Aston Villa's Greatest Strikers of All Time

Joshua HaywardContributor IAugust 26, 2013

Aston Villa's Greatest Strikers of All Time

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    With the money involved in today's football, goals are at a premium and the importance of having a top-class forward in your side has never been so important.

    New kid on the block Christian Benteke, who is seemingly scoring goals for fun, is the latest Aston Villa forward tipped to be one of the greats. He's a “cult hero” already, according to Villa boss Paul Lambert in an interview conducted with Aston Villa's Paul Brown

    So with that in mind, we take a look at Aston Villa's greatest strikers of all time.

Andy Gray

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    Andy Gray was a battering ram of a forward. So determined was he to find the back of the opposition's net that he was willing to throw himself into battle whenever the opportunity presented itself.

    Gray enjoyed two spells with Villa, initially signing for the Birmingham side from Dundee United in 1975 for a fee of £110,000.

    Though his debut away to Middlesbrough was one to forget, the Scot certainly made his mark in claret and blue on his home debut as he scored against Tottenham at Villa Park.

    That was a sign of things to come with the frontman achieving double figures in his first season, before contributing with a spectacular 29 goals during the following campaign as Villa finished fourth in the table and won the League Cup.

    Gray was subsequently voted PFA Footballer of the Year and Young Player of the year.

    The great Scot, who followed up a successful playing career in TV and radio punditry with the likes of Sky Sports, talkSPORT and Al Jazeera, scored 78 times during his time with Villa.

Billy Walker

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    Billy Walker is a pre-Second World War player, but his place in history as one of Villa's all-time greatest forwards is safe.

    With a relative lack of loyalty in football today, Walker was of a different ilk. He spent 18 years wearing claret and blue and, with 244 club goals to his name, still remains Villa's leading goalscorer despite passing away almost 50 years ago.

    Walker joined Villa in 1915 and stayed with the club until announcing his retirement in 1933. In that time, the striker clocked up an incredible 531 appearances for Villa—a record which stood until it was surpassed by Charlie Aitken.

    During his spell with Villa, Walker reached double figures in 12 consecutive seasons and hit a dozen hat-tricks.

    Throughout the 1920s, the Englishman was named captain of his club and country. 

Dwight Yorke

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    Dwight Yorke was discovered by Villa manager Graham Taylor whilst the team were on a pre-season tour in the Caribbean. Yorke featured in a game against Villa for his local side and, after impressing, was offered a trial.

    A 17-year-old Yorke impressed enough in Birmingham to earn himself a contract with the club.

    At first, despite his obvious talent, Yorke was held back by his slender frame and the manager's insistence on playing him on the right wing. But once he settled into life in England and developed more, there was simply no stopping the Trinidadian.

    Forever playing with a smile on his face, the flamboyant forward spent nine years with Villa, scoring 98 goals in the process.

    Season after season, Yorke impressed and subsequently earned a high-profile move to Manchester United, but will go down in history as one of the Villa greats.

Peter McParland

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    Peter McParland will always be remembered for the part he played in Villa's 1957 FA Cup triumph over hot favourites Manchester United.

    The Northern Ireland international scored two second-half goals to give his side the win in what was one of the biggest shocks of the time, especially considering seeing as Villa had failed to collect a piece of silverware in the preceding 37 years.

    McParland will also be remembered for another incident in the same game. After just six minutes, he clashed with Manchester United goalkeeper Ray Wood, leaving the Red Devils custodian unconscious with a broken cheekbone.

    During a ten-year spell with the club, McParland made 341 appearances and scored 121 goals.

Gabriel Agbonlahor

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    Though not the most talented of strikers Villa have ever had, Agbonlahor will forever be remembered as a Villa great because he has given his footballing life to the club he supported as a boy.

    The English forward started his career as a schoolboy and has since stated that Villa Park is the place where he'd like to hang his boots up. Something of a rarity in times where footballers often give their services to the highest bidder.

    The pacy Agbonlahor has scored a number of high-profile goals for Villa, often finding the net against local rivals Birmingham City which only added to his status as a club legend.

    During the 2012/13 season, Agbonlahor made Villa history by surpassing Dwight Yorke's Premier League goal tally of 60 during Villa's 6-1 demolition of Sunderland at Villa Park.

Johnny Dixon

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    Johnny Dixon, who initially enquired about a trial with Aston Villa simply because he liked their name, spent his entire professional career as a footballer with the club. 

    Dixon was the last man to lift the FA Cup as Aston Villa captain, back in 1957, but, due to a battle with Alzheimer's disease before he passed away in 2009, was unable to remember his greatest triumph.

    However, a few years before his death, he was able to recall the event, admitting he almost broke down in tears before the full-time whistle at the thought of lifting the trophy.

    As reported on AVFC's website, Dixon said:

    It was fantastic when I went up to collect the Cup. The Queen handed me the Cup and I turned away from her to hold it up. To do something like that just once in a lifetime is tremendous and I will always be grateful for that.

Thomas "Pongo" Waring

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    Pongo Waring is another pre-Second World War player to feature on the list of Aston Villa's greatest strikers of all time.

    The name "Pongo" was given to him because of a cartoon character during that era.

    With a strike rate of three goals every four games, Waring is in for a shout of the greatest striker Villa have ever had.

    The Birkenhead-born forward started his career with Tranmere Rovers and, after an impressive spell, then signed for Villa ahead of Arsenal, Manchester United and Bolton.

    Finding the net 159 times in 216 games for Villa during a seven year spell, including a hat-trick against arch rivals Birmingham City on his debut, it was no wonder that Waring became a fan-favourite at Villa Park.

Peter Withe

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    Much-travelled striker Peter Withe had two spells with Aston Villa, although he never actually turned out for the club during his second spell towards the end of his career.

    But that doesn't matter, because it was what he did during his first five years with the club that really matter.

    The Liverpool-born forward joined Villa in 1980 and was one of the key figures during Villa's successful 1980/81 league winning season. The 29-year-old striker found the net 20 times in 36 appearances throughout that season, finishing joint-top goalscorer with Tottenham's Steve Archibald.

    Villa subsequently qualified for the European Cup and it was in that competition that Withe cemented himself as a Villa hero.

    During the final against Bayern Munich in Rotterdam on the May 26, 1982, Withe proved to be the game's only goalscorer—although it was one of the scrappiest finishes you're likely to see—as Villa lifted the trophy for the first and only time in their history.

    "Shaw, Williams, prepared to venture down the left. There’s a good ball in for Tony Morley. Oh, it must be... It is... Peter Withe!"