Another international break seems to have crept up on us once again. So with no upcoming Villa game to talk about this weekend, now feels like a good time to jump into some Aston Villa related England talk. These upcoming England games are set to feature two Aston Villa stars, with Ollie Watkins getting a last minute call to join up with Villa captain - Tyrone Mings. There's also been some talk surrounding Ezri Konsa and Jacob Ramsey potentially pushing for a place sooner rather than later as well. If all goes well, then there's every chance that Aston Villa may have quite the presence in Gareth Southgate's 2022 World Cup squad this December.
With all this in mind, it got me thinking, what is Villa's best all time England XI? Aside from a poor few years in the Championship, it's always felt as if Villa players have featured heavily in England squads throughout the years. And although that is true, is it actually possible to make a decent starting line up out of those players? Let's find out. Note before we start that I'm only including players who received their England cap while playing for Aston Villa. Meaning that, for example; John Terry cannot be included in this list. Also, we're going to keep it simple and go with a basic 4-4-2 formation. Goalkeeper: Nigel Spink Shockingly, Nigel Spink only actually has 1 cap for England, and even that was only a 45 minute run out off the bench. However, the competition for goalkeepers isn't particularly strong, so Spink takes this one with relative ease. David James almost took this spot with a massive 53 caps for England, but only 3 of those came under his time at Aston Villa. Needless to say, if I'm picking a dream team, I'm probably going with the European Cup winner. Spoiler alert, this may become a theme throughout this team. Centre Back: Gareth Southgate The current England manager is also Aston Villa's most capped England player with a massive 42 caps between 1995 and 2001. No matter what you think of Southgate as a manager, he's definitely one of the first names on this team sheet and a player who could easily take the captain's armband as well.
Southgate's England career as a player might well be remembered more for that infamous penalty miss in the Euro '96 semi final than anything else. That however should never take away from his years of quality service for England. England's team in the late 90's is still considered one of the best teams this country has seen, and maybe the best England side never to win a trophy. Southgate was a massive presence in that team, let us not forget.
Centre Back: Tyrone Mings Picking the second centre back to join up with Southgate was actually quite easy, it's undoubtedly the current England regular - Tyrone Mings. Before the Mings haters begin to angrily tweet at me, answer me this; who else can you realistically put in there? Ugo Ehiogu was one of the first names to come to mind, but he only has 4 caps to his name with only one of them coming during his time at Villa. Not to mention that all of those appearances were from the bench.
Mings is the obvious answer. The Villa captain has 16 caps in his collection now, with hopefully more to come over this international period. This makes him the 5th most capped England player in Villa's history. Even though he only played in group stage matches, he was also part of the England squad that made it to the Euro 2020 Final, something no other England team has been able to lay claim to since 1966. The leadership from the back this team would have with a Mings/Southgate partnership would be colossal, not to mention that they clearly have a good relationship in real life! Fullbacks: Stephen Warnock & Earl Barrett The less time spent on fullbacks, the better. Villa really don't have a rich history when it comes to fullbacks that have played for England, which is evident by the two names I've had to fall back on! No disrespect intended to Warnock or Barrett, who were both serviceable players, but if anybody can think of better England fullbacks that have been called up while playing for Villa, please let me know! The closest I came to was maybe Ashley Young, but given he only played for England as an attacking player while at Villa, that felt like a copout, so I'm very interested to see if there's any names I've missed. Midfield: David Platt Jumping into the midfield now, and this is arguably the area of the pitch where Villa have had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to England players. The first name on the list for me has to be David Platt.
With 62 caps across his career, the majority of which coming during his time at Villa, 27 goals and 19 appearances as captain, David Platt is by far the most decorated England player to come out of Villa Park. I mentioned earlier that Southgate would be an ideal candidate for captain in this team, unfortunately for him though, I'd have to give it to Platt.
Midfield: Gareth Barry Going back to the amount of options available in midfield, and that is what made this second midfield option very tough. Having to miss out on names like Gordon Cowans and James Milner goes to show just how important Gareth Barry was for both Villa and England. Mr reliable may have not been the most flashy of players, but as we all know, he didn't need to be. In his 9 years playing for England, Barry was able to rack up 53 caps with over half of them coming from his time at Villa. One of the greatest midfield players to ever grace Villa Park and probably the type of player we could do with again today! Left Midfield: Ashley Young Another position which has a surprising amount of competition, Villa have had a decent collection of players to play in that left midfield/left winger role for England. In more recent times, we looked to former captain and hero, Jack Grealish, to show what he showed at Villa Park for years on the international stage. With that being said, I have to lean more towards Ashley Young here.
Young has a lot more caps than Grealish (yes Jack might overtake that, but not while representing his beloved Villa) and has 7 goals compared to Grealish's one single goal so far. Looking at the grizzled leader who covers many positions in today's Villa side, it's sometimes easy to forget the blistering winger that Young was. The only other player who could walk in ahead of Young is Tony Morely, however… Right Midfield: Tony Morely With way less options on the right hand side, I'm sticking Villa's European Cup winning hero right here. Tony Morely was versatile and played on both the left and right side of midfield for England, even though he only has 6 caps to his name. Although his England career never reached anywhere near the heights of his Villa one, there's no way the Villa legend can be left out of this side. I want to give a massive honourable mention to Tony Daley as well who just missed out on a spot here. Striker: Emile Heskey Emile Heskey used to get a bad rap from some Villa supporters, and unfairly so. With 62 caps over an 11 year period, Heskey was an England regular who was heavily relied on to be that classic hold up striker for his country. Although he wouldn't join Villa until towards the end of his England career, Heskey still carried the presence of an international leader during his days in Claret and Blue. Darius Vassell only narrowly misses out due to Heskey's fantastic record for England, admittedly for his performances rather than goals. Vassell did really well for England with 6 goals from 22 caps, all under Villa. However, I could not leave this man out.. Striker: Peter Withe It must be.. it is.. Peter Withe!
Keen historians may be quick to point to Withe's relatively small 11 caps for England with only a single goal to his name, but much like Tony Morely, I can't leave the legendary European Cup winner out of this side. C'mon let's be honest, if we're picking an England team from Villa players, he walks straight into that front line! If this odd mismatched dream team ever played in a final (that maybe features other club dream teams, I dunno!) we'd be praying for Morely and Withe to be on the pitch together, so here they are. I'm starting to think I should have included Gordon Cowans after all..
So there we have it, I hope you enjoyed this fun little piece of Villa related England content. Be sure to let me know your Villa/England XI as I'm sure somebody can think up a better one than mine! Thanks for reading and UTV!