Aston Villa Greatest Xl vs Birmingham City Greatest Xl

The latest installment of the second city derby gets underway this evening. To stoke the fire, Villain James Brennan and Bluenose Chris Sanderson select the greatest ever teams.
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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

Birmingham City XI

GK: Ben Foster – Blues have been blessed with a succession of great goalkeepers over the years such as Gil Merrick, Tony Coton, David Seaman and, erm, Martin Thomas. But Foster just edges recent loanee Joe Hart purely on the fact that he stopped 26 shots on goal in our recent win over Chelsea. 8

RB: Jeff Hall – Capped 17 times by England, Hall was tragically cut down in his prime when he succumbed to polio at the age of 29. A key performer in Blues' best ever finish - sixth in Division One in 1956 - Hall died just a fortnight after making the last of his 265 appearances for the club. 8

CB: Liam Daish – Once booked for playing a toy trumpet, Barry Fry commented that, if a squadron of F-111s attacked the penalty area, Daish would attempt to head them away.  7

CB: Kenny Burns - Legendary ugly bloke, Burns was as comfortable playing centre half as he was centre forward. Marshalling his defence with unflinching aggression, he was the archetypal British defender. 8

LB: Garry Pendrey – Brummie born and bred, Pendrey’s reputation was based on tenacious tackling and unwavering commitment. It remains untarnished, despite an unsuccessful spell as manager and an even more unsuccessful bubble perm. 8

RM: Louie Donowa – Donowa’s pace bamboolzed many a lower league defence and his vision was epitomised by a 40 yard lob over a very embarrassed West Brom keeper at the Hawthorns in 1993. 7

CM: Barry Ferguson – Has been rejuvenated at Birmingham as a calm, intelligent holding player who is as comfortable making the odd 50 yard pass as he is breaking up play. A true midfield general. 8

CM: Mark Ward - Whilst his post football life has been nothing but tragic, he remains that rare breed of Blues midfielder - one who could hold the ball and make incisive passes behind opposing defences. 7

LM: Alex Govan – The last Blues player to bag 30 goals in a single season, the Glaswegian introduced 'Keep Right On' as club anthem. Legend has it that fans adopted the song after they heard him singing it getting off the bus during the 1956 FA Cup run. 8

CF: Christoph Dugarry – The second World Cup winner to grace Blues (after Alberto Tarantini), Dugarry enjoyed a tempestuous, brief fling with the club and took us from relegation certainties to 13th place in 2002/03. His brace against Southampton remains one of the finest individual performances by any Blues player. 8

CF: Trevor Francis – Simply the greatest Blues player ever. Signed after his family were promised a washing machine, Francis made his debut at 16, memorably scored 4 goals against Bolton two months before his 17th birthday and single handedly kept the club afloat until his £1m move to Forest. Altogether now “we all agree, Francis is better than Little...”   10

Manager: Alex McLeish – The intelligent, urbane Scot has worked wonders so far in Small Heath, fashioning a competitive team that was unbeaten for over a year at home and saw us finish last season in a remarkable ninth place. 9

Total: 97

So Villa edge it by a measly four points. 90th minute, Morley flies down the wing, crosses for Little who dummies but is cleaned out by Burns. Yorke steps up to take the penalty and, as Foster dives, he chips it down the middle. “Start spreading the news, he’s playing today…”

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