Writer: Dan Jones
Date:Tuesday June 24 2008
There have been many captains at Villa Park during the Premiership years, but who has been the most inspiring? Who has lead by example? Who has been the clubs best captain during this period?
Kevin Richardson was brought to the club in 1991 by manager Ron Atkinson, Richardson and was captain during the inaugural Premiership season in which he helped the club finish 2nd behind Manchester United. It was also against Man Utd that Richardson lifted the League Cup in 1994 in a memorable 3-1 victory. In 1995 Richardson followed Atkinson to Coventry City.
Andy Townsend had signed for Villa in 1993 but it wasn't until the departure of Richardson in 1995, that he was given the opportunity to captain the side. Like Richardson before him, he lifted the League Cup, this time in 1996, beating Leeds Utd 3-0 in the final. Townsend left the club in August 1997 to join Middlesborough.
Gareth Southgate joined Villa from Crystal Palace in 1995 and was soon converted from midfield to centre back. He was made captain in 1997 following the transfer of Andy Townsend. Southgate helped the team to the top of the league under manager John Gregory in a season that ultimately ended in disappointment. He also captained the team that reached the FA Cup final in 2000, a game that would eventually be lost to Chelsea. Weeks later Southgate handed in a transfer request, and one year later (2001) like Townsend before him, he joined Middlesborough.
Paul Merson, ironically a signing from Middlesborough in 1998, was made captain following the departure of Gareth Southgate. Although he was only captain for the 2001-02 season, he had a good season, his skill and experience was obvious and he led by example, unfortunately he was later given a free transfer by manager Graham Taylor.
Olof Mellberg was a relatively unknown player when he was signed from Spanish side Racing Santander to replace Gareth Southgate in 2001. But in 2003, when David O'Leary was appointed manager he shocked everyone when he dropped Mellberg for the opening game of the season against newly promoted Portsmouth. However after that game Mellberg was recalled to the side and given the captains armband. Unlike some of the captains before him, Olly never actually won any silverware and never even played at Wembley for the club. But what fans liked about this captain was his commitment, professionalism and overall passion not just on the pitch but off it too.
Gareth Barry was appointed club captain following the arrival of Martin O'Neill, many believed this decision was only made in an attempt to convince him to stay at the club following interest from Tottenham. Barry had signed for the club in 1997. After many years in the first team, he was finally the club captain. His form under O'Neill earnt him a place back in the England team and interest from Liverpool.
So many great captains, there have been others such as Dion Dublin and a few stand-in captains like Nigel Reo-Coker, but these 6 skippers are the ones that stand out during the Premiership years. But who was the best? Our latest poll gives you the opportunity to have your say, which of the 6 players do you think made the best captain? vote now.
Date:Tuesday June 24 2008
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