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#premierleaguestories – Remembering the great players of Aston Villa #AVFC

Gareth Barry Aston Villa

It’s more than a number. The digits Aston Villa stars and flops wear on the backs of their shirts can be as important to the players as they are to fans. Over the years certain numbers conjure up special memories – take Stiliyan Petrov and that No.19 for example – while new signings often scramble to wear their lucky number. But who have been the best and worst players to wear certain shirt numbers during the Premier League era? And yes, we know football was invented before then!

Mark Bosnich

‘The Australian goalkeeper was originally given No.13 during his emergence, but it wasn’t long before he’d ousted Villa legend Nigel Spink for the No.1 shirt. There’s been some solid Villa goalkeepers during the Premier League era but none could match Bosnich’s agility and personality.

Mark Delaney

Earl Barrett and Gary Charles can consider themselves very unlucky indeed not to have won this category as both were brilliant right-backs for Villa. Delaney edges it for these reasons – sheer determination to rise from the lower leagues with Cardiff to the top flight with Villa, longevity in a claret and blue career that lasted eight years and the fact he loves the club so much he is back as an academy coach.

Steve Staunton

Stan Staunton edges out the likes of Alan Wright, Wilfred Bouma and Jlloyd Samuel here. Staunton was a class act. Defensively he was hard to beat, while that left-foot and his attacking instincts helped him smash in goals and create many more with overlapping runs and measured deliveries.

Olof Mellberg

This was a very difficult choice – and I’m still not sure. Olof edges it for longevity, dedication and reliability, while his well documented comments about the team down the road have added to his claret and blue legacy. It says so much about the impact he made that he has edged out brilliant trophy-winning defenders Shaun Teale and Gareth Southgate, but I felt we needed some more recent entries. Not as recent as Danny Drinkwater, mind!

Paul McGrath

Three simple letters are all you need to know. G. O. D. McGrath is arguably the best Villa player ever, let alone their best Premier League No.5. Which is why club greats Ugo Ehiogu and Martin Laursen have to settle for a place on the podium here.

Gareth Barry

Barry is the clear winner here – which shows just how brilliant GazBaz was that he finishes above the captains who lifted Villa’s last two trophies, Kevin Richardson and Andy Townsend. Barry is Villa’s record appearance maker in the Prem, playing 365 matches and – you know what? – I can’t recall him having a bad game.

Ian Taylor

Ooh, this is a tough one, but it’s gotta be Tayls, hasn’t it? The archetypal one of our own, Holte Ender made good, goalscoring midfielder, Coca Cola Cup winner, and all round top bloke. Sorry Ray. Sorry Lee, Sorry Ashley, Sorry Super John McGinn.

James Milner

This is super controversial because it probably means we’ll end up without Juan Pablo Angel winning any of these categories. Sorry. But Milner was so good, so busy with graft and craft and such a brilliant bloke and role model during his final years under Martin O’Neill that he has to be my first choice. Yes, even eclipsing Mark Draper whose name and number adorned my old Reebok/AST Computer 1995-96 shirt.

Dion Dublin

I’ve ummed and aahed so much about this one. Dion, Deano or Juan Pablo, Dion, Deano or Juan Pablo. In the end Dublin just edges it by virtue of outscoring the other two in the Premier League. He found the net 48 times, compared to Angel’s 44 and Saunders’ 38. This was so tough. I love Deano for his tongue-out concentration, relentless running, infectious enthusiasm, title-chasing, cup-winning days under Big Ron. I love Angel for his confidence-growing, adversity-battling, classy finishing days under John Gregory, Graham Taylor, David O’Leary and Martin O’Neill. I love Dion Dublin for his injury-recovering, powerful-playing, joyous-celebrating days mostly under Gregory. You tell me, who clinches it for you?

Dwight Yorke

I’m wincing at the reaction this one might provoke too, but I simply can’t overlook him.Just remembering that grin transports me back to a time when he was balancing the ball on his head pre-match, leave defenders on their backsides, dinking in penalties, all with the Frank Sinatra chant soundtrack. Start spreading the news that he has edged out Dalian, Merse, Big John Carew and arguably most controversially of all, Jack Grealish. Yep, I know Dwight kissed the Man United badge and ended up at Blues, but what memories. What a player. PS: Stay tuned, Super Jack’s moment will come.

Gabby Agbonlahor

Gabby reigns supreme here. Over time he has become synonymous with that No.11 shirt, most often wheeling away celebrating a goal against Blues or breaching the defences of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United – or (perfect hat-trick time) Manchester City. His 74 goals make him the club’s leading scorer in the Prem era and it’s a record that will take some beating. There’s some decent contenders here, to be fair, not least another Brummie pace ace, Tony Daley.

Julian Joachim

Torn between Julian Joachim and Thomas Hitzlsperger on this one. ‘Der Hammer’, as the German midfielder was known, was probably more popular with the Villa Park faithful, but Joachim’s impact is often underestimated. He rattled in 45 goals at a time when Villa were a Premier League force. Would love to have seen more from Steven Davis and Marc Albrighton in the famous claret and blue, too.

Nigel Spink

In the battle of the sub goalies let’s give it to Spinksy. When it comes to having goalkeeping back up on the bench there’s nobody better than Spink, as he proved on Villa’s greatest night.

Alan Wright

Alan Wright, Wright, Wright. A little goes a long way and the little left-back signed by Brian Little certainly went a long way towards fan favourite status at Villa. Infamously suffered the weirdest of woes when he got repetitive stain injury from the clutch pedal in his Ferrari, but famously was a flying full-back who loved to bomb forward and whose diminutive stature was no barrier to committed, combative defending.

Fernando Nelson

Gareth Barry and Gabby Agbonlahor have already featured and Lee Hendrie soon will. Phil King has a shout for THAT penalty, but for me ultra reliable unsung hero Fernando Nelson edges this shirt number.

Ugo Ehiogu

The honour goes to the late, great Ugo Ehiogu, a giant of a man. Villa have boasted some brilliant centre-halves during the Premier League era and long before then, too. This towering hero is right up there with the best of them.

Lee Hendrie

Lee Hendrie got beaten to the No.7 accolade by Ian Taylor, but he deserves his moment here. Played most of his claret and blue career wearing 17 and, while that nagging doubt persists that he could have been even better, 308 appearances, 32 goals and an England cap were impressive achievements.

Benito Carbone

Carbone spent less than a season at Villa around the turn of the millennium after John Gregory signed him from Sheffield Wednesday, but he still became a fans’ favourite with nine goals in 30 appearances including that belting strike against Leeds United in the FA Cup at Villa Park.

Stiliyan Petrov

Okay so emotion and sentimentality are factors in this choice, but make no mistake Petrov wins this on merit. Even before the courageous leukaemia battle convinced us what a what this bloke was, Petrov was the ticking beat of a Villa midfield on the very brink of cracking the Champions League ceiling. Read it and weep, Yacouba Sylla!

Christian Benteke

It simply has to be Christian Benteke, doesn’t it? With a Chris Smallinbg-eque shoulder barge, the big Belgian has barged any contenders out of the way. Forty two goals for Villa, many of them belters, and opposition markers crying for their moms, gave Benteke Holte End darling status. Why did it have to end so soon? A question the Villa Park faithful and the Crystal Palace striker himself ask regularly.

Thomas Hitzlsperger

114 games, 12 goals and a shot that could terrify goalkeepers, the German midfielder didn’t wear the 21 shirt for too many seasons, but whatever number he wore he is ability and attitude made him popular with Villa fans.

Darius Vassell

The Darius Vassell who first burst onto the scene at Villa around the turn of the millennium was like a whirling dervish, so quick, so busy and with a knack for scoring goals, too. It remains a shame that he didn’t go on to achieve real legendary status at Villa, but 45 goals in 201 appearances is a return that will be remembered fondly by the Villa Park masses.

Bryan Small

The Brummie defender gets the nod here for me. There might be shouts for Jordan Amavi, but the French full-back’s part in the relegation season takes the edge off someone who is clearly a very good player. Small wins because he patiently and ably provided cover for Steve Staunton as a loyal and dependable deputy.

Carlos Cuellar

The Spaniard just fends off competition from the Pole, Dariusz Kubicki. Both players were steady if not spectacular when called upon. Cuellar’s versatility – arriving as a centre-half, but playing most of the time at right-back – the fact he gave away t-shirts to fans on his final farewell and the coffee he kindly bought me at Brindley Place once wins him this category!

Tommy Johnson

Super Tommy Johnson. What a guy! The life and soul of Brian Little’s dressing room even when he wasn’t in the starting line-up, Johnson was as popular with his team-mates as he was with the fans. He scored 17 goals in 71 appearances in the mid-1990s, including a 17-minute hat-trick in a 7-1 walloping of Wimbledon in February 1995.

Steve Stone

Busy, hard-working and with a fair bit of quality in his boots, Steve Stone couldn’t match the impact he made at his former club Nottingham Forest, but he was still a very useful player under John Gregory around the late nineties/early noughties.

Ronnie Johnsen

The former Manchester United defender didn’t have the most memorable time at Villa, but he edges out everybody else in this category by virtue of actually playing fairly regularly for the club in the top flight.

Shaun Maloney

I’m struggling here, especially as I’ve crowbarred Jonathan Hogg in the list further down – so read on! If pushed I’d say Maloney. There’s slim picking in the No.28 contenders. There was a frisson of excitement when Maloney arrived from Celtic and while homesickness stopped the Scottish playmaker living up to his billing there were some memorable moments, most notably his setpiece prowess and seven goals in 33 appearances.

Peter Whittingham

Better known for wearing the No.17 shirt, Whittingham is another claret and blue hero taken too soon. Remained popular with Villa fans despite leaving Villa Park to kick-start his career elsewhere after some brilliant glimpses of his ability and his character.

Hassan Kachloul

The jury is still out of Kortney Hause who hasn’t featured in the Premier League for Villa all that often yet, while Gabby Agbonlahor has already nailed down the No.11 shirt. So let’s give it Hassan Kachloul who did okay during the early noughties.

Jlloyd Samuel

Samuel couldn’t oust Staunton from the No.3, but the left-back, who tragically died in May 2018, tops this list. Played 200 times for Villa in a career spanning eight years.

Luke Moore

Nathan Baker gets some credit a bit further down this list, and Luke Moore can’t make a shirt his own any further up, so let’s give it to the surly striker who promised so much. Moore scored 15 times in 98 games (41 starts 57 subs), including a hat-trick against Middlesbrough.

Joey Gudjonsson

Considering his contenders in this list only made two appearances between them (both for Jose Angel Crespo), Gudjonsson wins by default. The Icelandic midfielder earned notoriety for being the other Villa player sent off in the Dion Dublin-Robbie Savage headbutt derby. Scored twice in 11 appearances.

Matt Lowton

Forever remember for that belting volley against Stoke City, Matt Lowton beats Colin Calderwood who was largely a reliable back up centre-half at the club. Lowton was one of the better players Paul Lambert drafted in during difficult days hovering around the relegation zone.

Enda Stevens/Daniel Johnson

Tough one, hardly any of this list enjoyed game-time and the one who did most, Shay Given, normally wore the No.1 jersey. Shout out to Stevens and Johnson who showed glimpses of potential but had to move away to realise it.

Kyle Walker

Kyle Walker was only at Villa briefly, on loan from Tottenham during the Gerard Houller era, but in that short time he showed the ability that has taken him to the England team and trophy success with Manchester City.

Callum Robinson

So here’s to you, Mr Robinson. Let’s give this one to Callum. Another restricted to a bit-part role at Villa who has had to make his name elsewhere.

Gary Gardner

The competition is not great. While we know Gardner failed to live up to expectations at Villa, he wore the No.38 shirt when he first emerged around the first team and we still dared to dream he would be a star. Alas it was not to be as his knees buckled too many times and his early promise faded.

Darren Bent

Much kudos and respect to Keinan Davis who has gone on a remarkable journey from Biggleswade to the Premier League. If the injury prone striker can find some durability he can become a very useful Emile Heskey time for Villa. But the best No.39 Villa have had during the Premier League era is Darren Bent. When Villa smashed their transfer record to bring him from Sunderland in January 2011 he momentarily electrified the club. His nine goals in the second half of that season were the springboard to Gerrard Houlier’s team not only staying up, but going on to finish ninth.

Jack Greasily

This is a tough one, too. If Tyrone Mings stays at Villa, continues wearing the No.40 shirt and shines in the Premier League then he might be owning this section when we refresh it in a couple of years. Then again if Jack Grealish stays at Villa, continues wearing the No.10 shirt and shines in the Premier League there will be a vacancy for the No.40! Super Jack couldn’t quite make it as my top No.10 yet, but he deserves his place here. He started out wearing the No.40 when he burst onto the scene. We’ve run out out of superlatives to describe how brilliant he is. Certainly the best homegrown hero Villa have produced for a generation.

Alan Hutton

Okay, Alan, here’s your moment. A cult hero after going from the Bomb Squad to Scottish Cafu status. He wore the 41 shirt at a time he was out of favour, but we don’t need to get bogged down is such piddling details, especially when an academy goalkeeper who never played is his only rival in this category!

Andi Weimann

Barry Bannan’s already won one, so let’s give it to his old Bodymoor Heath academy mate, Andi Weimann. The Austrian striker wore this shirt when he made his breakthrough and went on to enjoy a couple of very encouraging seasons during the Paul Lambert era.

Liam Ridgewell

Blimey, slim pickings. It has to be Ridgewell who was decent enough for Villa before touring the Midlands with West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City, even though his most regular football would not have come in this claret and blue shirt number.

Eric Lichaj

Around the fringes of the team for a while, the American defender made 42 appearances – scoring twice – for Villa between 2010 and his departure in 2013.

Marc Albrighton

This was the shirt number Marc Albrighton was given when he played in that controversial UEFA Cup defeat at CSKA Moscow in February 2009. Most of his appearances would have come wearing 12, but he has made 11 his own at Leicester City.

Barry Bannan

Yep, we know he’s already won one, but the other two have not played for Villa. Bannan wore this when he made his Villa debut in a UEFA Cup defeat at Hamburg in December 2008.

Ciaran Clark

Another of an impressive class to come through the ranks at Bodymoor in the mid to late noughties. Spent more of his Villa days in the No.6 shirt, but he was never going to oust Gareth Barry in our lists to make that number his own.

Nathan Baker

This was Nathan Baker’s number before he made his Villa debut and when he was on the fringes of the first team or out on loan.

Chris Herd

The Aussie utility man was a no nonsense, tough-tackling defender/midfielder for a while, but couldn’t kick on enough to become a first team regular at Villa.

Jonathan Hogg

Remember when he was part of Gerard’s Juniors, or whatever we were calling that exciting class of 2010-11? Admittedly Hogg wore 28 that year and the team who were 2-0 up and drew 2-2 against Man United couldn’t deliver on the hype. But still, his only contender for the 50 shirt is current academy hopeful Viljami Sinisalo.

English Premier League fan since 1992. Travel enthusiast, sports buff and blog writer with deep interest in watching sports - English premier league, American Football, Basketball, Tennis, Cricket.. you name it.. Firm believer in giving back to the community which gives you happiness and identity. My inspiration - “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

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