I have been a Aston Villa Supporter since I was eight, the first game I actually attended was when I was fourteen in the 1993-94 season, my dad brought me the ticket and it cost a whopping £4.00 – how times have changed! The same season the Holte End was used for the last time as the largest all-terraced bank in English Football prior to demolition, I was there on the final day of the season as Dwight Yorke slid two past a helpless Liverpool side sending the crowd into raptures. That was over 16-years ago and it is still vivid in my mind as the day the match took place and always will be. I remember being pushed about 20-yards down the crowd as we scored, it was magic and like most supporters that day, I have a souvenir that I stole or as I like to put it – “took” that day. It was a slab of concrete that currently sits in my parents shed! If the club was selling parts of the ground at fifty quid a pop a year later, I live in hope that it will be worth a few million in 50-years time! Maybe!
Now to the intended part, In that 16-year period I have watched countless players and managers come and go from Villa Park, either for pastures new or the brutality of our former old man, you guessed it – good old Herbert, who’s title still bares it’s name on one of our stands, but I will save that rant for another day.
I have also witnessed countless ups and downs which even up to this date is once again threatening our top-flight status, but my thread isn’t about those misdemeanour’s, it is about those players that have played the beautiful game at the club I have loved most of my life and of whom I have decided to put in my all-time Villa Eleven. They consist of old and recent, you may not agree with my choices but I like them, so here goes.
1. Peter Schmeichel Spink? Bosnich? Maybe a controversial choice considering his better days were in the past, but how many clubs can say that Peter Schmeichal played for them, we can! Yes he played a mere 29 times in claret & blue, Yes we mutually terminated his contract after promising if he was fit, he played every single game, but arguably the greatest keeper of his generation.
2. Steve Staunton Great left peg, seasoned professional and would probably make most villa supporters all-time eleven, won two league cup winners medals at VP and a player that pinged a few in from corners too and his left foot screamer in the inaugural premiership season at old trafford was a beauty.
3. Earl Barrett Good little solid right back, could slot into centre half when needed, Again Earl is from the era that I loved watching football, today’s football at VP is painful to watch at times. Manchester United had Paul Parker, we had Earl Barrett! LoL
4. Olef Mellberg My second favourite villa player of all-time, he was unfortunate to play in some poor villa sides, but when this guy was good he was colossal, a true fans favourite. What a gesture in his final game against West Ham away, when he brought all the travelling contingent a replica shirt with “Thank You 4 Your Support” printed on the back! True Legend.
5. Paul McGrath Any Villa supporter that fails to include Macca amongst their all-time eleven, was either in a coma in the 90’s or born after 1999 simple as! One of the most gifted players of his time, former PFA Player of the Year, One that SAF regrets selling, One that could drink a bottle of Whiskey a night before a game and keep players in his pocket all game “Paul McGrath ala God – Greatest VP has ever seen”.
Garry Parker instrumental in midfield during the inaugural premiership season, we came so close to the title in 1992 and he was a class act in our midfield, loved watching him on TV and pretending to be him in the park.
7. Paul Merson For all his off the field problems; gambling & alcohol, he was an extremely talented footballer, possessed great ability on the ball and could always make something happen, something that the current villa side lacks, loved using the outside of his foot.
8. Ian Taylor Loved among supporters, life long supporter, great player, scored his fair share of goals, still sits in the Holte End for home games and spotted among the travelling away support.
9. Mustafa Hadji Now I must point out that this is not my choice, my missus had a thing for him a number of years ago. In my opinion he was half decent not really given a chance at VP, I must also point out that he looked like a Moroccan Pirate or Bandit, all he needed was an eye patch.
10. Dean Saunders I loved him from day one and he is still is my favourite villa player of all-time, the goals, the dodgy haircut, he was outstanding for the villa during his time and the type of player we miss in the present day. I still have my old Mitre Copiers villa shirt with his name on the back, the one with the laces on the neck.
11. Emile Heskey Love him or Hate him. I don’t care what anyone thinks I could have had Atkinson, Dublin, Yorke in my team etc – I’m partnering Big Emile upfront with Deano for two reasons; one it will piss people off and secondly because I can.
By Gav Chahal – Aston Villa fan