Aston Villa are riding high under Martin O’Neill. They have edged closer and closer to bagging to the much-coveted fourth European spot with their talented crop of youngsters that includes the likes of Ashley Young, Gabby Agbonlahor and James Milner. But they’re not the first bunch to be a bit handy around the park – not by a long stretch. So here are some of the greatest players ever to have graced a Villa shirt.
Paul McGrath (1989-1996)
McGrath found his way to Villa Park quite late on in his career after seven disappointing years at Old Trafford which had been blighted by dodgy knees and a drinking problem. Brought in by Graham Taylor, the defender found his feet in the West Midlands in a team boasting the illustrious names of David Platt and Dwight Yorke. He played some of the best football of his life, helping Villa to two runners up spots and two League Cup triumphs along the way.
His unrivalled ability to read the game and immaculate timing more than compensated for his lack of pace and constant battle with depression and he was duly named the best footballer in the land by his fellow professionals in 1993.
Peter Withe (1980-1985)
Peter Withe made a name for himself at Nottingham Forest as part of Brian Clough’s all-conquering side of the late 1970s. Villa broke the bank to sign him from Newcastle in 1980 for a club record £500,000. It was money well spent though as alongside Gary Shaw he spearheaded Villa’s title win in 1981.
In all he scored 74 goals in 182 appearances but there was one that mattered above all us – the winner in the 1982 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich.
Brian Little (1971-1980)
“Brian Little walks on water” was the song that used to come echoing out of the Holte End during the 1970s. A wonderfully talented forward, Little’s pace, control and physical robustness allowed him to deal with whatever traditional, lumbering centre halves would dish out to him.
He was part of Villa’s 1975 and 1977 League Cup winning sides and later returned to manage the club after his playing career was tragically cut short by injury at only 26-years-old. He revamped an ageing Villa side that was nearly relegated in 1995 by bringing through young players such as Mark Bosnich and Ugu Ehiogu whilst making astute signings including Mark Draper and Savo Milosevic.
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