Monday 5 December 2016

Dalian Atkinson profile: 'Old fashioned' No 10 who won the hearts of Villa fans with passionate displays

Published 15/08/2016 | 12:01

Aston Villa's Dalian Atkinson celebrates after scoring for Villa in 1992
Aston Villa's Dalian Atkinson celebrates after scoring for Villa in 1992

Dalian Atkinson was the original Aston Villa number 10 of modern football.

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Stylish, skilful and temperamental, he was considered by many Villa fans to be the mastermind of their 1994 Coca-Cola Cup 3-1 win over Manchester United, an underdog story played out at Wembley Stadium which began with Atkinson opening the scoring.

He would net 36 goals in 114 appearances for the Claret and Blues - despite suffering injury problems which blighted his four seasons at the club.

A journeyman centre-forward, he would go on to play in minor leagues across the world before retiring in South Korea in 2001.

Atkinson will be best remembered by older Match Of The Day viewers for his goal of the season against Wimbledon in October 1992, picking the ball up well inside his own half before gliding past a stream of Dons defenders and chipping goalkeeper Hans Segers from 25 yards.

The goal - and the celebration with a member of the crowd holding an umbrella - became the stuff of Villa legend, long after Atkinson was sold to Fenerbahce three seasons later.

It was a credit to his importance to the side that then-manager Ron Atkinson attributed his namesake's injury in the Premiership's maiden season to the reason why Villa tailed off and finished second to Manchester United.

The phrase "Good touch for a big lad" - a lift from the commentators' handbook - was made for Shrewsbury-born Atkinson, who also played for Manchester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town.

Built like a lumberjack but with a low centre of gravity, he would drift in and out of games but would always be poised should an opportunity fall his way.

He formed a deadly - if brief - partnership with Welsh striker Dean Saunders, and was part of a team during Villa's Premiership "golden age" that also included defender Paul McGrath, midfielders Kevin Richardson and Ray Houghton, and goalkeeper Mark Bosnich. Indeed Atkinson was sold before Jack Grealish, Villa's latest prodigy, was born.

And like Grealish, he too had an affinity with the fans - something that will undoubtedly be rekindled in songs from the terraces at Villa Park when the club hosts Huddersfield Town in the Championship on Tuesday evening.

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