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The names that resonate with Aston Villa and Southampton

Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton will travel to Villa Park for the first time under the Austrian’s stewardship this Saturday to contest what has been built up as a relegation six pointer.

Mark Draper

Villa have been sucked into a relegation scrap after a run of fixtures that has seen Newcastle and Wolves amongst the current top six league sides face Dean Smith’s side in the recent months.

Southampton, along with Norwich and Watford have all started slowly this season, and with Everton and West Ham finding form, Villa could stake their claim for Premier League survival with a couple of wins against the three clubs occupying the relegation places below them.

In recent memory, Villa haven’t fared well against the Saints, having failed to register a single win over them at Villa Park this whole decade.

Recruiting well in the summer - Dean Smith - despite our league position has built a squad that is both financially sustainable and littered with quality.

Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett combined cost Villa £34 million in a market centre backs would later be flogged at £80 million a piece. The two mainstays in Smith’s side both came from the south coast, as Southampton saw potential in one, but naively let go of another.

Mings joined Southampton in 2001 as an eight-year-old, but was released in 2009 when the clubs youth budget was axed. After leaving Southampton, he was granted a football scholarship at a Somerset school he attended for two years before signing for non-league side Yate Town in Gloucestershire.

Targett also joined Southampton’s academy at the age of eight before moving up the ranks until on September 24 2013 he was named in a senior matchday squad for the first time. As the 2014 Premier League season came to an end he was then named in a top flight game for the first time, remaining on the bench as Southampton won 2–0 at home against Everton. All that before making his Premier League debut for the Saints only months later against QPR.

Let’s take a look at the players who like Mings and Targett have links to Southampton and Villa…

Chris Nicholl

Fellow defender in his time, Chris Nicholl, both domineering and no-nonsense was the last man you’d expect to be guilty of some spectacular and quite simply astonishing goals that sit in the Villa history books.

If there was ever a game that summed up Nicholl, it was against Leicester City in 1976 where the centre-half didn’t just score one or two, either three but incredibly four! All four! Two goals for either side on what must’ve been a charitable day for the future Saints man.

He was far from friendly a year later though, Nicholl slammed in a 35-yard effort as Villa finally beat Everton over two replays, captained by Nicholl on course to winning the League Cup in 1977.

Nicholl would eventually become a legend in Southampton as the backbone of one of the most successful Saints side in history.

Later returning to St Mary’s as a manager, he signed Lawrie McMenemy in June 1985. During his six seasons in charge, Southampton’s best result was in 1989/90 with a finish of seventh place achieved largely thanks to 20 goals from Matt Le Tissier.

Nicholl was responsible for bringing some of the clubs most successful players into the first team - including Le Tissier, Alan Shearer, Rod Wallace and Tim Flowers.

Kevin Phillips

‘Super’ Kevin Phillips went the other way from Nicholl as he joined David O’Leary’s Villa in 2005 and set his stall out for a goalscoring impact in his time at B6.

Four minutes into his debut against Bolton he scored in a 2-2 draw at Villa Park.

He also returned from injury to seal Villa’s first Premier League victory over Birmingham City in seven attempts - and ensure his cult hero status with the club.

He then began the 2006/07 season with Villa but eventually signed for West Bromwich Albion.

The former Saints striker was St Mary’s bound after Sunderland’s 2003 relegation from the Premier League. That meant Phillips had played under four Saints managers within a year.

Despite the frequent changes at the top, Phillips continued to score regularly in his partnership with new signing Peter Crouch.

Super Kev managed 10 league goals in 2004/05, but Sunderland would still finish at the bottom of the table and were relegated after 27 years in the top flight.

In June 2005, Phillips left Southampton after two years - and 22 league goals - to join Villa in a £1m deal.

Mark Draper

Signed by Brian Little from Leicester City for £3.25m, Mark Draper had four successful seasons at Aston Villa.

Memorably, Draper was on target on his debut in a famous 3-1 opening day victory over Manchester United. His creative midfield skills made him immensely popular with team-mates and supporters alike.

His performances helped Villa win the League Cup, reach an FA Cup semi-finals and finish fourth in the table in his debut season in claret and blue.

A season later, Draper held off new, record signing Sasa Curcic, who joined in a. Deal worth £4 million. He still made more appearances than his Serbian midfield rival, and was was again Villa’s main play-maker throughout a stuttered 1997/98 campaign, when Villa started with four straight defeats but eventually qualified for the UEFA Cup.

The turn of the millennium wouldn’t prove prosperous for Draper at Villa as he made just one substitute appearance before joining Spanish club Rayo Vallecano on loan in January.

In July of 2000, Draper signed for Glenn Hoddle’s Southampton. Whilst injuries marred the popular midfielders career on the coast, he scored his one and only goal for the club in a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough in February 2001.

Andy Townsend

Before joining Villa from Chelsea in the summer of 1993, Townsend had played in five semi-finals and had lost them all, before in the space of two years winning two medals with Villa.

The Republic of Ireland international had missed out with Southampton, Norwich City and Chelsea, before hitting the jackpot in 1994 when Villa beat Manchester United in the League Cup final - and captaining a Villa side who then beat Leeds United in the 1996 final.

After lifting Villa’s most recent peace of silverware, Townsend would miss six-months of action following a series of bookings and a red card in a 4-3 defeat by Wimbledon in what proved to be Ron Atkinson’s final match.

In typical Townsend fashion he would earn himself another two-match ban by being sent off in his comeback match…

Villa only narrowly avoided relegation in ’96, but the following campaign was the club’s most successful of the Premier League era.

A legend in B6, but only a junior on the south coast as he joined Southampton in January 1985 under Lawrie McMenemy for £35,000.

In fact he made his professional debut at home to Villa in April of that year as Southampton qualified for Europe.

Townsend was later managed by former Villan Chris Nicholl - but broke his leg in a pre-season friendly against his old club Weymouth in August 1986.

After proving his worth once more in Nicholl’s side despite injury woes, it was a surprise that Nicholl sold him to First Division rivals Norwich City in August 1988, for a fee of £300,000.

Peter Crouch

Strike partner and fellow, former Villan Peter Crouch moved in the opposite direction to Kevin Phillips, joining Southampton from Villa in a deal worth upwards of £3 million.

He spent two years at Villa, scoring on his home debut against Newcastle United in 2002.

Crouch failed to hold down a regular place in the Villa side in the following 2002/03 season, and left for Southampton in July 2004 having netted six goals in 37 top-flight games for Villa.

Upon the arrival of Harry Redknapp and the sale of James Beattie, Crouch grew in a squad in which for the most part he played second fiddle.

In red and white, he memorably converted a late winning penalty to knock former club Portsmouth out of the FA Cup.

His form for the Saints eventually resulted in him receiving his first England call up.

Crouch scored 16 goals in 33 appearances during the 2004/05 season but even his impressive contributions failed to save the club from Premier League relegation.

Villa will look to Wesley to get their goals in the run up to an important Christmas period which begins at home to Southampton on Saturday.