981 and the European Cup in 1982. It was a close call between him and Tony Dorigo. Since the days of Gibson and Dorigo the number 3 shirt at Villa seems to have been cursed with Mark Delaney and Freddy Boume suffering from horrendous injuries and Stephen Warnock suffering from the curse of Gerard Houllier. That's not to take anything away from Gibson who had his best years at Villa before going on to play for Man United and Leicester City, where he played under another Villa legend: Brian Little.

Centre Back: Allan Evans 380 (51) 1977-1989

Alan Evans was what is known as an old fashioned centre half in era when defenders were men with feminine hairstyles Evans was a colossus and great leader of the club. He also had a fantastic record from the penalty spot that most people have forgotten about, if goalkeepers got in the way they usually found themselves in the back of the net too.
He was also an ever present on the bedroom wall of my childhood, wore brilliant sweat bands and looked decidedly hungover whenever the Villa News & Record took photos of training sessions.

Centre Back: Paul McGrath 252 (9) 1989 - 1996

Paul McGrath started his professional career at Man United, however the drinking culture that grew up amongst McGrath, Norman Whiteside and Bryan Robson led to Alex Ferguson getting rid of Macca. That's the biggest mistake he made. Despite recurring knee problems and a severe booze problem McGrath at Villa became the best centre half in the world, possibly ever. As well as being an inspiration at Villa until his knees finally gave in and he was put out to pasture at Derby the big man was also inspirational for Ireland in the 1990 and 1994 world cups. Still the hero of Villa fans and still known as God by the Holte End and so good they put him on the stamps in Ireland there was no way he wasn't going to make this team.

Midfielder: Tony Daley 233 (31) 1985 - 1994

Tony Daley used to go down the Villa wing like a torpedo and although maligned by pundits at the time was a player of mercurial if sometimes maverick skills. He won the League Cup with Villa in 1994 and almost scored, hitting the post before Dalian Atkinson drilled home.

The first time I came across TD he was a youth player and collecting money outside the ground for charity. The first time he came to the wider public's attention was probably when he scored a ridiculous bicycle kick for Villa in a 2-0 win against Everton from a cross so good by Chris Price that he celebrated it on his own. I also remember him going on a mazey run in a 6-2 drubbing of Everton where he beat the whole team of Toffees to slot home. Howard Wilkinson's response: 'he should have passed that'!

TD later went on to play for Wolves, but his speed had gone as I told Clint Poppie when I saw him pogoing around a nightclub in a Wolves shirt shortly after his defection. He also ended up at Forest Green with Spinky.

Midfielder: Gordon Cowans 288 (42) 1976 - 1985 and 117 (7) 1988 - 1991

Sid Cowans is a legend to all Villa fans and although he played for several clubs he always remained a favourite of the Holte End. A member of the Championship and European Cup winning team, he returned to Villa after a spell at Bari to help them climb up the table under Graham Taylor in his impressive first spell as manager of the club.

Midfielder: Tony Morley 137 (25)

Tony Morley is yet another member of the team that won the league and the European Cup. He played for several clubs during his career, most notably West Brom. However it was at Villa where his wing play was the most effective. He set up the goal that Peter Withe scored in the European Cup Final and in 1981 won the goal of the season.

Midfielder: Ashley Young 157 (30) 2007 - 2011

OK so Ashley Young is still playing and left the Villa, but we had some good times and he really was part of the Villa revolution under Lerner and O'Neill, which now seems to be ages ago. I wish he was still at Villa, but at the same time I still hope he goes from strength to strength and does well for the national team. Does anybody remember when Messrs Hansen, Shearer and especially Lineker mocked O'Neill for calling him a genius after one especially impressive performance against Everton? Well at least he's making those tools swallow their words.

Forward: Peter Withe 182 (74) 1980 - 1985

He might have played for a myriad of clubs but he was responsible for the greatest moment in Villa's history scoring that goal in Rotterdam in 1982. There was no way he couldn't have made this team. The number of times we have drunkenly tried to relive that moment in replica shirts from the final doesn't bear thinking about.

Forward: Gabby Agbonlahor 2005 -

The only current Villa to make the team. Given a couple of years Petrov, Dunne and Bent might come into consideration, but it's Gabby who has always shown willingness and loyalty to the Villa, has scored some cracking goals and has been willing to play anywhere and be patient when he is out of the team.

Peter Withe's goal in the European Cup Final:

Tony Morley's goal of the season 1980-81

Homage to Tony Daley:

Ashley Young in that game against Everton

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