Date: 9th June 2013 at 9:55am
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The talk about Benteke – and whether he’s going or not going – caused me to hark back some 50+ years. To the time of Gerry Hitchens’ exit to be exact (1961).

What comes to the fore of my addled brain is that I do believe Villa have never properly found a true replacement for Hitchens … until now.

When was it (since 1961) that we’ve had a Villa striker who’s frightened the opposing defence in quite the same way? Until Benteke came along, our best pure striker since WW2 has been Gerry. His strike-rate confirms it.

Yes, there was the Doog and then Hateley, who both found the fans’ hearts in different ways … and Brian Little, but I don’t like to include him in this particular topic because to me he was of a special breed that you hesitate to call pure strikers … Andy Gray, Peter Withe, Gary Shaw (who might have been the ultimate striker), Dalian, Deano and … the Calypso Kid. And then we had an Angel who flew in. Carew? Well… and the same for Bent, despite the goal-rate of both.

For my money Benteke is the first that you could say is the proper replacement for Hitchens. Benteke is a bigger player, but his pace and directness and strength on the ball bring back to me a reminder of our Gerry and the kind of centre-forwards that Villa used to be blessed with (I daren’t dwell on the days when we had ‘Pongo’, ‘Bomber’ and ‘Dai’ at the same time!).

Boy has he taken his time in coming … and hence all the more reason to keep him around for as long as possible. The big sadness is that – just like Gerry – the best of him will probably be seen elsewhere before long.

See more from the Villa historian John at: http://www.lerwill-life.org.uk/astonvilla/