Who Are The Leaders Of Our Future, And What Does That Say About Us?

Terrace Talk


Taking a break from the normal preseason talk and rumour mill, I wanted to find out a little more about some of our readers. This week I thought we could talk about our favourites, the players that have stuck in our hearts and minds. Not only do I want to talk about our favourites of seasons gone by, I want to ask who your favourite is now.

I want us to put a little thought into this, and hope you will all want give a heartfelt explanation. This is also a little experiment, because I think there will be a pattern that will emerge from the players we pick, and if there is, I wonder if there is such a player that could fit the bill again and, believe it or not, perhaps lead somewhere.

Now on to my two picks:

All-Time Favourite

There is only one, never mastered and never replaced. Lord Paul McGrath, or God, this player is my hero, my favourite player of all time. While everyone is focusing on Messis and Ronaldos, who have undeniable quality, McGrath was something else. As we all know, God had his issues and injuries, but week on week this legend turned out and put in a MOTM performance. He was immense—his reading of the game was second to none and, even with his injuries and issues, he kept some of the world’s greatest strikers of the time in his pocket. Think Baggio is still there. Don’t believe me? Search for McGrath v Italy on YouTube and witness a true master class in defending. Midfielders and strikers get all the plaudits, and the world’s media focus on the pretty football merchants. McGrath is loved by us Villa fans and though he received many plaudits, for me he never got enough. The guy is ultimately one of our greatest-ever signings and players, and one of the world’s greatest ever defenders. In a World XI he would be the first name on my team sheet and be captain.

Favourite of Today And Today’s Team

This one is a little harder for me. You see, it takes a lot for me to see a player as a favourite, the bar is set so high. Now we all have favourites because of their personality, like Carew, perhaps, or what they give to the team, say a Carlos Cuellar, or because of their love for the club, like Gabby. For me, I need to see a little more than all that from a player. I need to see something I don’t see in anyone else. Over the last season I haven’t seen anything from any of our current crop of players that would warrant them being anything like a favourite.


There are a number of players in the team who could quite easily get to level, though, and become legends at B6. It’s all down to whether they want it bad enough.

Darren Bent: His goal-scoring record speaks for itself. Maybe he is guilty of not working hard enough off the ball, but he could quite easily become one of the all-time greats because goals win games and he can get the goals.

Stephen Ireland: He has the quality. He has the ability. But will he let himself be the player he has been before? He won fans’ player last year mainly for his performances on the run in. If he keeps that going he could be the midfield maestro we have been craving.

Jean Makoun: This guy’s jumpers alone should make him a fan favourite. But in all seriousness, he has some ability. When he was at the club and playing, he was thinking in front of Young and Downing and playing the balls attacking players love. He has been a league winner and champs league player. Say what you like about him, but you don’t get the medals unless you’re any good.

Gabriel Agbonlahor: Already a favourite because he supports the club, as we all know. But he really could make his name and go down in the history books as one of the best. Gabby has got to seize his opportunity and if he does, he will go down in our history as a one-club player.

Gary Garderner: While only young he has been likened and labelled to become our Gerrard. And if he can become that player there is no doubt he will become and instant smash hit with the fans. All the signs are good and if he gets his chance he could be the player every team wants.

At the moment, no one stands up to McGrath in ability or his meaning to us as fans. But the good thing is that we have contenders. We have players who are capable of making a mark on the team and the hearts of the fans, and when there is potential there is a chance because all it needs is the right manager to unlock the potential: Over to you Mr. Lambert.


The pattern I was wittering on about…I very much doubt many of you will pick defenders as your favourite of toda,y but from the past many more will. Now Villa have always had instrumental defenders throughout the years and in some cases great pairings. Laursen, Southgate, Mellberg, Ugo, McGrath, Teale the list goes on. You see when Villa was at its best, or most successful of modern times, we were built around a solid outstanding defender. That is no coincidence.

Who will be that defender for us now?

I would spend a large chunk of our transfer budget getting that solid, instrumental, leader who also demands respect fixing that could fix a lot of things that we can’t see but we know are there. Onward.

  1. steamersteamer28-06-2012

    Hello Chiefy,
    My fave is Mutton, anyone that bad who has the knacks to humiliate himself, albeit for £40,000 units per week, deserves any accolade he can gather.
    Most players reputations are passed eventually, although i can’t see McGrath ever being bettered.My first fave was John Sleeuwenhoek, the master of the slide tackle, he was replaced by an immensly talented Scot by the name of Willie Hamilton who unfortunately was an alcoholic and frequently had to leave the pitch to go to the loo. Willie Anderson came next, George Best’s understudy at the theatre of bullshite, Bruce Rioch, the complete footballer, then Brian Godfrey next came Brian Little, who spoilt it by being the most bizarre manager ever at VP.
    Its not always the best players who become legends, your GENUINE hard men like George ‘the pig’ Curtis and Dick Edwards will be regarded with affection for years to come. On the other hand, you have talented players like Steve Hodge, Nigel Callaghan ect who couldn’t give a s**te about our club and shamed it with their lack of effort.

  2. B62 VillaB62 Villa28-06-2012

    For me my all time leader and hero was is and always will be Paul GOD McGrath. Our very own Franco Baresi. Disguarded by Munich UTD, a player who was supposedly washed up. He was magnificent, never flapped and always looked calm and assured even if he wasn’t. All this on the back of throwing enough Guiness down his head to sink a battleship. There have been others like Platt, Laursen, Mellberg, Teale and Shaw that over the ages have been fantastic. Out of the current crop none spring to mind, gabby out of loyalty comes close, but we are crying out for a new hero, the mantle is there for someone to step up if they have the bollox

  3. chiefychiefy28-06-2012

    The thing we are missing is the rock at the back, we all hoped and assumed it would be Dunne, after all he had been it before and had the make up of being the rock, trouble is he hasn’t been

    The best teams in the league have a solid defender they can rely on, their teams are hinged on it we havent had one for a while and its know coincidence we have been struggling, the trouble is at the back

  4. Andrew PAndrew P28-06-2012

    Steamer, didn’t John Sleeuwenhoek end up working in the club shop when it was just a portacabin behind the Trinity Road stand? I remember my dad pointing out an ex-player who was working in the shop in the mid-seventies. The old man he reckoned he was a brilliant young player who was burnt out by his mid-20s.

    Think you’re struggling to find any genuine heroes among the current squad. I’m not going to get back on my soap-box about Steven Ireland, but have we really sunk so low that we’re pinning our hopes on a bloke who had one good season 5 years ago and has been living off it ever since?

    Chiefy, you’re right about the dominant centre back. I don’t think we’ll ever see another Paul McGrath but it doesn’t have to be – a Shaun Teale or Kent Nielsen would do.

    Read some stuff yesterday about the new season ticket packs – who else qualifies for a gold badge?

  5. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey28-06-2012

    Look at most of our real legends of our club – defenders – yet we seem to sometimes have a fascination as though we are Spurs or something with the demand for flair.

    McGrath, Mellberg, Laursen and, to a lesser extent, the likes of Ehiogu and Southgate – what do they all have in common?

    Which is why we have struggled in recent times because our current axis of evil, I mean our defensive partnerships, are more porous than a sponge.

    Villa without a solid defence will always be in the toilet. I know we have Bent nowadays, but look at the past – Yorke got 20 goals a season, Angel did once, but even our supposed prolific number nine is yet to replicate 20 goals for us.

    So, as others intimate, Villa need a solid centre half or two if they want to create a bedrock, followed shortly after by ensuring the spine is there.

    Oh and I mean a top quality defender like Samba, NOT suggesting “Clark is the future and he can be it” – we need someone who is great now, not somebody who may be good in the future.

    It might mean buying an older, experienced player to settle the back four. I know some will hate the idea, but we need experience and a football brain – something that many of our players do not have.

    People may scoff but our biggest player of all time was an injury laden, almost 30 year old who became “God”. Laursen’s career was almost in the toilet after issues following his move from Milan and fans rave about him now.

    I am not suggesting we should look for the oldest, most injury prone player out there – Ledley King – but Villa do need a leader at the back, and I don’t mean Shay Given as I have issues with goalkeepers as captains because they are too far back to be involved, despite being able to see the game from their area.

  6. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas28-06-2012

    This article sums up the state of Aston Villa recently, but it also reflects on the game generally. Sadly, I feel that the days of the heroic player will become fewer and fewer. We have had players in the past few seasons who could have gone down as legends at the club, but they had their heads turned by the bigger boys. I think that longevity is the key to any real icons in the game. It isn’t just ability that fans crave, they want their players to love the club as much as they do, but it is such a rarity now that I fear it will be a while before we see it again.

    Some of our most recent heroes have been edging towards the end of their career, as in the case of Laursen, who had already made his big move and tasted the big money for a place on the bench. I find it amazing that Barry wasn’t listed in your article though, chiefy. He may have jumped ship at the first real offer, but he gave us 10 years, and was never far short of being our best player in that time, and I don’t doubt that he loves the club. Still, nowhere near McGrath in terms of status or quality.

    For the future, I have to admit that I’m hoping that one of two things happen. Either, a) we see a good manager run the club for a good few years, keeping players happy and maybe signing one who is amazing and plays for the manager to begin with and then develops a love for the club; or b) that a youngster comes through the ranks (at present I look to Gardner or Clark) who unites the fans in their adoration and plays out of his skin time and time again, particularly in the big matches. Other than that, there’s not much to genuinely love about the squad these days. But I agree chiefy, a rock of a centre back would be the most likely candidate and undoubtedly what we have been missing. Dunne and Collins might eat rocks, but sadly they are not what they eat.

  7. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas28-06-2012

    Also, just to add to the weight of argument for defenders traditionally being our heroes, there is a tendency for defenders to hang around longer than the more attacking players. Perhaps this is because they receive less coverage and it takes longer to establish yourself as a top defender, with performances being evaluated for solidity, not moments of genius, You would never accept a defender who made one great slide tackle per game, but failed to do the simple things (sound familiar???). It takes a long time to consolidate their status as a great defender, but also, I think defenders realise the importance of settings, systems, and partnerships. The brilliant Arsenal defence of the 90s was so great because of their familiarity with each other, the club, the stadium, the width of the pitch, the system that the team played, etc. Talk about the sum of their parts. Dixon and Winterburn in particular were less than spectacular, but they worked in that system. How I envy that.

  8. chiefychiefy28-06-2012

    Samba, Huth, Hangeland could all do a job

    Most annoying thing is we had our next hero, we had our next leader and MON thought Curtis Davis was worth 10mil and Zat knight was better !

    How we would kill for Cahill now!

  9. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas28-06-2012

    Interesting that you say Huth, chiefy. He tends to divide opinion, but I have to say that I see him as a very solid defender. With the right partner I think he could be fantastic for us. Think he might have signed a new contract recently though, so maybe not an option.

  10. southwestvillansouthwestvillan28-06-2012

    McGrath for me very closely followed by Alex Cropley class players we will be very lucky to see the likes of again, of todays recent crop i am struggling to name one in fact i can”t so that really tells you all you need to know about where we are as a club.
    Hangeland would be ideal for us and compliment him with someone from abroad, leave it to you PL lets get in some quality and build it from the back.


  11. southwestvillansouthwestvillan28-06-2012


    It is nice to see that they are experimenting with irony over in your part of Brum, can see Mutton being snapped up by one of the big Spanish clubs probably Racing Warwick.


  12. steamersteamer28-06-2012

    Forgot about Alex Cropley, what a player, bag of bones but he’d rip your kneecaps out in a tackle, and skill, sublime.
    Yes mate ‘Slogger’ worked in the club shop, when he left AVFC his career went into decline, he signed for the vermin. Tragically he died in his forties, better players at VP but no-one gave more effort.
    Someone told me that PL was offering a one year deal to Clarence Seedorf, a great thinker of the game who may be groomed for a management position, he wants to work in England. I think he’s the only player to win European Cup / CL winners medals with 3 different clubs.

  13. villa@hertsvilla@herts28-06-2012

    Steamer: I had forgotten about John Sleeuwenhoek, as I recall we used to call him Tulip, we had great imagination in those days!! My first hero was again a defender, Charlie Atken a pure professional although not a great manager from memory! I also agree with regarding the others. You failed to mention Ian (Chico) Hamilton, who offered so much but failed to deliver.

    Chiefy :”How we would kill for Cahill now!” Exactly and why we shouldn’t be ruling out any of the younger players on the basis of not performing well over the past two seasons. I remember being the one of the few voices on TVB saying that selling him a was madness. If they can’t do it under PL then sell them but they all deserve a chance and you never know the future hero may be among them!!

  14. southwestvillansouthwestvillan28-06-2012

    Charlie Aitken yes the very fellow, remember going To Forest one year back in the day when it was a pwoper naughty gaff, police horses on the terraces kicking off all over and it was 0-0 with five minutes to go when Aitken broke through and slotted home the winner, the place went up in the air absolute chaos, same year the indian kid went for his free swimming lessons in the trent, good old Charlie he would never let you down.


  15. B6toBrasilB6toBrasil28-06-2012


    Morning,I remember that match well.It was a first time that the police horses had been used on the terraces-it went off inside and outside the ground,before,during and after.I was only a schoolkid then,and remeber sort of hanging near The Steamers for protection.

    Cropley was outstanding until The Albion finished him,thatwas one of the most blatantly violent performances by a team I have seen by WBA.Leg breaking tacles,spitting and elbows-and that was before the kick off.We won 3 – 1 bit I don`t think Cropley played again for us did he?

  16. southwestvillansouthwestvillan28-06-2012


    Yeah it was a rough old day but Florist didn”t have it all their own way, Steamers were out in force that day we went on the train, good old days when you never got banned for 87 years for a few fistycuffs.
    I think you are right i don”t remember Sticks coming back from that leg break, what a player his passing was just world class.


  17. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey28-06-2012


    Huth has indeed signed a new contract but I am happy with that as he is just a big lump in my opinion.

    Samba would be ideal but it all depends on if he really wants to escape Anzhi where he earns lots of money but also suffers regular racist abuse.

  18. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey28-06-2012

    I agree Hangeland would be solid too though it would depend on attracting him and he wouldn’t be cheap.

    Just had a thought of a Samba – Hangeland back two. What a unit, though highly unlikely we may even afford one of them, never mind the pair.

  19. villa@hertsvilla@herts28-06-2012

    southwetsvillan: I wqas at both these Notts games, I was on the supporters coach that was pelted with bricks by forest supporters with red painted faces. They were only able to do it because the police were blocking the way of the coach. I think that was the game where the supporter was thrown in the trent. How I miss thoese days-NOT

  20. southwestvillansouthwestvillan28-06-2012


    Yeah it was a copper that jumped in and saved him because he could not swim, they were not all bad days it was difficult to remember many getting badly injured, but i recall a picture that went out in the national papers after a Villa bloose derby with a fan being walked around the pitch with a dart in his head, one hundred and eighty.


  21. gabbygabbygabbygabby28-06-2012

    Favourite player of the past was Yorke, heartbroken when he left. But also loved Ian Taylor and McGrath. More recent favs have been Laursen and Mellberg, so fits in with Chiefys post.

    Agree with all that say we need a new defensive general.

    Heroics are good, but they are generally needed through poor initial positioning, Dunne and Collins are often caught out positionally, under MON we had numbers back so there was often someone to cover for the mistake. They make rash lunging tackles which leaves us vulnerable. They defend with the mantra of “ball or man”, never do they just press and force a player into a mistake. More often than not they either miss-time a challenge giving away a freekick in a dangerous area, or the forward escapes because they go charging in. No brains defending.

    Huth is not for me, agree with Matt here, he is a lump, mean and nasty, but no better than Dunne/Collins on the ball. Im still sceptical about Samba, he won plaudits as part of a very solid defensive side under Allardyce, but struggled a bit under Kean(although may be unfair to judge that period). So im not sure how different he would be to Dunne/Collins if he was to become more exposed, he has more pace, more athleticism, than both of them so one would think he wouldnt need to make rash challenges. Hangeland would cost close to £9mil i think

    I think Clark can be a very good CB for us, but i dont expect him to be that player now, as said numerous times CBs rely on experience so peak later than other outfield players, which is why i would want us to sign a starting CB, a captain-like CB, who could help Clark.

    Im struggling to think of any experienced CBs i like. Michael Dawson of Spurs maybe, if Spurs go ahead and sign Vertonghen he might be free to leave, they may want to keep him as backup with King and Gallas a year older, but they also have Caulker returning too.

  22. steamersteamer28-06-2012

    Ally Brown was the thug for a ,disgraceful assault that finished a player who was in a different universe to him, he should have got five years for that. I don’t think he even got a booking.
    Used to see Studs at the speedway, the final straw was when Saunders chose Ivor Linton above him and he went on loan to Portsmouth. Taxi driver in Edinburgh now, his lad was released by Hibs.

  23. Ryan PitcherRyan Pitcher28-06-2012

    Well everyone who knows me will know that I have a soft spot for Juan Pablo Angel, in fact when I do settle down and have children I’m determined to call my son Juan Pablo Pitcher ;)

    You ain’t wrong on the defensive front, over the years Villa has had a strong defensive unit, particularly in the CB role. The likes of McGrath, Southgate, Ehiogu and Mellberg were all class.

    For me personally I base my favourite players on what position I play for my weekend football teams and that’s typically upfront or out wide, so the likes of Dwight Yorke, Juan Pablo Angel, Dion Dublin & even Stan Collymore were the players I looked up to.

    I think the Villa have also had their fair share of solid and decent centre midfielders in recent years too: Townsend, Taylor, Hendrie Barry, Milner and Petrov to name but a few. It’s almost as if we tend to go for a solid spine within the side which is imperative at the top level. It’s a shame that we’ve struggled with a lack of ‘flair players’ out wide and up top.

    As Chiefy commented – how much we’d love to have Gary Cahill back now, that was one we got majorly wrong.

  24. steamersteamer28-06-2012

    By the way, i meant to mention it weeks ago, did anyone see the article in one of the rags that asked its readers who was the best player to play in the EPL, all the usual London and Untied players, but one name missing, clues, Irish, immortal, GENUINE world class, central defender and Villa player. I think even Ledley King made the list. Nearly fell off me perch.

  25. steamersteamer28-06-2012

    Possibly its the down to Earth approach that the residents of Godstown have, we love the no-nonsense approach not like the spivs darn sarf.
    JPA could have been a legend if O’Dreary hadn’t kept taking him off after scoring two goals, he could have potentially score approx ten hat – tricks if the dipstick had left him on.
    A word of advice, don’t base your favouritism on what position you play, your manager may select you to play RB and you know what that means.

  26. J.P. WilsonJ.P. Wilson28-06-2012

    i think we should try and offload both collins and dunne,

    with mellbergs contract stalling, i believe we an snap him up for nothing for a year. he can show the kids how to be a leader, and could be our new captain.

    with him i would go get simon Kjaer, hes young, a strong center back, but would cost roughly 8 mil.

    so we would have baker, clark, captain beard, and kjaer for our cb’s. strong pairings all around.

  27. Ballyd100Ballyd10028-06-2012

    For me its paul mcgrath as well … just an outstanding defender who despite all his demons gave 100% in every game. they dont make them like him anymore. his performance against italy in usa 94 was of the highest level , a masterclass.
    He was such a top player for villa.. for me he hasnt been matched, and we have had some good defenders since like mellberg and laursen.

    Sadly i think players like mcgrath who make a connection with fans will be few and far between for the future. they are so far removed from the real world its hard to identify with them.

  28. Matt TurveyMatt Turvey28-06-2012


    If you want to write, just send me a message via the contact form at the top of the site.

    I will delete the comment with your email in it as don’t want you getting spam from robots that search sites for addresses.

  29. chiefychiefy28-06-2012

    That’s it Ryan we do needsome have always had a solid spine and that’s the problem we have two parts of that spine needing repair, midfield and defence. If we get these two parts right they fit with Bent and Given everything else around it works because they have the solid spine to work off.

    Midfield looks like we have made our move just CB to go but who ?

  30. FremFrem28-06-2012

    well people have been saying they PL to play like Germany

    no, we want to set up like italy

    they play 4 3 1 2 as well and look where it has got them. just battered Germany with it

    at the tip of the Diamond, Zoggy, Ireland, BB or Holman can all play there so we dont need to add there. Then say if Zoggy is playing there then ireland, BB, etc can all fit intop the 3 man midfield

  31. FremFrem28-06-2012

    We have to start playing the youngsters week in week out of there never going to learn. We keep saying there not ready yet but if we never play them, they never will be

    clark, BB, Lichaj, Wieman etc need to start playing week in week out now. they are old enough. If they dont play this season, they will be off

    Albri as well needs a real go, GG as well

    Clark i think is a great player. Good on the ball, scores goals and will get stronger and better and defending if played week in week out. if we dont, we will just waste his talent and he will rot away

  32. Darran NicholasDarran Nicholas28-06-2012

    Sorry Frem, but I disagree on Italy, I would say that they play a 4-1-3-2 formation, rather than 4-3-1-2, with Pirlo sitting as the deep midfielder. I also think they play a narrow game, something which I’m not sure we are set up especially well to do, and doesn’t historically work especially well in the Premier League. All of the successful teams in England are strong out wide, and I think we could learn from that.

    I’m not taking anything away from Italy, they played brilliantly tonight, but I think that result had as much to do with Germany being off key (I actually think they choked) as anything else. Germany did get at them, but the Italian defenders were immense at times. Not sure we could pull that off. Plus, we haven’t got a Pirlo in our ranks who could sit deep and pull the strings. Considering the personnel we currently have, I’d say the German way would suit us better. Especially if we bring in some good attacking full backs.

  33. TrinityTrinity29-06-2012

    McGrath for me, a real warrior. He scared a few strikers. Then I’d go for Southgate because of his consistently good performances. Mellberg and Laursen are up there. We’ve heard this before, haven’t we. McGrath as captain.
    Striker wise, I enjoyed watching Dwight Yorke.
    I listened to a radio interview he gave in Australia a couple of years ago before Villa played Man U in an FA cup match. Asked who he was betting on, he said Man U are a great club and his head tells him they’ll win. However, he went on to say even though his greatest playing achievements were at Man U and Man U is one of the world’s greatest clubs, his heart was with Villa because he spent 9 seasons with Villa, and it was Villa that made him the striker that he would eventually become at Man U.
    Also liked Paul Merson, though we got him a bit later in his career, he gave everything and had an X factor.