You can rake through every club's past to find players you forgot turned out for them.
From Shkodran Mustafi at Everton to Frank Lampard at Swansea City, there are always players that have had long-forgotten or underwhelming spells at a club. Aston Villa, being a club with a revolving door of players since the start of Randy Lerner's ownership of the club, know this more than most. Looking back over the last 16 years of Villa's history, you can find surprising stars and duds so bad most forgot they ever played for the Villans. So to remind you, we've compiled a list of some here.
- 2020/21: Bjorn Engels
The Belgian centre back signed for Villa in the summer of 2019 and to say he had a rough first season in B6 is an understatement. Engels had a good start, seemingly forming a solid partnership with Tyrone Mings, but this faded away rapidly. By December 2019, Ezri Konsa stepped up to take his place and forced the Belgian to the bench. However, the kicker came in his disastrous performance at home to Tottenham where he gave away a penalty and misjudged a back pass to let Son Heung-Min score a last-gasp winner. He only registered one more Premier League appearance after this, a 4-0 drubbing away to Leicester City and picked up an Achilles injury during lockdown. Despite being fit for much of this season, Engels has dropped to fourth choice centre back and has not played a single minute of league football this season.
- 2019/20: Jota
The Spanish winger signed for Villa as their first signing back in the Premier League. He arrived from bitter rivals Birmingham City in a swap deal for Gary Gardner and was received well by the fans. Like Engels, he had a bright start and registered an assist in a 2-0 win against Everton. However, a hernia issue that had gone untreated from his time at Birmingham eventually required surgery in November 2019. This ruled him out for much of the season, meaning his most meaningful contribution for Villa was getting punched by Danny Drinkwater. Jota has since been released by Villa and has returned to Spain via Deportivo Alaves.
- 2018/19: Tom Carroll
The former Swansea midfielder was the definition of a panic signing. Villa had been working long and hard on January deadline day in 2019 on a deal for Leroy Fer. However, the deal collapsed at the last minute and a loan for Carroll was rushed through. He made his debut in a draw with Reading as a substitute and picked up an injury later that week. He returned two months later in a 4-0 win over Derby County but was soon injured again and he was sent home in April. In total, he played around half an hour of football for Villa.
- 2017/18: Chris Samba
Cult hero Chris Samba was only officially at Villa for the 2017/18 season, but he did spend the final two months of the previous season on trial at the club. He only made 12 league appearances for the Villans and managed to score one goal, coming in a defeat to Sheffield Wednesday. He was something of a utility man for Steve Bruce as the 6’4 giant was deployed as a striker on numerous occasions. He left Villa following their Play Off final defeat to Fulham and retired shortly after.
- 2016/17: Aaron Tshibola
Villa spent a fee of around £5 million to prise exciting midfielder Aaron Tshibola from Reading following their relegation to the Championship. He started well under Roberto Di Matteo, scoring his first goal in a 1-1 draw with Newcastle United. However, he quickly fell out of favour under Steve Bruce and was loaned out to Nottingham Forest. He left permanently in 2019 to play in Belgium and now turns out for Scottish outfit Kilmarnock.
- 2015/16: Kevin Toner
One of the few bright lights in an otherwise dismal 2015/16 season for Villa was the emergence of a promising young players. The most prominent stars were Jordan Lyden and Andre Green, but another was Irish defender Kevin Toner. Caretaker manager Eric Black threw him into the team after Villa’s relegation had been confirmed and he impressed during his four appearances. He was sent out on a series of unsuccessful loan spells by Di Matteo and Bruce before he returned to Ireland in 2018. He now plays in the Spanish third tier for CF La Nucia.
- 2014/15: Philippe Senderos
While he may be more famous for his spells with Arsenal and AC Milan, Swiss defender Senderos also had a short-lived spell in the Second City. He signed for Villa following a short-lived spell with Valencia and immediately looked impressive alongside Ron Vlaar. However, he was rushed back from a minor injury too quickly by his national team, causing it to become aggravated. He only made eight appearances in claret and blue with his only memorable moment being when he kicked out at Mario Balotelli in a match against Liverpool.
- 2013/14: Yacouba Sylla
The Malian international signed from Clermont in January 2013 and contributed absolutely nothing during his time at Villa. He made just 12 league starts during his 18-month spell in claret and blue, five of which came in the 2013/14 season. Sylla ended his spell with more yellow cards than goal contributions and has largely been forgotten. Now aged 30, he plays his club football in Morocco after a short spell with CFR Cluj.
- 2012/13: Brett Holman
Australian midfielder Holman was signed on a pre-contract by Alex McLeish in March 2012 following a fruitful spell with AZ Alkmaar. Despite making 27 league appearances under Paul Lambert, with 16 of them being starts, the Aussie was released at the end of the season. He contributed one goal and three assists in the Premier League and is now retired following a spell back home with Brisbane Roar.
- 2011/12: Enda Stevens
Current Sheffield United stalwart Enda Stevens was signed by Villa in 2011, although he stayed at Shamrock Rovers until January 2012. He didn’t make a single appearance under Alex McLeish, but he was given seven games by Paul Lambert the following season. Stevens was then sent out on a series of short loan spells with Notts County, Doncaster Rovers and Northampton Town before he was released in 2015. He then signed for Portsmouth before making the move to Sheffield.
- 2010/11: Michael Bradley
American hero Michael Bradley was such an underwhelming and forgettable signing that most Villa fans forgot he ever donned the claret and blue. He made just three substitute appearances in the Premier League, with his only start being in an FA Cup fifth round defeat to Manchester City. He now plays back in the MLS with FC Toronto, having signed for the Canadians in 2014.
- 2009/10: Habib Beye
Senegalese full-back Beye was signed for Villa on a bumper contract following his impressive displays for Newcastle in the 2008/09 season. However, he failed to break into the starting line-up due to the presence of Carlos Cuellar and Luke Young at the club. He made just nine league appearances for Villa and had his contract cancelled in February 2012. He had one final stint at Doncaster Rovers before retirement later that year.
- 2008/09: Stuart Taylor
Perennial third choice goalkeeper Stuart Taylor had one of the most comfortable yet underwhelming careers in Premier League history. He made just 12 league appearances across four seasons with Villa, none of which came in the 08/09 season due to the arrivals of Brad Friedel and Brad Guzan over the summer. However, he was inexplicably signed by Manchester City following his release by Villa and retired as a Premier League player in 2018 with Southampton.
- 2007/08: Wayne Routledge
Despite being a modern-day Swansea City legend, Wayne Routledge has actually played for eight other clubs across loans and permanent deals. Villa were his fifth employers after signing him from Tottenham in January 2008. He made just two league appearances for Villa however and later signed for Queens Park Rangers. The 36-year-old is still at Swansea after signing a one-year contract extension in August 2020.
- 2006/07: Phil Bardsley
Unfashionable full-back Phil Bardsley has been a Premier League for much of the last 18 years, with six months of that time being spent at Villa Park. The now 35-year-old was signed on loan from Manchester United in January 2007 and made 13 appearances for Martin O’Neill’s side. Despite Villa having the option to sign him permanently, the Irish manager refused and he returned to Old Trafford. He now plays for Burnley following spells at Sunderland and Stoke City.
- 2005/06: James Milner
While it is common knowledge that model professional James Milner had a very successful two-year spell with Villa between 2008 and 2010, it is often forgotten that he spent much of the 2005/06 season on loan with Villa as well. The then 20-year-old midfielder was used as a makeweight in a deal to send Nolberto Solano back to Newcastle and he performed well in claret and blue. He scored once and chipped in with eight assists in his 30 league appearances and both Milner and Villa were open to make the move permanent. However, he had another two years at Newcastle and it took a club record fee to bring him back to Birmingham in 2008. He has since won three Premier League titles as well as a Champions League across spells with Manchester City and Liverpool.