Aston Villa Greatest XI vs West Brom Greatest XI: Who Wins?

Another Midlands derby this weekend, but who would win if West Brom and Aston Villa's greatest players ever went head to head?
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Another Midlands derby this weekend, but who would win if West Brom and Aston Villa's greatest players ever went head to head?

404

Nice One Cyrille!

Another Midlands derby this weekend, but who would win if West Brom and Aston Villa's greatest players ever went head to head?

Aston Villa XI

GK: Mark Bosnich - Aussie legend Bosnich was undeniably brilliant before Man Utd, pies and Colombian marching powder ruined him. His penalty saves against Tranmere Rovers, which got Villa into the 1994 League Cup Final, will loom long in the memories of Villains everywhere – but not as long as his videotaped escapades with a bunch of bimbos, Dwight Yorke, a whip and a nice dress.  8

LB: Steve Staunton - Bought from Liverpool in 1991, Staunton was as reliable at the back as he was dangerous getting forward. Many a defence fell foul of his tin opening left-foot (and perhaps many a tin), and his goals included a notable rocket at Old Trafford in the inaugural Premier League season of 1992/3. He also scored directly from corners for both the Republic of Ireland and Villa, the show off.  8

RB: John Gidman - An attacking right-back who was with Villa from 1971-79, before going on to play for Everton, Man Utd and Man City. Gidman was solid in defence, but loved tearing down the wing and sticking the crosses in. A bit like a 1970‘s Glen Johnson, but actually able to defend and with much better hair. 7

CB: Martin Laursen - Won the Champions league and Serie A title while at AC Milan, then joined Villa in 2004. His spell was dogged by knee injuries, but when fit he was a towering colossus at the back (and handsome with it), though he often got forward to score, including two goals in a 4-4 draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane. 9

CB: Paul McGrath - The Black Pearl of Inchicore. Despite being a boozer with dodgy knees who couldn’t train, McGrath was PFA Player of The Year in 1993, and one of the finest defenders ever to grace the game. His legendary performance against Italy in The Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 win at USA94 had God watching his back. 10

CM: Gordon ‘Sid’ Cowans - Slight midfielder who could deliver a ball on a sixpence from one pitch to another (if necessary). Won a League and European Cup winners medal with Villa in the early 80s, but criminally overlooked by England – even with that nose. 9

CM: David Platt - The other English star of Italia 90 (apart from Gazza and his plastic breasts), Platt scored the last-minute volley that beat Belgium to send England through to the quarter finals. A box-to-box midfielder who scored plenty of goals and helped Villa win promotion in 1988, Platty went on to shine for Juventus, Sampdoria and Arsenal, and notched 27 goals in 62 appearances for England. Now coaching at Man City, he looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy’s reflection in the back of a spoon. Unlucky. 8

LM: Tony Morley - Tricky winger who spent most of the early 1980s setting fire to the flanks of pitches up and down England. Scored the goal of the season in the 1980/81 Championship season against Everton at Goodison. Also rumoured to have pissed in the European Cup. That’s the spirit.  8

RM: Paul Merson - He might have been as one-footed as Heather Mills, but what a right foot. Merson had enjoyed a fine career with Arsenal, but many believe he played his best football with Villa. Often enjoying a playmaker’s role, his passing was sublime and he could hit the target almost as often as he hit the bar and the bookies. 8

CF: Brian Little - Member of Villa’s 1972 FA Youth Cup winning side who went on to become a true Holte End hero. He was all hair, sideburns and prodigious skill, and he scored goals too – 26 of them came in the 1976/77 season, during which his strike partner, a certain Andy Gray, scored 29. Another Villain to be ignored by England and have his career cut short by injury, he did later return as manager, winning the League Cup, which he also won with the club as a player. 9

CF: Dwight Yorke - Discovered by Graham Taylor in his native Trinidad & Tobago, Yorke spent nine years at Villa scoring 73 league goals and helping Villa to lift the League Cup in 1996. Went on to enjoy more success at Old Trafford, where he won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup treble. No wonder he was always smiling.  8

Manager: Ron Saunders - Old-school, hard-boiled manager, with a penchant for SS-style long leather coats, Saunders won promotion to the top flight in his first season as Villa manager. Two league cups later, he clinched the league title with Villa in 1980/81 – the club’s first in 71 years – after famously telling the Ipswich-obsessed press: “Do you want to bet against us?” 9

Total: 101

West Brom Greatest Xl by Ryan Duggins and Justin Pearce

GK – John Osbourne 1966-1977
John was one of the greatest shot stoppers of the 70’s. He lead us to FA Cup glory in 1968, as he commanded his area with a dominance of his area only mirrored by ‘The Big Red Machine’ Kane during his first few years in the ring. An absolute force. 8

RB – Brendan Batson – 1978 – 1982
Brendan was terrific at reading the game, and along with Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham, formed a threesome (affectionately called ‘The Three Degrees’) that broke so many racism barriers for professional football at this time. Batson was probably the most underrated of the three, but solid none the less. 8

CB – John Wile – 1970- 1983
John was one of those defenders that used his body completely and almost exclusively has a missile. Even when faced with the obvious negative consequences of pain for an action, he would follow through anyway. All he cared about was getting that ball away. Not great with his feet, but back in those days he didn’t need to be. If you can find YouTube footage of the 1978 FA Cup final you can see how brave he was. 9

CB – Darren ‘Big Dave’ Moore – 2001- 2006
Plagued with injury these days at Burton Albion, most football followers will only really remember ‘Big Dave’ being part of a side constantly picking the ball out of the net in the Premier League. But Moore was one of the most talented defenders every to play at The Hawthorns. With two promotions (and two relegations, shhhh) under his belt, it was a shame that he left us under quite demoralising circumstances as he was slowly forced out of the team. But still, one red card in 6 years for the club as a Centre Back is some going. 8

LB – Derek Statham – 1977-1987
Yes, I accept that in terms of players making that highly controversial switch from Gold and Black to White and Black, we probably did draw the short straw. Wolves had Steve Bull, their record goal scorer and local legend, and West Brom had Derek Statham. But Derek was a major part of our most romantic days, with ‘The Three Degrees’, Bryan Robson and ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson at the helm. Deserved more than three England caps though. 7

RM – Willie Johnston – 1972-1979
One thing is for sure – Willie was a character. Showing his butt cheeks to fans during his time in NASL, drinking beer on the touchline, drug use before a World Cup game which forced his international career to a halt and stamping on someone’s throat in the middle of a game. But among this, Johnston was special.  West Brom spent a lot of money to bring him from Rangers, and my word did he repay his fee. Slippery, skilful and generally an exciting player to watch. 9

CM – Tony Brown – 1963 – 1980
Ahh, ‘The Bomber’. FA Cup Winner, League Cup Winner, record goal scorer for the club and an absolute fiend of a midfielder.  It seems hilarious to think that now, a player would choose a career with us rather than Manchester City, but a lot changes in 50 years of football. It’s fair to say though that after he left us as one of our most championed and most loved players, he didn’t really have such a great time. Stints in NASL, Torquay and Stafford were his later ventures. But none the less, Brown still holds a strong place in our hearts and is currently one of the leading commentators for football in The Midlands. 10

CM – Bryan Robson – 1974 – 1981
Robson was undoubtedly one of the first real World Class players to play for us, and by anyone’s standards, he was class. But it did take us far too long to realise it. Played at Left Back for the majority of his first few seasons with us, it was due to repetitive injuries and a rotation of managers that really halted his progression at The Hawthorns. Robson was able to force himself through though, and became a major asset during his last two seasons with us, leading the way in successful European and domestic campaigns. It was inevitable that he would leave at some stage, and when Ron Atkinson left West Brom to take over at Manchester United, there was only one place Robson was going. 10

LM – Laurie Cunningham – 1977-1979
Laurie was a man with an overwhelming sense of ambition. As a player standing out in one of the best First Division sides of the 70’s, Cunningham was never one to rest on his laurels, as he continuously pushed himself to every limit. He was the first ever Black Player to wear an England Shirt, the first Englishman ever to play for Real Madrid and was one of the first players to be in the centre of a power struggle between club and country. Real Madrid wrestled aggressively to stop Cunningham joining his England team-mates. Initially fans blamed the management of England for overlooking the talents of a player playing overseas, but Ron Greenwood claimed that it is impossible to not notice the third highest scorer in a Real Madrid season, and blamed the Spanish giants for not allowing him to leave. Laurie was tragically killed in a car crash at just 33, and is still remembered fondly in West Bromwich and Madrid. 10

ST – Jeff Astle – 1964-1974
A real one in two striker that lead the line in a glorious period in West Brom history, and building the foundations for further success for the club in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The King’s winning goal in the FA Cup Final of 1968 was one of almost 180 goals for the club in just under 300 appearances, as he consistently banged in the goals for The Baggies. Doctors actually believe that it was his own devotion to winning the ball and scoring goals that caused this death, as his persistent heading of the hard leather balls were thought to have triggered the development of Brain Disease which killed him at the age of 59. His notes stated that his death was caused by ‘industrial injury’. 9

ST – Cyrille Regis – 1977-1984
Who didn’t like Cyrille? Nobody, that’s who. For some reason, Cyrille struck a chord with football fans of a certain age that ensured his nostalgic emergence in fans across the country whenever his name is mentioned. Spotted playing in Sunday Football, Regis was such a quality player that the West Brom scout at the time offered to pay for the fee to purchase the striker out of his own wages.

As previously mentioned, Regis was part of a movement in English football that really forced the acceptance of Black players playing professional football. Although the racism directed towards them was blunt and awful, for fans to see three black players on one side forced the terraces to open their minds and come to terms with this transition. Ron Atkinson and ‘The Three Degrees’ didn’t just make history, but change the future of football racism

Back to his skills though, and Regis had it in abundance. During his time, West Brom were real contenders and on a weekly basis took the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool straight to the cleaners. Cult here, local legend and overall all nice guy, the memories of Cyrlle Regis are not going anywhere soon.

Manager:Big Ron Atkinson
Before the ronisms and racist comments, Ron Atkinson was a fantastic manager who presided over the most exciting team in West Brom’s history. 10

Total: 107

Result: West Brom wins

West Brom run away with it 107 points to Villa's 101. The international class of players like Bryan Robson and Laurie Cunningham proves simply too much for Villa. Cyrille Regis eventually clinches the tie though with a trademark skilful run into the penalty area and coolly slots past the bewildered Bosnich.

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