The 7 Greatest Players in Aston Villa History

Aston Villa v Brentford FC - Premier League
Aston Villa v Brentford FC - Premier League / Visionhaus/GettyImages
1 of 2

Aston Villa. One word, a hundred years of footballing history written in claret and blue. Legends have worn the Villa shirt, but who are the true greats? Let's dive in and salute the Magnificent Seven, the men who made Villa Park a place of pilgrimage.

Paul McGrath

MAN. CITY V VILLA / Mark Thompson/GettyImages

Paul McGrath's journey to footballing greatness was anything but smooth. Born in Middlesex to an Irish mother and a Nigerian father, his early life was one of significant challenges. Abandoned by his father, he was raised in a series of Dublin orphanages, a world away from the glamour of Premier League football.

But on those orphanage pitches, McGrath's talent started to shine. Manchester United scouted him, but it was at Aston Villa where 'God' was born. Despite battling severe knee problems and a struggle with alcoholism, McGrath's defensive performances defied belief.

His ability to play through pain and shut down the best strikers in the world earned him the PFA Players' Player of the Year award in 1993. A true warrior on and off the pitch, his name still echoes through Villa Park.

Gordon Cowans

Gordon Cowans
Gordan Cowans Spurs v Aston Villa 1981 / Getty Images/GettyImages

Gordon 'Sid' Cowans is a name etched into Villa folklore. This lad had feet like a ballet dancer and a footballing brain to match. His vision, his passing range – it was like watching an artist at work. He stuck with Villa through thick and thin, a huge part of that glorious 1982 European Cup campaign.

His England career might've deserved a bit more of a spotlight, but any Villa fan will tell you Sid was a cut above. He wasn't just a player either; he was a coach, the heartbeat of the club for decades.

Charlie Aitken

Charlie Aitken
Portrait of Charlie Aitken, Aston Villa F.C. / Central Press/GettyImages

No one’s played more games for Aston Villa than Charlie Aitken, and it's unlikely anyone ever will. Seventeen years of pure commitment, from the lower divisions right up to a League Cup winner's medal in '75. Aitken was a speed demon at the back, a rock-solid defender, and the kind of captain who inspired his teammates through sheer grit.

A proud Scotsman, he found his home at Villa Park, even adding a touch of New York Cosmos flair to his career alongside the likes of Pele. But Charlie Aitken will always be a claret and blue hero.

Peter Withe

David Needham, Peter Withe
Peter Withe / Getty Images/GettyImages

Some strikers score goals; Peter Withe scored important goals. This journeyman forward found his groove at Aston Villa, and the peak was that winner in the '82 European Cup final.

Withe spearheaded Villa's attack in their golden age, a legend for sending Bayern Munich packing on the biggest stage of all. A taste of the 1982 World Cup with England was the icing on the cake, but Withe's legacy was built at Villa.