Villa's Greatest Heroes: Peter Aldis

Sims, Lynn, Aldis, Crowther, Dugdale, Saward, Smith, Sewell, Myerscough, Dixon (c), McParland. 2008 has been a cruel year for the heroes of 1957. Jimmy Dugdale passed away in March, followed a week later by Les Smith. Now, in November, Peter Aldis has gone to join them in the Holte End in the sky.

Assuming that God is, as one would expect, an Aston Villa fan, and that he appreciates as all Aston Villa fans do, players who sweat blood for the shirt, few will receive a warmer welcome than Aldis. The full-back played more than 290 matches in claret and blue, famously scoring just one goal - a header from 35 yards. And to top it off, he was born just a stone's throw from the ground.

Indeed, as if to underline his links to the area, Aldis worked in the Cadbury's factory before earning his move to Villa Park in 1948. At the time, the fresh-faced 21-year-old with the "sunshine smile" that would become famous was playing at centre back for local side Hay Green. Villa's coaches immediately determined that his steady distribution, strong tackles and first-rate fitness would stand him in great stead at left back. They swiftly set about polishing him in the Central League.

Given that Aldis and Stan Lynn would form the most famous full-back partnership in Villa's history, playing over 600 games between them, it seems odd that they briefly competed for the left-back's jersey as both settled into life at the club. It was a battle only one of them wanted to win. "I was put in at left back on my debut, and I was no lover of that", recalled Lynn 40 years later.

Before long, Aldis had taken his place in the team, and Lynn was battling Harry Parkes, amongst others, for his preferred right-back shirt, as well as filling in up front when necessary. Nevertheless, it was appropriate that on the afternoon Aldis made his debut, Lynn was on the other side of the park.

Indeed, the right-back hit the back of the net with one of his beloved penalties. "I loved them," remembered the man christened Stan the Wham by the Holte. "We were given one against Fulham that everyone seemed dubious about taking, so I offered. I loved it. I scored another against Arsenal that season, on the afternoon Peter Aldis made his debut." Villa won 3-1.

At the time, though, Aldis' debut was bad news for Lynn. Villa manager George Martin preferred to ally Aldis and Parkes on the flanks of his rearguard. Indeed, though Aldis lined-up at centre back against Burnley the week after his victorious debut, he would wear the number three shirt in every other appearance for the club.

Those appearances continued to be under Martin for two seasons until the arrival of Eric Houghton, that name synonymous at Villa Park with FA Cup glory. He took one look at the sure-footed left back and declared that that was one area of the team that needed no work. In just three seasons after Houghton's arrival, Aldis played 138 games, capping the lot with 50 appearances in 1956/57- the last of them, needless to say, at Wembley.

Johnny Berry, whose career would be ended in the Munich disaster less than a year later, was one of the most feared right backs in the league, and one of the experienced heads helping to guide the young stars known as Busby's Babes. Further to that, he was a former Birmingham City star, having played more than 100 times for Villa's greatest rivals. One can imagine that Aldis took great pleasure from shackling him for 90 minutes as Villa stopped United from doing the double and added a seventh FA Cup to their own honour roll.

If it needed any more of a bonus, the trophy was won just one week before Aldis' 30th birthday. Nine years of hard work on the training ground and the Villa Park pitch finally had the reward they deserved.

The left-back was far from finished, though. He played another two seasons as Villa's first choice, only losing his shirt to John Neal at the age of 33. Even then, addicted to the game, he made the move to Hinckley Athletic.

But non-league football wouldn't hold Aldis for long. In 1964 he took up an offer to be player-manager of Slavia, an Australia state league side. The following season he was given the same role at the famous Melbourne club Wilhelmina - where, at the age of 39, he would win the Australian Player of the Year award, before receiving an offer to move across the city to the Melbourne Lions.

Still not done, the 41-year-old Aldis moved back to England, taking the reins as player manager at non-league side Alvechurch. It can sometimes be a shame when former greats find themselves playing at a lower level, unable to let go of the game. For Aldis it was just another chance to break records - having played for Aston Villa in every round of the FA Cup in 1957, he turned out in every qualifying stage and rounds one and two of the competition for Alvechurch, totaling a record 13 different FA Cup rounds in all.

At 35 yards, that one goal against Stoke was the longest headed goal in English league history. But it's safe to say that there's a lot more than that to remember Peter Aldis for.

Peter Aldis Aston Villa