For 99.9% of the population of Birmingham, it would be impossible to swap the colours of claret and blue for the blue of their city rivals (or vice versa). Yet over the years, many players have represented both Aston Villa and Birmingham City. In this article, we will have a look at some of the players who played for both Aston Villa and Birmingham City.
Here’s a look back at the small number who have turned out for both clubs.
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10. Emile Heskey [Aston Villa 2009-12 Birmingham 2004-06]
Heskey joined Blues from Liverpool in 2004 and enjoyed a successful first campaign at St Andrews. The striker notched a respectable ten league goals in 34 appearances for Birmingham, and was voted the Players’ Player of Year for the 2004/05 season.
Yet, the following campaign proved to be less fruitful as he only managed four Premier League goals, as Blues were relegated to the Championship. Heskey was sold to Wigan in that summer, and after two-and-a-half years in the north-west he returned to the midlands, this time with Villa.
The then England international scored on his debut for Villa but only registered a single strike in his final 13 games of the season. The rest of his Villa career produced a similar strike rate as he scored just 11 times in 96 appearances over the next three years. In 2012, the former Liverpool man turned his back on Premier League life and opted for the much more tranquil surroundings of Australia.
9. Curtis Davies [Aston Villa 2008-11 Birmingham 2011-13]
Davies moved to Villa from West Brom in 2007, and after a season on loan at Villa Park the defender made his switch permanent the following year. Davies formed a solid partnership with Martin Laursen that season, which saw Villa come so close to finishing in top four.
Yet, in the 2009/10 campaign injuries restricted him to just two league appearances. As a result Martin O’Neill signed James Collins and Richard Dunne, whom Davies failed to oust from the team.
After a short loan at Leicester, the defender was sold to Birmingham in January 2011. Injuries once again restricted him at St Andrews and he only played six league games in Blues relegation campaign. The centre-back then enjoyed two superb seasons in the Championship, and only missed one league game in that time.
8. Craig Gardner [Aston Villa 2005-10 Birmingham 2010-11]
Gardner came through the Villa youth ranks and made his debut for the club in 2005. He played eight times in his maiden season, and was used mainly as a bit part player in Martin O’Neill’s side over the next few years. The Northern Irishman appeared to like Gardner versatility and often deployed the youngster in numerous positions.
However, injuries stunted his potential at Villa and in January 2009, having played just one game so far that season, Gardner joined Birmingham.
The Solihull-born player instantly established himself in Alex McLeish’s side. In his second year at St Andrews Gardner was the club’s top goal scorer and helped the side win the League Cup. Despite the team’s success, Blues were relegated in 2011 and Gardner left his boyhood club that summer.
7. Liam Ridgewell [Aston Villa 2001-07 Birmingham 2007-12]
Liam Ridgewell came through the Villa youth system. He made 93 appearances for the club. In the 2005/06 season (his third at senior level) he had forced his way into David O’Leary’s side, and played 32 league games whilst registering five goals.
However, Martin O’Neill’s reign at the club proved to be less rewarding for Ridgewell. After just one season under the Northern Irishman’s tutelage, the centre-back moved to Birmingham and became the first man to transfer directly between the clubs since 1984.
Ridgewell was a first team regular during a four-and-a-half year spell at St Andrew’s, including the 2009/10 season, which saw Blues finish 9th in the Premier League. Ridgewell also played 90 minutes in the League Cup triumph against Arsenal in 2011, yet was relegated twice with the club.
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6. Bobby Thompson [Aston Villa 1959-63 Birmingham 1963-67]
Thompson joined Aston Villa, newly relegated to the Second Division, in 1959. He made an immediate impact, scoring 22 goals in his first season. It made him the club’s top scorer and helped them win the 1959–60 Second Division championship. He followed this up with 18 goals the next season and another 18 in 1962–63. He played in the final of the inaugural League Cup competition in 1960–61 in which Aston Villa beat Rotherham United.
In September 1963 Thomson moved to Birmingham City. In his first season, he was used in a variety of positions, eventually settling in at centre-forward alongside the newly arrived and prolific Geoff Vowden. Their goals failed to prevent relegation to the Second Division in 1964–65.
In his last full season he played successfully at right half in place of captain Ron Wylie who had broken his leg. Wylie’s return to fitness and the arrival of former England centre-forward Fred Pickering left no place for Thomson, so in December 1967 he moved to Third Division Stockport County, and then into non-league football with Bromsgrove Rovers.
5. Geoff Vowden [Aston Villa 1971-74 Birmingham 1964-71]
Vowden joined Birmingham City from Nottingham Forest in 1964. He spent nearly seven seasons at Birmingham, scoring at a rate of one goal every three matches. He finished as their leading goalscorer three seasons running, from 1964–65 to 1966–67.
In March 1971, Vowden joined Aston Villa for a fee of £12,500. In his first full season at Aston Villa he scored 11 goals which contributed to the club winning the Third Division championship.
4. Des Bremner [Aston Villa 1979-84 Birmingham 1984-89]
Des Bremner joined Aston Villa in 1979 and quickly settled as a regular in the side. In his second season with the club he was an ever-present as they took the Football League title, their first for 71 years. The following season Bremner was a member of Villa’s European Cup-winning side.
Bremner left the club in September 1984, rejoining his former Villa manager Ron Saunders, who by then was managing local rivals Birmingham City. He helped Birmingham to promotion back to the First Division. He moved to Fulham on a free transfer in August 1989.
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3. Charlie Athersmith [Aston Villa 1891–1901 Birmingham 1901-05]
Athersmith played a key role in Villa’s title-winning sides of 1894, 1896, 1897, 1899 and 1900. He also reached three FA Cup finals, finishing on the losing side in 1892 before gaining winners’ medals in 1895 and the Double-winning final of the 1896–97 season.
In 1901 he joined Small Heath (Birmingham City), where he made 106 appearances and scored 13 goals.
2. Harry Hampton [Aston Villa 1904-20 Birmingham 1920-22]
Better known as “Happy” Harry Hampton or as “The Wellington Whirlwind,” he played as a centre forward for Aston Villa from 1904 to 1920. To this day Hampton remains Aston Villa’s all-time leading goalscorer in the League.
Hampton served on the Somme during the First World War and suffered from the effects of mustard gas poisoning. Hampton was never the same player after the War and after scoring 242 goals in 376 games for Aston Villa, he moved to rivals Birmingham.
At Birmingham Hampton become the Second Division club’s star player. His 16 goals made him their top scorer for the 1920–21 season and helped the club to the Second Division title. He ultimately scored 31 goals out of 59 appearances in the club before transferring to Newport County in Wales.
1. Stan Lynn [Aston Villa 1950-62 Birmingham 1961-66]
Nicknamed “Stan the Wham”, he was renowned for his powerful right-footed shots which came from his “Booming Boots”.
He established himself in the Villa team in 1954, and was a regular fixture in the side until 1960. Lynn helped Villa win their seventh FA Cup in 1957, the Second Division championship in 1960, and the 1961 League Cup. Playing against Sunderland in January 1958, Lynn became the first full-back to score a hat-trick in a top-flight match.
He transferred to Villa’s arch-rivals Birmingham City in October 1961. By which time he had lost much of his pace. He went on to play nearly 150 games for the club, helping them to their first major trophy, the 1963 League Cup. He defeated former club Aston Villa in the final, and in the 1964–65 season finished as Birmingham’s joint leading scorer.