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Saunders: Ipswich 40-yarder was amazing but I preferred tap-ins!

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Saunders: Ipswich 40-yarder was amazing but I preferred tap-ins!


When Villa supporters recall the goals of Dean Saunders, a spectacular 40-yard dipping volley against this weekend's opponents Ipswich Town in February 1993 immediately springs to mind.

Indeed, it was voted No. 2 in the DVD of Villa's 100 Greatest Premier League goals, beaten only by Dalian Atkinson's incredible solo effort against Wimbledon earlier that season.

But Deano begs to differ. He much prefers the dozens of tap-ins he scored during a career which spanned nine British clubs plus Galatasaray of Istanbul.

"Villa fans remember the one against Ipswich more than any other goal," he says.

"But for me, while those goals look great on television and feel great, sometimes the ball can go over the bar or 20 yards wide.

"Most of my bread and butter goals were inside the six-yard box. I enjoyed out-thinking people and getting across defenders. I loved anticipating things and having the technique to put the chances away."

Deano never had much trouble in that respect, establishing himself as a prolific marksman wherever he played.

His haul for Villa was 49 over the course of three campaigns in which he was involved in a championship bid, a cup triumph and a relegation battle.

The figure would have been a nice round half century, but an overhead kick against Sheffield United during his first season at Villa Park was later awarded by the Dubious Goals Panel as a Chris Kamara own goal.

But if he enjoyed all of his goals, from whatever range, which one did he enjoy most for Villa?

"The goal that no-one probably remembers but is my favourite, was at Sheffield Wednesday," he says.

"Ian Taylor was a great midfielder and in training we used to take the mickey out of him because whenever he got in good positions he used to scuff the ball across the goal.

"He got into a great position at Hillsborough and I anticipated what he was going to do - I ran to the far post and, sure enough, the ball came to me and I tapped it in.

"I got more pleasure from that than striking shots into the top corner, because anticipation is 90 per cent of a striker's job. The special goals happen once in a blue moon.

"I really enjoyed my time at Villa and there was always something happening. I was there for three seasons but I felt I crammed about 10 years in!

"It's a great club and I always love going back there."

Without doubt, the biggest influence on Saunders' time with Villa was the man who signed him - even if Ron Atkinson thought he could do a better job than the man who had cost a couple of million!

"It was brilliant to play for Ron," says Deano. "He was so funny and so sharp - and he always had the last word.

"He also thought he was the best player at the club, which was hilarious.

"Once, I was having treatment because I'd cut my head and Ron came into the treatment room before going out training, a sausage sandwich in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.

"He never spoke to injured players because he said they were no use to the club, so when I joked about him wasting his time going outside, he ignored me and spoke to me through our physio, Jim Walker.

"I told Jim to tell him I'd got injured putting my head in to score in the six-yard box.

"Ron then said to Jim: 'I can't remember him putting his head in.'

"I responded: 'If that's how he feels, he should sell me.'

"Ron said to Jim: 'He's been for sale for 12 months and there are no takers!'

"He still wouldn't talk to me but he went out on to the pitch, played on the right wing, and was brilliant!

"In the dressing room before a game, he always talked about all-out attack, that's all he thought about - how well we could play and how many we could score. He was a pleasure to play for, a great manager."

Villa head into the League Cup semi against Bradford City next week with hopes of a Wembley final in their minds.

Saunders admits the highlight of his time in claret and blue was the 1994 showpiece, when Villa beat Manchester United 3-1 and he scored twice.

It was a result which ultimately prevented United from a treble triumph, because they went on to become Premier League champions and FA Cup-winners, although Deano admits there were a few doubters in the camp when Atkinson announced the Wembley line-up.

"We were struggling a bit in the league at the time," he says. "When Ron told us who was playing, we thought: 'What kind of team is that?' Graham Fenton, who had hardly played all season, was given the job of man-marking Paul Ince, while I was up front on my own with Dalian Atkinson on the right and Tony Daley on the left.

"But it worked. I got two of our goals - and I reckon I only touched the ball twice!

"After the match, we did a lap of honour with the cup and there was a big divot in the pitch. I picked up a big lump of turf and threw it over the fence towards our supporters. I later had a letter from a fan who had put it in his garden!

"He puts fertiliser on it and cuts it - it's a little strip of Wembley in his garden."

Pick up match tickets for the FA Cup clash with Ipswich.




AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 3rd January 2013
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