An Aston Villa XI of players they’ll wish they never lost: Milner, Delph, Cahill…

Following their play-off final defeat, Aston Villa have found themselves battling against Financial Fair Play rules and a possible administration.

The Villans are in financial dire straits following May’s play-off final defeat to Fulham, with Steve Bruce admitting there is something of an “inevitability” that some or all of Jack Grealish, James Chester and Jonathan Kodjia will be sold this summer.

It may be hard for supporters to watch if Grealish goes on to make a great career for himself elsewhere, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time…

GK: Sam Johnstone

Villa’s financial woes ensured the talented stopper wouldn’t be returning to the club from Manchester United this summer.

Instead Johnstone has signed for West Bromwich Albion for a fee rumoured to be around £6.5million, after impressing in the Championship at Villa Park last season.

The goalkeeper made 48 appearances for Steve Bruce’s side, helping them to the play-off final, only to lose out to Fulham.

RWB: Marc Albrighton

You know when you do something, and you end up regretting it in the long run? That’s probably how Aston Villa will feel now with Marc Albrighton.

The Villans released Albrighton, a fan of the club from a young age, in 2014 after he struggled to break into the first team and was subsequently picked up by Leicester City.

Since joining the Foxes, he’s won an unlikely Premier League title and scored the club’s first ever Champions League goal in a 3-0 win over Club Brugge.

CB: Gary Cahill

Cahill’s appearances early in his career at Aston Villa were somewhat limited, making more in loan spells at Burnley and Sheffield United.

However, his promise was shining through, which prompted interest from a host of different clubs including Turkish side Besiktas.

In the end it was Bolton Wanderers who secured Cahill, who has gone on to play for England 61 times since leaving Villa Park and win numerous trophies with Chelsea, including the Champions League in 2012.

CB: James Collins

Either side of spells with West Ham United, Collins featured for the claret and blue of Aston Villa.

He got off to a flyer on his debut, helping to ensure a clean sheet in the Second City Derby with Birmingham City, before grabbing his first goal against Chelsea, a game in which he also picked up the man of the match award.

Collins formed part of the Villa side that made Wembley twice, too, in the League Cup final against Manchester United and FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

However, his relations with manager Gerard Houlier became strained when the Frenchman fined him, along with defensive partner Richard Dunne, for a bust-up during a team-building exercise.

The following year, Collins parted way with the Villans, opting to return to West Ham United. He’s now a free agent, and with Terry departing, Villa fans may feel they could do a lot worse.

CB: Gareth Barry

Versatile and Mr Reliable. Just two of many ways you could describe Gareth Barry.

Barry joined Villa from Brighton & Hove Albion with Michael Standing, albeit in controversial circumstances with the south coast club demanding a £2.5million fee for the two.

An FA tribunal ensured that a fair deal was reached for both sides, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Barry went on to spend 11 years at Villa Park, establishing himself as an England international, though was often considered as an underrated player, his influence often going under the radar to those who didn’t support the Villans.

He would make 441 appearances in various positions for the club, before ensuring a move to Manchester City, though he was publicly criticised for the switch by sections of Villa’s support, with him previously publicly saying he wanted Champions League football.

READ: A tribute to Gareth Barry, one of the PL’s most underrated players

LWB: Ashley Young

Although it’s been a topsy-turvy career for Young, arguably some of his best performances came in claret and blue.

The height of his performances even made for hefty praise from then Villa manager Martin O’Neill, who described Young as “world class” and compared him to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The explosive winger eventually departed the Villans for Manchester United, where he’s established himself as a full-back for both club and country.

READ: The ups and downs of Ashley Young’s career from reject to England star

CM: Idrissa Gueye

It’s worth noting that Gueye isn’t a popular man among Villa fans.

However, Gueye is now a regular in the Everton team, appearing to go from strength to strength for the Toffees.

The midfielder made the highest number of successful tackles and interceptions per game across Europe’s top five leagues over the 2016 calendar year and has continued to impress in blue.

CM: James Milner

A simple Yorkshire lad with simple Yorkshire needs. What isn’t to love?

A crucial part of James Milner’s development as a player came at Aston Villa, having spent two spells with the Birmingham club, where he was considered a shining light during a disappointing 2005-06 season.

His permanent move from Newcastle United came in 2008, signing for £12million, and enjoyed two years with the club, going from strength to strength, describing the time as the “most settled of his career” at the time.

His form earned him a move to Manchester City, and subsequently Liverpool, where he formed part of the club’s run to the 2018 Champions League final, breaking the competition’s assists record in the same season.

CM: Fabian Delph

Remember the time that Aston Villa paid a reported £6million to clad Leeds United’s East Stand sign Fabian Delph? It seems like a long time ago.

Delph signed for the Villans as a promising young English midfielder in 2009, after a string of impressive performances at Elland Road.

Injuries hindered the midfielder’s early career at Villa Park, but despite that, and a loan back to Leeds where the supporters spent more time appreciating the cream cladding his move was believed to have paid for, Delph managed to finally realise his potential.

His form earned him a move to Manchester City, where he made the shift from central midfield to left-back last season following injury to Benjamin Mendy.

ST: Christian Benteke

There’s no getting away from how successful Benteke was with Aston Villa, and his goals are still fondly remembered.

The striker netted 42 goals in his 89 Premier League appearances in claret and blue, scoring 19 goals in his first season with the club.

His form was eventually rewarded in 2015 by Liverpool, who activated Benteke’s release clause of £32.5million to take the forward to Anfield.

However, the arrival of Jurgen Klopp ensured that the striker only spent a solitary season with the Reds, and after scoring 10 goals, he signed for Crystal Palace, while Aston Villa found themselves relegated to the Championship.

ST: Jordan Ayew

Finishing a season as top goalscorer in a team that got relegated is not the greatest of achievements, but Ayew is proven in the Premier Laague.

Ayew finished as Villa’s top goalscorer with seven in a disastrous 2015-16 season, which saw the Villans finish with 17 points, and he repeated the trick at Swansea City last season.

More Aston Villa

What Makes A Club: 21 photos to show the magic of a Villa Park matchday

A tribute to Gareth Barry, one of the PL’s most underrated players

Thomas Hitzlsperger: David O’Leary really hurt me over Villa farewell

Can you name the last all-English Premier League starting XI from 1999?