Flashback 1992-93: Dalian's wonder strike and title odds slashed
Paper: Birmingham Post
Wimbledon 2 Aston Villa 3
At first glance another double from Dean Saunders earned the Aston Villa plaudits in Saturday's 3-2 win at Wimbledon but it was a stunning goal from Dalian Atkinson the sparse crowd will remember.
Sadly less than 7,000 were present to see Atkinson's piece of de resistance which, with the Premier League programme just seven weeks old, has probably made already made the plethora of Goal of the Season competitions bound to accompany its conclusion meaningless.
Happily, though, more than 6 million viewers were able to watch the goal on good old terrestrial-based BBC's Match of the Day although its execution in terms of English football's familiar fare seemed to belong to another planet.
Villa's early superiority, courtesy of two Saunders goals in the first half hour, was under threat as Wimbledon looked likely to add to Paul Miller's 34th minute reply when Atkinson picked up the ball in his own half with 13 minutes remaining.
The former Sheffield Wednesday striker set off on a mazy run zig zagging past three opponents while Saunders, unmarked on his right, expected a pass to send him through on goal.
But Atkinson ignored that option and finally delivered an inch perfect chip over Hans Segers for a memorable individual goal.
Meanwhile back in the studio pundits Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen enthused about it while Villa's assistant manager Jim Barron said: "It was an absolutely fantastic goal - as good as you will ever see."
And a far less comfortable Wimbledon steward, more used to the shenanigans of football's Mr Video Nasty, the suspended Vinny Jones, was equally impressed by Atkinson's positive contribution to the games image.
"I don't mind standing in the rain to watch stuff like that," he told Barron.
For the record Andrew Clarke added a second for Wimbledon in injury time - an annoying irrelevance to Villa that only served to make the result look closer than it was.
Afterwards Villa manager Ron Atkinson was particularly cautious although there was ample evidence at Selhurst Park why the odds against Villa becoming the first Premier League champions have shortened.
After his side had extended their unbeaten run to six games and collected their third away win of the campaign he stated the obvious: "There is a long way to go - a million miles for anybody."
He did say, though, that he was pleased to watch his side when they were in form.
There was confidence flowing through the team and some of their passing movements, particularly in the first half hour, were a delight.
Villa are to be commended for playing the game the Atkinson way - and succeding with style.
Aston Villa were 50-1 to win the title at the start of the season, now they're 5-1 with just a quarter of the games gone - and even that looks tasty.
The bookies are rarely wrong but they have been surprised by Ron Atkinson this season - and so have most people who know him.
Big Ron has changed, trading in his gold for steel if you like, and there's every chance the new style will win the first Premier League title for Villa.
Ron has always been a purist. The game had to be played in the right way, the ball passed from the back to the front, played to feet, every goal 'footballed'.
His teams were a credit to the game and a joy to watch, but it cost Ron a lot...his job at Manchester United, perhaps, and the League title.
He's never won a Championship, yet all the signs are that this Villa side can put the record straight.
They are the form team, with 16 points from the last 18 - and 16 goals scored. Ron has put together a good side, but one that's quite different from his teams of the past.
A mixture of skill and strength, they are less naive and more ruthless.
It's almost as if he's finally got to grips with the reality of the modern game - that you need players who can go to Wimbledon and Crystal Palace and handle the aggro.
There was no better example than Villa winning at Wimbledon on Saturday, coping with the physical side and scoring goals, too.
Not many Ron Atkinson sides from that past could have done that.
It's the new blend - the grafters like Ray Houghton, and people who battle and bite, like Kevin Richardson, Shaun Teale and Steve Staunton.
What must delight Ron is that the team are no less attractive.
In fact, it's a bit like a throwback to the Sixties when teams took you on, simply trying to score more goals than you.
There's another change, too, a readiness to hit the ball early into space for Dean Saunders and Dalian Atkinson, something Big Ron's sides rarely did.
In fact, Saunders can be the difference between Villa winning a Cup and actually taking the title this season.
I'm an unashamed fan of the little Welshman and can only think that Liverpool sold him, and not Ian Rush, because of the age factor.
They would have got nowhere near the same amount of money for Rush, but what a great piece of business for Villa.
In my view Saunders is the complete modern striker, busy, quick and with a one-track mind - scoring goals.
He got them in a bad team at Derby and he got them at Liverpool.
Yet he still needed the right partner and now, after 15 months with Rush and a partnership that did not work, he must think it's his birthday every day with Dalian Atkinson providing an admirable foil.
Dalian is a bulldozer with a fair degree of skill, and Saunders will love the knockdowns and other bits and pieces which he gets as a result.
It could all add up to the title for Big Ron - and he deserves it after some near misses.
I feel his modern apprenticeship started at Sheffield Wednesday, where he didn't have too much money.
Getting the sack at Manchester United did him no harm at all, and he could prove it by lifting the Championship this season.
Paper: Sunday Mercury
Aston Villa's midfield ace Garry Parker was "chuffed to bits" last night after being called into the England squad for the World Cup qualifier with Norwich at Wembley on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old midfielder was promoted from the stand-by list after Glasgow Rangers' Trevor Steven pulled out with hamstring trouble.
Parker said: "Obviosuly I'm delighted to have got this chance.
"I've been happy with my form at Villa this season and hopefully I will get on at Wembley and show what I can do.
"But at the same time I feel some sympathy for Trevor."
England manager Graham Taylor said: "Garry is a good passer of the ball and has been playing really well."
There was still no indication that Paul Gascoigne would be in the starting line-up.
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