Shropshire Stars: Dalian Atkinson
In the first of a series of features highlighting footballers who have come through the Shropshire FA and gone on to achieve stardom, we take a look at the career of Dalian Atkinson.
Shrewsbury-born Dalian Atkinson's international career may not have matched the prolific heights he reached at club level.
But the former Wrockwardine Wood School pupil would have added dozens of first team England caps to his solitary B team appearance if he had been playing today. That is the view of his former manager – and current Shropshire Star columnist – Ron Atkinson.
Big Ron was the striker's boss for five years overall, first at Sheffield Wednesday and then at Aston Villa, where the player made arguably his biggest impact.
Player and coach won the League Cup together at the club in 1994 and also guided Villa to a second-place finish in the Premier League's inaugural season in 1992-93.
Despite his exploits in claret and blue though, he remained behind a host of world-class English goalscorers in the Three Lions' pecking order.
But Ron is adamant the now 44-year-old hot-shot would have been a far more established international today when compared with England's current crop of less prolific attacking talents.
"There were some very good forwards that he was up against at the time," said Ron. "He was up against the Shearers and the Fowlers and the Ferdinands.
"But now I see people with 50-odd caps that weren't in the same class as Dalian. And he was quicker than Theo Walcott. He was one of the fastest players I've ever seen."
But while Dalian's star did not sparkle on the international stage, there were several big occasions in which he stole the headlines.
"He was a big-game player," remembers Ron. "When it was a big game you could always rely on him.
"He scored vital goals for us in matches leading up to the Coca-Cola Cup final and then got one against Manchester United in the final."
Villa won that game 3-1 with Dean Saunders netting twice in the second half to seal the victory. But Ron believes his former side would have scaled even greater heights the previous year had Dalian not been injured just before Christmas 1992.
"He featured regularly for us apart from his injury," he said. "He picked up a muscle injury. I think it was his thigh or his hamstring and it kept him out for two-and-a-half to three months.
"If he hadn't got injured I think we would have won the league because him and Dean were the best strikeforce in the Premier League." Alex Ferguson's Red Devils carried off the title that year with Villa eventually finishing 10 points behind them in the runners-up position.
Dalian did win one memorable accolade that year, though.
He picked up the Match of the Day goal of the season award for his incredible solo effort in Villa's 3-2 victory against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park in October.
The forward sped from deep within his own half before delightfully capping a winding run with an inch-perfect chip over the stranded goalkeeper.
Ron places that strike up there with the best goals ever scored in the Premier League, and he indicated that it still does not quite get the credit it deserves.
"He scored spectacular goals. He didn't get many tap-ins," he said. "I think that one against Wimbledon is the one everybody remembers him for, though.
"If that goal had been scored at The Emirates or Old Trafford they would start every sports programme with it. It is up there with the top 10 Premier League goals ever scored."
Dalian finished his four-year Villa career in 1995 when he was sold to Turkish side Fenerbahçe.
He finished with 23 goals in 85 games and followed it up with 10 goals in 21 appearances for his new side the following season.
He went on to have loan spells with FC Metz and Manchester City before leaving in 1997 and winding down his career in Saudi Arabia and South Korea before retiring as a player in 2001.
Name: Dalian Atkinson
School: Wrockwardine Wood
Clubs: Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Real Sociedad, Aston Villa, Fenerbahçe, Metz (loan), Manchester City (loan), Al-Ittihad, Daejeon Citizen (loan), Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors (loan).
Intern'l caps: England B (1)
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