“Paul Merson has pulled a rabbit out of the hat” – martin tyler
By Daniel Williams
What better way to celebrate the arrival at the club of, 36 going-on 37, John Terry, than by digging deep into the Villa archives of our more senior signings.
With Bruce currently also being linked to the likes of Glenn Whelan, Peter Crouch and other old heads, we thought it was about time that someone compiled a definitive breakdown of all of the club’s main 30+ year-old signings in the Premier League era.
How do you remember these signings that came to Villa in the twilight of their careers?
Some sparkled and even defined their careers at Villa, while others are long forgotten.
The ratings are not necessarily how good a player they were, but how they rated as a Villa signing, all things considered.
The breakdown will be in three parts, the 1990’s, 2000’s and 2010+.
Ray Houghton (1992 – 1995) – 30-years-old
Ray Houghton was that guy in Sunday League that you were always forced to mark. That one who never seemed to tire when everyone else was already thinking about their first post-match pint. But he was also much more than that.
The Scottish Irishman developed a bit of a habit for scoring important goals against Italians. First, a winner against Italy in a sun-drenched New Jersey at the 1994 World Cup, a delightful chip over the head of Villa fan Gianluca Pagliuca. Second, a vital goal at home to Inter Milan on one of those famous European nights under lights at Villa Park, again past poor old Gianluca.
Houghton featured in one of the greatest Villa sides of the modern era. A side that were very nearly crowned champions in the Premier League’s inaugural season; a side that lifted the League Cup in 1994.
Unsung hero of Villa’s midfield
Frank McAvennie (1992) – 33-years-old
I have absolutely nothing to say here. Anyone remember any good performances? Did we have any good songs about him? Help me out, here. His best days in claret and blue were definitely with the Hammers.
Grade – N/A
Not enough evidence.
Andy Townsend (1993 – 1997) – 30-years-old
A ‘D’? Not for me, Clive. This guy can mix it up there with the best of them.
Andy Townsend’s CV puts him up amongst some of the best players that we’ve signed in the twilight of their careers.
He arrived having yet to win silverware in his career. Villa, for Townsend, was one last chance.
Luckily, it was meant to be. His industrious midfield displays epitomised everything that fans loved about the Ron Atkinson era, and those performances paid dividends. Remember him playing on, despite being injured, during extra-time of the tension-packed League Cup semi-final vs Tranmere Rovers?
Two League Cups later, the first Irishman to be born in Maidstone etched his name in Villa’s history books for good.
We love you, Andy, and not even your punditry can change that.
More consistent compared to most of Villa’s more showy players
Gordon Cowans (1993 – 1994) – 34-years old
The nineties saw Gordon Cowans’ third spell in claret and blue. It was a move that felt like a homecoming for one of the greatest to ever grace the hallowed turf at Villa Park, a swansong.
In his first spell with the club, it was all about silverware. A league title and the European cup were both lifted above heads, with Cowans at the heart of it all.
Then came his second spell: this time, it was all about restoring former glories, getting Aston Villa back up to the top flight.
In his final spell with the club, Cowans made just eleven appearances, so for that reason, we’ll not be grading him here for that period alone. Sid will always be an A+ in terms of his contribution to the club.
Already an A+ legit legend of the club
John Fashanu (1994 – 1995) – 31-years-old
Let’s get one thing clear: I do not like John Fashanu, but for the sake of this, I will try to remain impartial.
Aston Villa wasn’t the best spell of John Fashanu’s career. It wasn’t even the best part of his time in Birmingham – ‘Fash the Bash’ used to moonlight as a co-host on TV hit Gladiators at the NIA.
If you needed an epitaph for Fashanu’s time at Villa, it was that he was probably the beginning of the end of Big Ron.
Should have never have been bought.
Paul Merson (1998 – 2002) – 30-years-old
Magic Merse. This guy was the player when I first perched myself in upper tier of the North Stand with my dad. Kids don’t see the drinking or gambling addictions; all I saw as a youngster, was a guy who could do anything with a football. He could take it one way or the other, or he could just let rip from the edge of the penalty area.
Merson’s time at Villa saw him hit the straight and narrow: for once, all of his focus was on his football, and it showed. He went on to make over one-hundred appearances for the club and scored one of our greatest goals in the Premier League era: a looped flick with the outside of his boot at Goodison Park from all of thirty yards.
Sure, he may be a bit of an idiot and you may worry about him operating an oven on his own, but his genius was reserved for the football pitch.
When he was on, he was on fire!
Colin Calderwood (1999 – 2000) – 34-years-old
Our current Assistant Manager arrived here as a player whose career was on its last legs. That being said, Calderwood’s old head added some much needed experience to John Gregory’s side and he looked assured when called upon.
Solid, if unspectacular.
BUY OF THE DECADE
You’ve got to give it to Andy Townsend, a £2.1m buy from Chelsea, for his consistency and the midfield inspiration he brought to the Villa midfield in both Ron Atkinson and Brian Little’s teams, that led to two League Cup wins.
Yes, the magic of Merse is good for great one-off memories and Youtube clips, but Townsend helped put the club back on the football map in the 1990’s.
Compiled and written by Dan Williams