AVILLAFAN XI (1990-Present) – Strikers
Here we go, the final two names to round off our team from 1990 to present based on the votes and opinions of the avillafan.com readers.
As with the centre backs and central midfielders, we found it hard to decide as to how to best divide the strikers up, so we again decided to leave this as an open vote off your comments.
For the final time, we remind you that it’s a traditional 4-4-2 to do this the traditional way!
Special mentions to Dalian Atkinson, Dean Saunders, Dion Dublin, Juan Pablo Angel and John Carew amongst others who was mentioned several times.
However, the two standout names that repeatedly came up and were clear winners were Dwight Yorke and Christian Benteke.
D.O.B.: 3rd November 1971
Nationality: Trinidad and Tobago
Appearances – 286 (Competitive)
Goals – 97
Dwight Yorke was first discovered by manager Graham Taylor on a tour of the West Indies in 1989.
Despite the chance meeting as a result of the tour, Yorke impressed in a friendly match against Aston Villa and he was as subsequently offered a trial at Villa.
Yorke continued to impress and as a result, he was awarded a permanent contract.
Yorke made his First Division debut for Aston Villa against Crystal Palace on 24 March 1990 in a 1-0 defeat.
Earlier in his Villa career, Yorke was played wide on the right and gradually began to used more as a striker as the seasons passed.
After Atkinson and Saunders
After the departures of Dalian Atkinson and Dean Saunders, Yorke would begin to show his ability to lead the line and from the 1995-1996 season, he quickly established himself as one of the Premier League’s top strikers.
Yorke was a key member of the Villa team that reached the League Cup Final in 1996.
Villa took on a strong Leeds United side and would go on to dominate, winning 3-0 with Yorke scoring the final goal.
Yorke started the following season well and he scored a hat-trick early on against Newcastle United who would go on to win the game 4-3.
However, Newcastle was leading 3–1 at half-time and Aston Villa were down to ten men. Yorke continued to lead the line with determination and character.
The hat-trick was a measure of the ability he had and it led to rave reviews both from journalists and pundits from across the sports media platform.
Yorke even thought he had scored a fourth goal to equalise, but unfortunately, he was judged to be offside.
Yorke’s pace, skill and coolness on the ball made him one of the hottest properties in the Premier League and his consistency led to links to teams fighting for the title.
Some of the personal achievements by Yorke included being the last ever Villa player to score in front of the old Holte End before it was adapted to meet seating requirements.
He would score both goals in a 2–1 victory over Liverpool on the final day of the 1993–94 season.
He would also go on to be Villa’s highest scorer in the Premier League era which stood until Gabriel Agbonlahor broke the record in 2013.
The circumstances of Yorke’s departure from Aston Villa were controversial.
Aston Villa manager, John Gregory made it known that the club did not want to sell Yorke with Manchester United the destination. This was unless they were prepared to exchange their striker Andy Cole.
Yorke then approached Gregory to state that he wanted to leave the club, which led to an infamous line from Gregory as what he felt like doing at that moment. It was clear the end was coming for Yorke’s time at Villa Park.
Yorke played for Villa on the opening day of the season at Everton on 15 August 1998 and in a game that he appeared to show little fight or interest, it was clear there was no option but to sell him and he was subsequently transferred to Manchester United for £12.6 million on 20 August 1998.
Yorke went on to score 123 goals in the Premier League which was a record for a non-European player which was not broken until Sergio Agüero in 2017.
D.O.B: 3rd December 1990
Appearances – 101 (Competitive)
Goals – 49 Assists – 12
Christian Benteke signed for Aston Villa on the day of the transfer window from KRC Genk. The fee was in the region of £7 million. At the time it was seen as a random signing with Benteke being relatively unknown.
A few weeks later, Benteke scored on his debut for in a 2–0 win at home to Swansea City. Coming on as a substitute, he quickly made an impact, lifting a wayward back pass over the keeper and tapped the ball in. Even though it was an appearance as a substitute, his debut was impressive and he was described as “unplayable” by manager Paul Lambert.
Over the next few months, he continued his good start and scored a flurry of goals including against Norwich City and Reading in the league and a brace against Swindon Town in the League Cup, before another against Norwich City in a League Cup win.
In December, came one of the best performances of Benteke’s time at Villa as they travelled to Anfield and beat Liverpool 3–1. Benteke scored twice and assisted Andi Weimann. His two goals came in the form of a long-range shot and a solo run through the heart of the defence before finishing in style.
The performance caught the eye of many and a week later the papers were reporting a strong interest from Tottenham Hotspur, led by manager André Villas-Boas.
Benteke opened 2013 with a goal from the penalty spot in a 2-2 draw at Swansea and he notched his 10th goal of the season with a rasping long-range strike against West Bromwich Albion in a 2–2.
Pundits continued to laud the impact the Belgian striker had made for Aston Villa and other clubs continued to be linked. He continued his fine scoring form against Newcastle United, followed by a double in a 3-3 draw with Everton.
A penalty in a 2–1 victory against West Ham United marked Benteke’s 15th goal of the season. It also meant he had scored 6 goals in 5 games.
Benteke’s goal in a 2–1 victory at Reading, marked the club’s 1,000th goal in the Premier League since it’s formation.
Despite the great season he had, Benteke and Villa were looking precariously close to the relegation zone. He scored a huge winner in a 3-2 win over QPR and then scored the third goal to seal a 3–1 win against relegation rivals Stoke City.
Benteke was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year. However, he would eventually lose out to Gareth Bale who excelled for Tottenham Hotspur.
Benteke scored his first hat-trick for Aston Villa in a 6–1 win over Sunderland. The hat-trick Dwight Yorke’s record broken for most Premier League goals in a season (18) by an Aston Villa player and on a personal level, he broke the 20 goal mark in all competitions, which hadn’t been done since 2003–04, by Juan Pablo Angel.
Benteke would also score in a loss to Chelsea but would find himself sent off in the second half meaning he would miss the final game of the season.
Benteke’s impact led to further speculation about his future and he submitted a transfer request. However, this was withdrawn following talks with Paul Lambert.
An impressive pre-season saw him total 7 goals as he looked ready to repeat the exploits of his debut season.
Benteke scored twice on the opening day of the 2013-2014 season in a 3–1 win against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. The following week he scored in a defeat to Chelsea and in the League Cup against Rotherham United 3–0.
After a goal against Newcastle United, Benteke picked up an injury which forced him off early against Norwich City. Initial reports were that he would miss around 6 weeks.
The next stage of the season was one of frustration as his form dipped and several injuries started a goal drought of 12 games.
Benteke ended it against Arsenal in January and then followed this up in back-to-back games against Liverpool (2-2) and West Bromwich Albion, which was a huge 4–3 victory.
The start of March saw another inspired performance as he scored a superb overhead kick and a powerful header, in an impressive 4–1 home win against Norwich City. Unfortunately, in early April, Benteke suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while training and was ruled out for at least six months. He would miss both the remainder of the season and unfortunately the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Benteke returned in early November 2014, but the return wasn’t what he and the Villa fans would have hoped for as he was given a straight red card against in a game against Tottenham Hotspur.
However, in his second goal of the season, he scored with an impressive strike against Manchester United in a 1–1 draw at Villa Park.
It took him until early March to score his next goal, a 94th-minute penalty in a local derby against rivals West Bromwich Albion.
The tail end of the season saw him catch alight again. In April, Benteke scored his second Premier League hat-trick in a 3–3 draw with Queens Park Rangers which would prove to be massive in sparking Villa to safety.
Then came another big game in maintaining his status as a big striker as he equalised to help Villa come from behind to defeat Liverpool at Wembley and reach the 2015 FA Cup Final. He caused trouble throughout the game and was involved in the initial move that led to Fabian Delph’s winner.
His final game for Villa would be hugely disappointing as they would lose 4-0 in the FA Cup final against Arsenal.
During the summer he moved to Liverpool with his release clause met at around £32.5 million.
The Belgian will always be remembered for his power and strength and his eye for goal, scoring some eye-catching goals for his stature.
To date, Christian Benteke has been capped 37 times for Belgium, scoring 15 goals and providing 3 assists.