Aston Villa F.C. boasts a long, rich history in European football. Through the years, its legendary teams bore legendary results through legendary talent. Introducing the top 10 best of the claret and blue.
Who Are the Best Aston Villa Soccer Players of All Time?
- Allan Evans
- Paul McGrath
- Gordon Cowans
- Charlie Aitken
- Tom Waring
- Billy Walker
- Brian Little
- Nigel Spink
- Ian Taylor
- Tony Morley
1. Allan Evans
- 12 seasons with AVFC
- 466 appearances (fifth all-time for Aston Villa)
- 1981 Premier League champion
- 1982 European Cup champion
With one of the highest appearance counts in club history, former club captain Allan Evans sees the top spot on the Aston Villa all-time list. Evans was an integral part of one of the best Villa teams in club history, taking the League title in 1981 and the European Cup in 1982. Around for the long run, Evans became club captain and led his team towards promotion into the first division once more in ’88.
Evans is considered one of the best defenders in club history as well, despite beginning his career as a forward. Throughout his 12-season career at the club, Evans racked up an impressive resume with several awards to show for. His leadership, skill, longevity, and devotion to the club were always on display, which is why Allan Evans makes it first on this list.
2. Paul McGrath
- Seven seasons with AVFC
- 253 appearances
- Player of the Year as a defender
Paul McGrath is widely considered to be one of the best defenders in Aston Villa history. As part of the rebuilt Villa team that saw itself bouncing from relegation to promotion, McGrath held his own on the defensive end. As a center back, McGrath frequently put his body on the line blocking shots. His defensive IQ could be seen in his positioning, which made Aston Villa a hard team to score on.
His devotion to the club is unquestioned, with some of his best football played throughout his seven-season stint at Villa. His hard work never failed to impress his teammates and coaching staff. During the 1992-93 season, he was awarded Player of the Year, which is quite a rarity for a defender. The remarkable impact McGrath left on Aston Villa earns him the number-two spot on our list.
3. Gordon Cowans
- 13 seasons with AVFC
- 508 appearances (third all-time)
- 49 goals
Cowans made rounds about the English Football League but always came back home to Villa Park. While he played for eight other teams in his professional career, a majority of his game was played for the claret and Blue. With just over 500 total appearances, that marks Cowans as third of all time in appearances for Aston Villa. In his first spell, Cowans contributed to Aston Villa’s 1981 League title run as well as a European Cup and a Super Cup.
Gordon Cowans was part of one of the greatest Villa teams in club history, and his presence had a winning impact throughout his career. With many milestones achieved and an impressive appearance record, Aston Villa’s third all-time has Cowans’s name on it.
4. Charlie Aitken
- 17 seasons with AVFC
- Club record all-time in appearances (657)
- 1971-72 League Cup champion
Charlie Aitken holds the club record in appearances with 657. As a left back he did not see the ball much offensively but managed to secure himself 14 goals. Aitken was a one-club man, essentially. 17 seasons with Aston Villa saw him leaving the club at the start of what many consider to be the golden age of the club.
In his career, he and the 1971-72 team earned the EFL Cup as well as the FA Shield in 1975. It was not until 1976 when Aitken decided to part with the club. However, many Villa fans still regard Aitken as one of their best, and it is not hard to see why. His appearance record has yet to be broken after 47 years.
5. Tom Waring
- Seven seasons with AVFC
- 216 appearances
- Club record in hat tricks (10)
- Most goals in a single season for Aston Villa (50)
A remarkable career and scoring performances are what Villa fans will remember most about number five on our list. Tom Waring knew how to put the ball in the net, and his other-worldly scoring numbers prove this. As a forward, Waring was exceptional at scoring and creating positions for himself.
In the 1930-1931 season, Waring put up a club record 50 goals for Aston Villa. This record is yet to be broken, and it stands to solidify Waring’s status as a Villa legend. Fellow Villa legend Billy Walker frequently described Waring’s off-the-pitch manner as carefree, but as he was invaluable to the team, this persona only added to his legacy rather than sullied it. A remarkably productive seven seasons with Aston Villa makes Tom Waring worthy of fifth on our all-time list.
6. Billy Walker
- 20 seasons with AVFC
- 531 appearances (second all-time)
- Club record in all-time goal scoring (244)
Billy Walker is Aston Villa’s true one-club man. With the club record in all-time goal scoring (244) paired with a 20-season career, it is clear Walker deserves his legend status at Aston Villa. Walker’s milestones are Villa milestones, as he holds several club records to his name. In 1921, Walker became the first player to attain a hat trick of penalties. Playing alongside Pongo Waring, the duo were unstoppable offensively. The two often engaged in healthy competition and had a friendly relationship on and off the pitch.
Walker is also well known for scoring the first goal for England at Wembley and for being the 17th all-time highest scorer in England. A distinguished, lengthy career with many triple-figure milestones deserves much credit.
7. Brian Little
- 10 seasons with AVFC
- 247 appearances
- 60 goals
Brian Little’s dedication to the claret and blue is unquestionable. Beginning his youth career playing for Villa in 1969, Little played for the club until his retirement in 1980. Scoring 60 goals as a striker during his tenure at Aston Villa, he played alongside the likes of Aitken and Cowans in the successful early 80’s Villa dynasty. Despite only playing 10 seasons of professional football due to a knee injury, Little was able to find much success post-football as a manager for the club.
After learning the ins and outs of being a club manager, he brought what he learned back to Aston Villa, where he inherited a team full of young talent. While the team did not generate many awards or accomplishments, it was a stepping stone in the direction of good leadership after a shaky late 1980s run. While his tenure as both a footballer and a manager were coincidentally short at Aston Villa, he dedicated a majority of his total football career to it. In that short time, he made a large impact on the team and the legacy of the club, which is why he makes seventh on the list.
8. Nigel Spink
- 19 seasons with AVFC
- 449 appearances (sixth all-time)
Nigel Spink is the only Aston Villa goalkeeper to make it on this list. Spink earned his spot on the all-time list through sheer determination and seniority. As a goalkeeper, he never scored in his career, but he shone brightly when the moment called for it. In the European Cup final against Bayern Munchen in 1982, he was substituted in after the starting keeper got injured. Spink maintained a clean sheet on one of the largest stages in football.
He is also known for being one of the oldest goalkeepers to play the game at 39 years, 19 days. Spink clocked an impressive number of seasons at the club. Just as well, he played a lengthy and successful keeper career, which is why eighth on the list belongs to Spink.
9. Ian Taylor
- Nine seasons with AVFC
- 233 appearances
- 28 goals
Ian Taylor dedicated the majority of his 15-year career to Aston Villa. Buckling nine seasons under his belt, he came away with many team accomplishments and enjoyed the success of the 1990s Aston Villa team. Being a defensive midfielder, he scored on occasion but made it count when he did. Just as well he was crucial in transition situations.
Despite having only played nine seasons for the claret and blue, Taylor racked up an impressive 233 appearances and is considered to be one of the best midfielders of Aston Villa. Taylor’s rewarding and loyal career to Villa earns him the ninth spot of all time.
10. Tony Morley
- Four seasons with AVFC
- 170 appearances
- 34 goals
Tony Morley played for Villa alongside many other legends on this list during the early 1980s. His ability to cut through defenders, find open strikers, and finish around the net with power made him a force to be reckoned with. While only playing for four seasons at Aston Villa, he notched up an impressive 170 appearances and scored 34 goals for the club.
During his short tenure at Aston Villa, he was able to help the team achieve victory in the 1981 League Cup as well as the 1982 European Cup. Morley was transferred from the club in 1983 but frequently supports and appears in the Aston Villa podcast “Villa Old Stars.” Had Morley spent more time with the club, no doubt his production would have taken him far on this list.
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