Aged 48, former Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson has died reportedly of a heart attack following an incident in which he was Tasered by West Mercia police officers.
The circumstances of his death are being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the high profile nature of his life mean news coverage will continue until the cause of death is properly established.
Aston Villa will hold a tribute to the striker against Huddersfield Town. In the tenth minute, in honour of the shirt number he wore with distinction during his time at the club, a minute’s applause will be heard.
Atkinson, born in Shrewsbury, began his career at Ipswich Town where I confess, I don’t remember him at all. He gained national attention at Hillsborough when he joined Sheffield Wednesday in 1989.
The Owls were relegated despite Atkinson forming a decent partnership with David Hirst, and he moved onto Real Sociedad in a £1.7m move. He played in San Sebastian at the same time as Kevin Richardson but returned to England in 1991. Ron Atkinson, who signed him at Wednesday, did the same again for Villa.
It was the most productive spell of his career. He could be mesmeric, unplayable when in the mood. The reruns of his goal at Selhurst Park remind us of how good he could be. Even now, it’s an iconic Premier League moment with the umbrella celebration capping a fantastic goal.
His most telling moment at the club came at Wembley during the League Cup final in March 1994. Manchester United were overwhelming favourites; they were the reigning champions – we finished second to them the season before – and were top once more, where they had been since late August 1993.
Villa blew them apart with Atkinson scoring the opening goal with half an hour gone. The ball fizzed to Saunders who lifted over the defence for Atkinson to run onto. His finish bobbled past the outstretched arm of Les Sealey and into the net. Villa never looked back; two Dean Saunders goals sealed a 3 – 1 win.
He had been instrumental in the run to Wembley. At Highbury, he scored an almost carbon copy goal in the quarter-final; the tie’s only goal, it sent us to Prenton Park to face Tranmere. He grabbed the vital away goal and in the return at Villa Park, he rose majestically to head the third – an equalising goal on aggregate – into the corner of the net.
Never capped for England as a full international, it was baffling in the sense of his talent. Not so when you remember the England team of the time. The less said about a certain Mr Taylor’s reign, the better.
Dalian left Villa Park in 1995 to move to Fenerbahce before finishing his career with Metz, Manchester City and in Saudi Arabia. He eventually retired in 2001 following a spell in South Korea.
Our thoughts go to his family at this time.
Rest in Peace.