Aston Villa are riding high under the tutelage of Martin O’Neill, a good crop of young English player have established the club in the higher echelons of the Premier League, but the last ten years has seen a number of player come and go at Villa Park, but who are the top five from the previous decade. Let’s find out.

5. Paul Merson: 1998 – 2002, 117 apps

He may not have played for much of the decade, he also had his troubles off the park, but the impact Paul Merson had on Aston Villa cannot be understated. Signed in the summer of 1998 for £6.75 million, he quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite, helping them reach the F.A. Cup Final in 2000. The goal below does nothing but demonstrate his immense talent.

4. James Milner: 2005-2006 & 2008 – present, 88 apps

A more recent edition to the list, James Milner has had two spells at Villa. First joining in 2005 for a season long loan spell from Newcastle United, he was one of the few players to gain any credit during a disappointing season for Villa. Newcastle then refused to sell the winger come midfielder and it wasn’t until 2008that a permanent transfer was completed. His versatility and work rate have ensured Milner is a key component in this Aston Villa side.

3. Gareth Barry: 1997 – 2009, 365 apps

Forget the way he left the club; remember the years he was there. An excellent passer of the ball, Barry’s great strength was his versatility which allowed him to play as a holding midfielder, attacking midfielder, or defender. Former club captain and youth graduate, he spent more than a decade with Villa. He is also seventh in the all-time list of appearances for the club.

2. Olof Mellberg: 2001 – 2008, 232 apps

A giant of a man and an excellent defender with some stunning facial growth. The big Swede signed from Racing Santander in 2001 and instantly became the rock the heart of the Villa defence for many years. His parting gift on his last game for Aston Villa, away to West Ham, he gave every single Villa fan at Upton Park either a home or an away shirt with his name and number on the back emblazoned with the message ‘Thanks 4 Your Support’.

1. Martin Laursen: 2004 – 2009, 91 apps.

An injury plagued career ensued at Villa, the £3 million signing from AC Milan in 2004, would prove to be key in Aston Villa’s chase for success. Initially, a frustrated figure, Laursen would soon prove himself as the number one defender at the club, an excellent scorer of goals and taking over the club captaincy from Barry in 2008, he was a natural leader. He was also voted the Supporters’ Player of the Year in 2008. Retiring from the game in May 2009, he gave an emotional speech at Aston Villa’s final game of the season at home to Newcastle United.

Do you agree with Martin Laursen as number one? Would you have Gareth Barry in the list given his exit from the club and does Paul Merson deserve to be on the list at all? Let us know by leaving a comment below.