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Six Of The Best: A look at our top Premier League centre-backs
Our top central defenders from the Premier League era.
6th Jun 2014
Six Of The Best: A look at our top Premier League centre-backs


Here is a look at some top centre-backs from the Premier League era as we continue our summer feature series.

PAUL McGRATH

Never mind six of the best, Paul McGrath is regarded by many people as the best player in Villa's history.

This is the man who transformed the normally functional business of defending into an art form. He didn't merely nullify the threat of opposition strikers; he did it with a touch of panache.

Over the course of nearly seven years and 323 appearances, Macca oozed class and composure. No wonder Holte Enders held up a banner proclaiming "Paul McGrath - Pure Genius."

Yet it seemed manager Graham Taylor might have made a mistake when he signed the Republic of Ireland international for £425,000 in 1989. McGrath's first few months at Villa Park were overshadowed by his much-publicised off-the-field problems.

By the end of that season, though, the new boy had helped Villa to finish runners-up to Liverpool and his superlative displays won him worldwide acclaim.

In 1993, as Ron Atkinson's side had finished second to Manchester United in the inaugural Premier League campaign, Macca was Villa's Player of the Year for the fourth consecutive season and was also voted PFA Footballer of the Year

The following year, despite needing pain-killing injections in his shoulder, he helped Villa to League Cup glory with a 3-1 final victory over United; two years later, he was back at Wembley for an emphatic 3-0 victory over Leeds in the 1996 final.

Teale

SHAUN TEALE

Down-to-earth, rugged, tenacious, uncompromising, reliable. There's any number of adjectives to describe Shaun Teale.

The former painter and decorator certainly wasn't one of Villa's most glamorous signings when Ron Atkinson snapped him up from Bournemouth in 1991.

But Big Ron was adamant that his new signing would bring the sort of defensive stability which Villa badly needed.

The manager was spot on, Teale slotting in perfectly alongside Paul McGrath, making 51 league and cup appearances as Villa finished seventh in the final season of the old First Division.

Teale missed four games through suspension the following season but still helped Villa to runners-up spot behind Manchester United in the first Premier League campaign.

And less than 12 months later he was a member of the side who beat United 3-1 in the League Cup final at Wembley.

Injuries restricted his appearances in 1994-95 and after 181 appearances for the club he joined Tranmere Rovers.

Ugo Ehiogu

UGO EHIOGU

Ugo Ehiogu was virtually unknown when he joined Villa in 1991.

Nearly a decade later, when he moved on to Middlesbrough, he had made more than 300 appearances and was an England international.

Essentially, he was a classic example of Ron Atkinson's ability to identify enormous potential in young players, paying West Bromwich Albion just £45,000 for Ehiogu's services.

Even so, the Baggies also had their eye to business. A hefty sell-on clause was written into the contract, and when Ehiogu joined Middlesbrough for £8m in October 2000, around £3m went to Albion.

The quietly-spoken Londoner's Villa appearances were initially limited but he evolved into one of the most dependable central defenders in the country - and also hit 15 goals for the club.

He was a member of the side who won the League Cup, finished fourth in the league and reached the FA Cup semi-finals the following season, and also played 2000 FA Cup final.

Gary Cahill

GARY CAHILL

He has made his name since leaving Villa Park, evolving into one of the top central defenders in the country for both Chelsea and England.

But Gary Cahill learned his trade in claret and blue - and became an instant Holte End hero with his sensational overhead kick in the 3-1 Second City derby victory over our old rivals in April 2006.

That was the only senior goal for the young man from Sheffield who had graduated through Villa's academy and reserve teams, but it is one which remains etched on the memory of anyone who witnessed it.

It was also only his fourth appearance, Cahill having made his debut in the amazing League Cup-tie at Adams Park the previous September, when Villa trailed Wycombe Wanderers 3-1 at half-time but went on to win 8-3.

Cuellar

CARLOS CUELLAR

He could charm a snake, so taming Premier League strikers was no problem for Carlos Cuellar.

The man from Madrid, who once had a pet snake, established himself as a cult hero during his time in claret and blue.

Signed from Glasgow Rangers early in the 2008-09 season, the former Osasuna defender's rugged, uncompromising style quickly made him a favourite with supporters.

And even when he was unable to command a regular place at the heart of the defence, he underlined his value with some excellent performances at right-back.

After 120 games and three goals for Villa, Cuellar's contract was not renewed when it expired at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, but he was quickly snapped up by Sunderland - whose manager Martin O'Neill had also brought him to Villa.

Dunne

RICHARD DUNNE

Richard Dunne was at the centre of a Villa drama even before he kicked a ball for the club.

His transfer from Manchester City was completed only a few minutes before the August 2009 deadline, and it was the following day before the deal could be ratified.

It was certainly a shrewd piece of business by manager Martin O'Neill.

By the end of that season Villa had finished sixth in the Premier League for the third consecutive campaign, as well as playing at Wembley in both the League Cup final and FA Cup semi-final.

Apart from his commanding defensive displays, the Republic of Ireland international also weighed in with some crucial goals early in his Villa career.

He respectfully refused to celebrate when scoring against his former club City in a 1-1 draw, but was jubilant when he was on target in a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the following home game, when his defensive partner James Collins netted the winner.

Dunne made a total of 111 appearances, scoring four goals, before being released at the end of the 2011-12 campaign and subsequently joining QPR.

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