Despite having two wins so far in this young season, the facet of Aston Villa's play that has been most criticized so far has been the goal-scoring and the play of the forwards. While Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann both played well against Hull City, neither were at their best in the previous two Premier League games. The forward line will be helped massively by the recovery of Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak, but while we wait, lets take a look at the life and career of a man who would probably help Villa score more were he in his playing career now.
William "Billy" Walker was born October 29, 1897 in Wednesbury, England. He joined Aston Villa in 1914 and eventually made his senior debut in January 1920, where he scored two goals against Queens Park Rangers. Over the course of his 15-year career, he would score 244 goals. Harry Hampton scored more league goals than Walker, but when you factor in the FA Cup and other cup competitions, Billy Walker is Aston Villa's All-Time Leading Scorer.
In his first season at the club, Walker scored 13 goals in 21 total appearances between the league and the FA Cup. His five goals in six FA Cup matches helped Aston Villa reach the final, where they beat Huddersfield Town 1-0.
Walker's most prolific season was the next year. He scored 30 goals in 42 games in 1920-21. Villa scored 63 goals in the league that year and 26 came from Billy Walker.
While Villa never matched the team success that they did in Walker's first season (they finished runners-up in the league in 1930-31 and 32-33 and lost in the FA Cup final in 1924), that certainly wasn't Walker's fault. In his remaining 13 seasons in Claret and Blue, Walker scored (*clears throat*) 27, 23, 17, 25, 22, 16, 11, 19, 11, 16, 9, 5 and 0 goals. (He played just five matches in that last season.) Walker retired in 1933 as Aston Villa's record goal-scorer and still holds that record today.
Walker also made 18 appearances for England, scoring nine goals in that time. Had England not declined to participate in the first World Cup in 1930, Walker maybe might have made some appearances in Uruguay.
Walker then went into management in 1933 and helped steer Sheffield Wednesday away from relegation. Villa passed up the chance to make Walker their manager in 1934, and Walker and Wednesday would go and win the FA Cup in 1935. After Wednesday were relegated in 1937, Walked resigned and had a short stint as manager at Chelmsford City. That didn't last long, but he was later hired as Nottingham Forest manager in 1939. Walker would be in charge at Forest from 1939 to 1960, which included another FA Cup win in 1959, where they beat Aston Villa in the semifinals.
Despite supposedly being passed over for the Villa managerial position, Walker seemed to still love his old club as he said of his Forest team: "I knew that our lads were playing in the grand Aston Villa manner in which I had been brought up."
In his memoirs, Walker spoke highly of Villa, saying: "The playing years with Aston Villa were the happiest of my whole life. About Villa Park itself hung an aura that seems almost to be visible. Most certainly it is there to be felt and I know of no other ground that has the same effect on one. Almost it seems to be peopled by ghosts - amiable ghosts whose job it is to breathe the great Villa spirit into generation after generation of ambitious youngsters who pass through the great gates to achieve a life's ambition; to wear the famous claret and blue of the great club."
Walker died in 1964, but he has left behind a record that will be tough to break.
In doing research for this piece, I came across a Sporcle quiz about the teams against which Walker scored his goals. See if you can guess them all: http://www.sporcle.com/games/asterix/aston-villas-top-scorer