The dramatic story of Jack Grealish’s first ever appearance at St Andrews in Sunday’s Second City Derby will go down in Villa folklore. It raises a question… who is your all time favourite Villa icon and why?
Words by Alan Wilson (@VILLAlan54)
Who can forget Peter Withe sending Villa fans into cartwheels on the terraces in the De Kuip Stadium on that balmy night in Rotterdam, after scoring the goal that made Aston Villa the Champions of Europe. However, there was a lot more to the Villa’s rough diamond ‘Scouser’ than that famous goal. Peter was the player who Ron Saunders said was “The final piece in the jigsaw” and so it proved to be, with Withe and Shaw forming the perfect scoring partnership breaking the hearts of Bobby Robson’s Ipswich and the chasing pack, by helping to lift Villa’s first league title in 71 years.
For me, Peter Withe was the epitome of the traditional English number 9, tall and strong with great ball control and the ability to hold the ball up and play teammates in on goal. In those two seasons alone he made goals for Morley, Bremner, Mortimer and Shaw with his shrewd, unselfish play. Overall, Withe remains my personal favourite Villan after weighing in with a total of 74 goals in 182 appearances in his five seasons in the claret and blue.
There can be very creditable ‘shouts’ for the diminutive Brian Little who despite having his career ended far too early by injury won the hearts and minds of Villa fans for ever with his magical skills. Or Dwight Yorke, a classic poacher netting 73 goals in 232 appearance before going on to win a record breaking treble with a Manchester based team who play in red and white. And of course what list would be complete without “Oh Lord… Paul McGrath”. He was excused training to save his dodgy knees for matchdays and boy could he defend!. I remember thinking that he must have a honing device implanted in his brain synchronising with a receiver in the ball, such was his uncanny ability to read where the ball was going almost unerringly.
You could also point out the effervescent Gareth Barry, perhaps one of the most polished and best all round players to grace the defence and midfield for our club. My outstanding memories of Gareth began with John Gregory witnessing Barry’s peerless ball control, balance and laser precision passing skills when he was merely 17 years of age and famously saying “who taught him to do that?”. Such was Gareth’s composure and maturity, that after playing a total of 441 matches for us and scoring a very creditable 41 goals, he has since won the Premier League with Manchester City and gone on to star for Everton and West Bromwich Albion. Along the way he has picked up a not too shabby 53 caps for England as well.
In more recent years, or when recalling amazing goals, you may look no further than Stiliyan Petrov’s ‘almost on the half-way line’ stunner in the 6-0 win at Derby County, what a goal that was! Petrov was as solid as a rock winning tackles and free-kicks a plenty whenever we needed to slow the play down, or regain possession of the ball. When he was tragically struck down in his prime by Leukaemia there has seldom been more rallying for player by people right across the football world and massively by the Villa faithful, who for over a year delivered a minutes applause on 19 minutes of every game for him, for over a year, until a recovering Petrov thanked everybody and called for it to stop.
In the comment box below and using no more than 100 words, why don’t you tell us who your favourite Villa icon is and why? I am sure you will have some great stories to tell.