Everybody has a favourite football player. For some it changes over the years as fresh players develop or older players are remembered. For others, that person stays with them for life as mine does. My favourite Aston Villa player is, and always will be, Gordon Sidney Cowans – affectionately known as just Sid.
Born in County Durham, he joined Villa as an apprentice in 1974 turning professional a couple of years later in August 1976. By then he had already made his Villa debut, coming on as substitute at Maine Road (Manchester City’s old ground for younger supporters) in February 1976. The following season, Sid’s first team appearances went into double figures as he ended the season with a League Cup winner’s medal.
From that point, there was no stopping him and for the next few years he was a permanent fixture in the first team with Villa going on to win the Football League, European Cup and European Super Cup (again, for the younger supporters, yes we did win things).
The European Super Cup win against Barcelona was notable for Sid taking a penalty against Javier Urruticoechea, scoring after the initial kick was saved, and then been kicked three feet in the air by Urruticoechea who wasn’t even sent off.
Gordon Cowans was equally comfortable using either foot, could turn on a six-pence and could place a ball anywhere on the park. His vision knew where other players should be moving on the pitch and could pass the ball into that space – if only he had played with more players that had the same insight into the game. He was an expert in-swinging corner taker who could also pack a mean shot himself scoring more than fifty goals from midfield.
Sid only made a handful of games for England which is an absolute crime given his talent. Although trophies were being won by Aston Villa in that period maybe he would have got more caps had he played for a more ‘fashionable’ team. In a way, I’m glad he didn’t as he wouldn’t have been ‘Our Sid’.
In 1983 a transfer to Italy was on the cards until he broke a leg in a pre-season game. He missed the whole of the 1983/84 season but came back the following season before heading off to Bari in 1985. The prodigal son returned to Villa in 1988 just as the team got back into Division One, joining Blackburn in 1991 before returning a final time as a player in 1993. Sid is third in the all-time appearances for Aston Villa with 506 games and 59 goals.
After a few more years playing the game he went into coaching returning to Villa a fourth time in 1998 as a coach with John Gregory. For the last 18 years (3 more than as a player) he has served ‘his’ club in a variety of roles from the first team to the youth team.
We all know that things have to move on eventually but I’m not ready yet to think that Sid won’t be working for Aston Villa again. Luckily, he will still be around Villa Park as a supporter and I’m sure all supporters will welcome him and treat him like the all-time legend he will always be.