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!
‘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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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