It is obvious that Martin O’Neill is a fan of wingers, or wide midfield players and there has been quite a bit of debate lately about the merits of Villa’s current wide players.
James Milner might have played a lot of last season in the centre but I still believe he is best suited to the right wing. Ashley Young had by his standards a poor season last year but I am sure he has the talents to yet become a real superstar. I just wish he would just occasionally take a defender on and beat him.
Stuart Downing might not yet have been really accepted by the Villa fans, but I was very impressed with him at times last season and strongly believe that he will be one of our main players in the new season.
This has got me thinking about the Villa wingers I have seen in the past 30 years. Sometimes your memories of days gone by are a little rose tinted. I have to say that my favourite was Tony Morley as he seemed to have it all and an arrogance to go with it. His goal against Anderlecht in the European Cup semi-final was a highlight for me.
In fact Morley was the main reason we won the Cup in 1982. I also thought Mark Walters was one of the most technically gifted players we ever had but maybe he was always a better striker than winger.
Tony Daley, no I am sorry I wasn’t a fan, his pace was electric but he frequently ran out of pitch. Great goal against Luton but he was certainly never England class. I am sure like anybody else who was there that day we beat Man U 3-0 and French international Didier Six made his debut would have left like me thinking we had suddenly got a world class player at Villa Park. For some reason it just didn’t work out.
Next probably was the Graham Taylor brainwave of buying his Watford mate Nigel Callaghan who was supposed to cross the ball for Ian Ormondroyd. Callaghan was one of the best crossers but also one of the laziest players ever to play for the Villa. Mind you the fact that Ormondroyd “sticks” could not head the ball did not really help. In the end Ormondroyd was moved out to the wing, the Villa should have been champions instead of Liverpool (if only they hadn’t signed Cascarino), GT became England manager and Nigel Callaghan became a DJ.
In 1993 I thought we had another superb winger in Steve Frogatt. He made so many goals for Saunders and Atkinson and I still believe it he had stayed fit that first Premier League season that we would have won that first title. It wasn’t to be and Frogatt became a complete sicknote.
Then came the Ellis signing with the lovely hair David Ginola. It might have got a few more ladies at Villa Park but Ginola was never a John Gregory type of player.
On my wedding day in 2003 I managed to leave the reception to see Juan Pablo Angel score two against Leicester. The highlight that day was the sensational wing play by Peter Whittingham. I had seen him in the Youth team and really thought he was the answer. I am still not sure Whittingham was given a fair chance but maybe the Championship is his level. Maybe he has never quite believed in his own ability enough to become the star he should have been.
I think the last real winger before the current crop was Nobby Solano and at times he was unstoppable scoring some great goals. Just a pity he decided he had to return to Newcastle, but like so many players after they leave the Villa they are never the same again.
So there are a few wingers that I can recall, but who really was the greatest of them all?