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‘Cult Heroes’ - Aston Villa's Tony Daley

Each week Simon Bunn looks back at a Premiership ‘Cult Hero.’ They may not necessarily have been the greatest performer on the pitch, but each and every one of them contained a certain insatiable something that endured them to their clubs fans. It may have been a haircut, a celebration, an outlandish fur coat or a cultural faux par, but whatever it was they were bloody memorable.

Tony Daley was my first ever football hero. He occupies many of my fondest memories as a child. Whenever I played ‘Wembley’ with mates I was always Tony Daley. I played football as a speedy winger, just like Tony Daley. My shirt number displayed a ‘7,’ just like Tony Daley. I even wanted a haircut, just like Tony Daley’s. Every time that the hairdresser would visit our home I would always bring her a different photograph of him and demand, ‘I want my hair like his.’ The hairdresser would always look in the direction of my mum for help, when trying to explain that it was impossible to replicate it. I could never accept it; I still can’t to this day. Today is his birthday.

Incredibly early into my youth I witnessed Tony Daley scoring a goal on ‘Midland’s News.’ He had dribbled past the opposition like they didn’t exist, and to top it off he was the “coolest” person that I had ever seen. I fell in love in an instant and became fully committed as a Villa fan.

Anthony Mark Daley was an Aston Villa apprentice, them being his hometown club. He made his senior debut for Villa as a 17 year old, before going on to provide the club with an admirable 10 season’s of service. Irritatingly injury plagued his career and stopped him reaching his full electrifying potential, but he still had plenty of highs wearing the claret and blue.

The most appearances that Daley made in a season for Villa was during 1989-90. It shouldn’t surprise you that Villa pushed Liverpool all the way in the title race that year, before eventually finishing as runners-up. He also finished as a runner-up during the 1992-93 season. His dazzling form earned him an England call up from ex Villa boss Graham Taylor. He gained 7 caps, including playing in England’s notorious 1992 European Championship campaign.

Arguably the highlight of Daley’s career is the prominent role he played in helping Villa beat Manchester United in the 1994 League Cup final, winning 3-1 under the guidance of ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson. At the end of that season Daley was sold to Wolves for £1.25m, I was paralysed with despair. It was Graham Taylor that had signed him, and he signed him once more for Watford. That man must have loved him as much as I do.

Tony Daley will forever remain a ‘Holte End’ hero. With his devastating pace and skill he was liquid cocaine for the eyes. He was the type of player that made full back’s look like confused geriatric’s, and made fan’s acceptable aroused every time that he touched the ball. It say’s a lot for a player when you are standing in a crowd, and all you can hear being muttered under people’s breath’s is, ‘give it to Daley.’

As well as his insatiable footballing gift, his spectacular goals, his long service to the club and his perfectly chaotic haircut, he remains a cult hero for possessing the skinniest legs that the Holte End has ever seen. As I child I would always make and send a card to Villa Park on his birthday, today as he turns 45, this is my birthday card for Tony Daley. My first football hero.

image: © Waywardeffort

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