Aston Villa 1996 Coca Cola Cup Winners: Where Are They Now?

Dave HornbyFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2014

Aston Villa 1996 Coca Cola Cup Winners: Where Are They Now?

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    The sad reality is that Aston Villa fans under the age of 20 years old will be unable to remember their club triumphantly lifting any major silverware. The last time that the Midlands outfit were able to proudly call themselves winners of a meaningful competition was on 24 March, 1996 at the old Wembley in the Coca Cola Cup final.

    Since then, the closest that the Lions have come to winning a domestic trophy was a defeat in the 2000 FA Cup final to Chelsea and the 2010 League Cup loss to Manchester United. The club have won the 2001 and 2008 Intertoto Cup, in addition to the 2009 Peace Cup, but even the most optimistic of Villa fans would be unable to claim these as meaningful successes.

    Anyway, let's get back to happier times. Guided by former striker and then manager Brian Little, the Villans comfortably dispatched of Howard Wilkinson's Leeds United by a 3-0 scoreline. A Savo Milosevic thunderbolt after 20 minutes was added to just after half-time by Ian Taylor's left-footed volley, before Dwight Yorke wrapped up the victory a few minutes before the final whistle as Villa hit Leeds on the counter-attack.

    Led by captain Andy Townsend, the players ascended the 39 steps which led to the Royal Box in the old Wembley Stadium and triumphantly celebrated their cup success. In true nostalgic fashion coming from a fan yearning for his club to return to more prosperous times, we take a sentimental look back at the careers of the Aston Villa starting XI on that memorable day.

Mark Bosnich (Goalkeeper)

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    The Australian shot-stopper played nearly 200 league games for Villa during his eight seasons with the club. He lifted the League Cup twice with the Villans, the first time coming under Ron Atkinson in 1994.  

    During his time at Villa, Bosnich was regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the division, with a particularly impressive record from the penalty spot. On route to the 1994 League Cup final, 'Bozza' saved three penalties in the semi-final shootout against Tranmere Rovers to secure Villa's route to the final.

    The goalkeeper left Villa Park for Manchester United in 1999 on a free transfer and added the Premier League trophy to his honours. After losing his place to Fabien Barthez, Bosnich moved on to Chelsea, however his career was short lived. "Bozza" failed a drug test, was subsequently kicked out of Stamford Bridge and developed a heavy cocaine addiction.

    After getting clean in 2007, Bosnich turned out for Central Coast Mariners and Sydney Olympic, and he has since gone on to forge a career as a football pundit and commentator for Fox Sports.

Gary Charles (Right-Back)

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    The man remembered for being the victim when Paul Gascoigne injured himself in the 1991 FA Cup final spent four seasons in the claret and blue of Aston Villa. Charleswho has two England caps to his namewas blighted by injury following the Coca Cola Cup win after snapping his leg against West Ham in a subsequent fixture.

    The right-back struggled to recover from the injury, but he secured a move to Graeme Souness' Benfica in 1999. After another injury, Charles moved on to West Ham, but again, he spent most of his time on the injury table.

    Charles retired prematurely from football in 2012 and set up a property business, however he battled with alcohol and was imprisoned on three separate occasions. After seeking help from old team-mate Roy Keane, Charles went on to complete a football coaching course and become a coach at Lincoln City.

Gareth Southgate (Centre-Back)

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    Southgate moved to Villa in 1995 from Crystal Palace and soon became a key player for the Midlands club. He was converted from a midfielder to a central defender where he excelled and played for the rest of his career. Southgate spent six seasons at Villa Park and was virtually ever-present with close to 200 league appearances in the claret and blue.

    During his time at Villa Park, Southgate formed strong defensive partnerships with the likes of Ugo Ehiogu, Paul McGrath, Steve Staunton and Gareth Barry and went on to captain the team to the 2000 FA Cup final. He also went on to win 57 caps for England in a career which spanned two Euro Championships, two World Cups, penalty heartache and an ill-advised pizza advert.

    Southgate left Villa in 2000 citing the need for a new challenge at a bigger club, but he made a surprise move to Middlesbrough instead where he linked up with former Villa defender Ugo Ehiogu. At the North-East club, the defender went on to win the League Cup and finish runners-up in the UEFA Cup before taking over the managerial hot seat.

    After being sacked in 2009, Southgate took on a new role with the FA as head of elite development and has since gone on to have an impressive start in his current role as England-U21 manager.

Paul McGrath (Centre-Back)

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    The Villa living legend is considered by many as one of the best players to have worn the claret and blue shirt. Committed, strong and difficult to beat, "God" will always have a place in the Villa history books. The Irish international made 322 appearances in seven years at Villa Park, during which he helped the club to the League Cup in both 1994 and 1996.  

    McGrath left Villa in 1996 and had short spells with Derby County and Sheffield United before hanging up his boots in 1998 at the age of 38.

    During his career, McGrath suffered regular knee injuries and was forced to go under the knife on eight separate occasions. The defender also admitted to being an alcoholic by his mid-20s which contributed to two failed marriages, four suicide attempts and numerous troubles with the policethe most recent being last summer for public order offences.

Ugo Ehiogu (Centre-Back)

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    The commanding defender spent 11 years at Villa Park, forming an impressive defensive partnership with Gareth Southgate during his time. After deciding he needed a change, Ehiogu moved to Middlesbrough in 2001 having made close to 250 league games for the Midlands club.

    Subsequent transfers near the end of his career saw him move to Leeds United, Rangers and finally Sheffield United, although Ehiogu did come out of retirement in 2012 to sign for Wembley FC with a number of other veteran players for their FA Cup run.

    Most recently, Ehiogu has been taking his first steps into coaching, having worked with Tottenham's U16 squad and the England U20 team. The former England international has also founded his own record label and appeared as a football columnist.

Alan Wright (Left-Back)

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    The diminutive defenderwho stood at just 5'4"—spent eight seasons at Villa Park having transferred from Blackburn just before they won the Premier League title. During his Villa career, Wright made over 250 league appearances and made the left-back spot his own.

    After Villa, Wright went on to play for nine other clubs including Middlesbrough, Sheffield United, Derby County, Leeds United, Cardiff City, Doncaster Rovers, Nottingham Forest, Cheltenham Town and Fleetwood Town.

    On retirement, Wright began a career in management.  Starting out as a coach, then assistant manager, at Blackpool, the defender then went on to manage Northwich Victoria and Southport, where he was replaced in late 2013.

Ian Taylor (Midfield)

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    The hard-working midfielder is a club legend at Aston Villa. He started in non-league football before coming through the ranks to play for the club he has supported since he was a kid. Taylor made 290 appearances and scored 42 goals for Villa, including the second goal in the 1996 League Cup final. This was two years after he watched Villa win the 1994 League Cup from the Wembley stands as a fan.

    Taylor left Villa Park in 2003 to spend two seasons at Derby County before finishing his career in League One with Northampton Town in 2007 after helping them to get promoted. 

    Taylor is now an ambassador for his boyhood club, an occasional pundit and has set up his own company called iT7 Audio which produces high-quality headphones and speakers.

Mark Draper (Midfield)

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    The midfielder joined Villa after one season with relegated Leicester City for a transfer fee of £3.25 million. Draper spent five years at Villa Park where he made over 100 appearances. However, he fell out of favour at the club and made a loan move to Spanish side Rayo Vallecano.

    Draper then returned to England with Southampton, but he was forced to retire at 33 years old after a string of injuries regularly consigned him to the physio room. He briefly came out of retirement in 2009 for non-league Dunkirk before taking coaching roles with Radford FC and Arnold Town.

    Draper is currently first-team kit man at Notts County, the club where he started his career back in 1988.

Andy Townsend (Midfield)

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    The floppy-haired midfielder captained Villa to the 1996 Coca Cola Cup where he also won the Man of the Match Award for his display in the final. During his time in the Midlands, Townsend also lifted the 1994 Coca Cola Cup, having helped Villa beat Manchester United after making the switch from Chelsea.

    Townsend made close to 150 appearances for Villa before leaving at the start of the 1997/98 season for Middlesbrough where he formed a good partnership with "Gazza." The midfielder then transferred to West Brom two years later where he ended his career after a recurrent knee injury in 2000.  The Republic of Ireland international won 70 caps and captained his country at the 1994 World Cup.

    Since retiring, Townsend has been a regular TV and radio pundit, featuring on talkSPORT and co-commentating for ITV on their Champions League and FA Cup coverage.

Savo Milosevic (Striker)

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    Although he was often ridiculed for his dry spells in front of goal, Savo "miss-a-lot-evic" is best remembered for his stunning left-foot strike in the League Cup final. At Villa Park, Milosevic scored just shy of 30 goals for the side having joined for a then club record £3.5 mil transfer as a 21-year-old.

    Milosevic left Villa in 1998 for Spain where he scored an average one goal every two games which led to a £22 million move to Parma. After failing to hold down a first team place, Milosevic spent the next few seasons on loan with a return to Zaragoza, Espanyol and Celta Vigo. He made a permanent move to Osasuna before ending his career with Rubin Kazan in Russia where he retired at 35 years old.

    Milosevic scored 37 goals in 102 caps for Serbiaformerly Yugoslaviaand was the joint top goalscorer at Euro 2000. Since retiring, the striker had a role as an assistant for the Montenegro national team and as the Serbian FA technical director.

Dwight Yorke (Striker)

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    The man from Trinidad and Tobago spent nine years at Villa Park having been signed by Graham Taylor following a trip to the Caribbean Island.  During his career, Yorke scored 98 goals in 287 appearances for The Villans and was rarely seen without a smile upon his face, which led to the nickname "the smiling assassin." The flamboyant forward scored the final goal in the 3-0 victory over Leeds United in the League Cup final.

    Yorke left Villa for when Manchester United paid £12.6 mil for his services. This led to the famous quote by manager John Gregory who said "if I had a gun, I would have shot him" on learning that Yorke wanted to join United. The move was good for Yorke, though, as he went on to form a lethal partnership with Andy Cole and won three Premier League trophies, one FA Cup and one Champions League, including the famous treble.

    The Trinidad & Tobago internationalwho has 74 caps to his name—subsequently played for Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, Sydney FC and Sunderland. On retirement, he became assistant manager for his national team and now regularly works as a TV pundit.