That’s right – the people have spoken. Mark Delaney is officially the best right back to have pulled on the claret and blue jersey in the last 74 years – apparently.
Last week Heart of the Holte posted a number of polls to helps us conjure up the best post-war Aston Villa XI as voted for by you the fans. Over 30,000 votes were made and we’d like to thank each and every one of you that got involved.
From the first two votes (Bosnich for goalie and Delaney at right-back) we quickly learned that we were at risk of having a team full of players from the modern era – what with social media being so much more popular among the youngsters of today. We then chose to alter the polls to pre and post 1990 in order to balance things up a little bit.
Along with ‘The People’s XI’ we’ve also created an ‘Editors XI’ (with a subs bench) because we feel that no deserving player ought to miss out solely because the average age of the vote is likely to have been so young. We’re hoping the team that we’ve picked goes someway towards addressing the concerns of older fans who believed that their votes were being diluted by the younger generation.
‘The People’s XI’
GK: Mark Bosnich
The Aussie stopper pipped Nigel Spink in the vote by the narrowest of margins (just 1%) to make it into your XI. Bosnich made over 200 league and cup appearances for the club from 1991 through to 1999.
There’s no getting away from the fact that Bozza’s playing career was riddled with controversies but his enigmatic character served only to endear himself even more with the Villa faithful. It’s like we understood him whilst few others did.
Since 2008 Bosnich as been a football commentator and analyst for Fox Sports over in his motherland.
RB: Mark Delaney
Undoubtedly the best right-back that we’ve had since the turn of the century and some. If it wasn’t for his knee problems then there’s no doubt Delaney would’ve played many more games on top of the 193 that he featured in for Villa. Not to mention further caps for the Welsh national team.
Delaney was always looking to support the man ahead of him on the right-flank, galloping forward on the over-lap. But unlike many modern day wing-backs Delaney could actually defend and not just in the tackle. He was a clever player and would often force the opposing winger into areas of the pitch that he didn’t want to go by making himself big and working his opponent down the line. His energy levels were quite remarkable.
CB: Allan Evans
The Scottish central defender was a long time servant of the club whom signed from Dunfermline Athletic in 1977. During his 12 years he would experience the highest of highs with the club winning the top flight title before then going on to become Champions of Europe. But Evans also suffered relegation with Villa towards the end of the 80’s, but like the trooper that he is, he struck around to put it right and get us back up at the first time of asking – as captain no less.
CB: Paul McGrath
‘God’ received 80% of the vote in the polls (I’m surprised it wasn’t more) and will forever be featured in the greatest Villa XI. It’s not often that someone can sign for a new club at the lofty age of 29 and go on to make such a seismic impact and – for near on every Villa fan – be considered as the best centre-half to have ever played for the club.
McGrath’s ability to read the game was second-to-none. His elegance captivating. A brave, body on the line type of a defender, both solid in the air and very good on the ball. He had everything and more.
The Irish legend was the last Villa player to have been named PFA Players’ Player of the Year (for the 1992-93 season).
LB: Steve Staunton
The popular left-back had two spells at the club; from 1991 though until 1998 and then less than 18 months later Staunton re-joined and played for another three and a half years before finishing his career lower down the leagues with Coventry City and Walsall. He donned the claret and blue jersey over 300 times.
Staunton didn’t score many but of the few that he did put away there were a few splendid efforts. The two that immediately spring to mind are the rockets against Manchester United (1993) and Sheffield Wednesday (1997). Relive that Old Trafford screamer by watching the video below.
RW: Ashley Young
Played more on the left-side for Villa (occasionally switching flanks with Stewart Downing) but in the polls we grouped all the wingers together and as it was so heavily swayed towards left wingers we’ve stuck Young on the right in this XI.
Young came through the ranks at Watford before joining Villa for £9.65m in January 2007. He quickly became an integral part of the Martin O’Neill revolution with his electric pace causing full-backs an untold amount of problems. Young was always looking to cut inside on his favoured right foot to have a shot at goal or deliver a dangerous whipped ball across the six yard box. In total he found the back of the net 38 times for Villa in 190 matches.
CM: Gareth Barry
To be still playing football at a very good level at the grand old age of 38 only goes to show just how well Barry has looked after himself. Especially when you consider he’s mixing it up in the middle of the park battleground.
Barry has never been the most technical of players rather he’s the master of keeping things simple and I’m pleased that despite the protestations of some supporters when he left for Manchester City – and the waving of fake bank notes on his return to Villa Park – that we can all show him the level of respect that he undoubtedly deserves.
With 653 appearances to his name Barry sits comfortably at the top of the tree for most Premier League appearances and 8th on Villa’s all-time list.
CM: Gordon Cowans
Considered the greatest player to have played for the club by the majority of those who witnessed the mans brilliance. ‘Sid’ was a midfield maestro who had everything in his locker. One of those natural ballers who just made things looks so simple. Finding space and nurturing the ball before pinging it left or right. You could rarely fault his positioning. And yet despite being pretty on the eye he wasn’t afraid to get stuck in neither.
Cowans had three stints at the club (1979-83, 1988-91 and 1993-94) and played a total of 453 games scoring 49 goals.
LW: Tony Morley
A skilful and nippy winger Morley is most famous for assisting the winning goal in the greatest moment in Aston Villa’s history. Here was a player you’d pay your money to go and watch, jinking one way and then the next. A maverick type player.
His goal away at Everton won the ‘Goal of the Season’ award in 1980-81 as Villa were crowned champions of England (reminisce and watch the video below).
FW: Peter Withe
Signed for a then club record £500,000 at the start of the 1980-81 season Peter Withe’s name has the firmest of standings in Villa folklore as the scorer of the winning goal in the greatest moment in Villa’s history. He forged a wonderful partnership with the busy Birmingham born Gary Shaw.
In the polls Peter Withe notched up 44% of the vote, beating Shaw, Brian Little and Andy Gray who shared the rest rather evenly.
FW: Dwight Yorke
Now here’s a player that played with a smile on his face. For a lad that was discovered in the West Indies playing for an opposing team whilst Villa were on tour he didn’t half do well for himself.
Staring out as a right-winger Yorke switched to a centre-forward role in the 1995-96 season and he soon before one of the most revered striker in the Premier League with 17 goals in 35 league outings (25 in all competitions). He went on to net another 36 in the following two seasons and his fine form earned him a move to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United where in his first season he’d help them to the Treble.
‘The Editors XI’
The Editors XI features five changes to that of the above team.
GK: Jimmy Rimmer
RB: John Gidman
RW: Peter McParland
FW: Andy Gray
And because we feel that there are several players who are more than worthy of a mention we’ve also named a subs bench.
Subs: Nigel Spink, Ken McNaught, Kenny Swain, Dennis Mortimer, David Platt, Tony Daley, Brian Little
Once again we’d like to thank everyone for voting. Please feel free to post your thoughts and comments below.
UP THE VILLA!
Written by Ryan Pitcher