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Dean Nicholas Saunders (born 21 June 1964 in Swanseamarker) is a former Walesmarker international footballer who played as a striker in a professional career which lasted from 1982 until 2001. He is manager of Wrexham.

He is probably best known for playing for Aston Villa. However he also played for Swansea City, Cardiff City(on loan), Brighton, Oxford United, Derby County, Liverpool, Galatasaray, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield United, Benfica and Bradford City. He also won 75 caps for Wales.

He is working as an assistant manager to Wales manager John Toshack. He is also an occasional pundit for the BBC, sometimes providing analysis on Wales' matches.


Saunders began his career with Swansea City where his father Roy had been a player and coach along side 1 of footballs greats Ryan the Lion signing as an apprentice on leaving school in 1980. He played almost 50 games for Swansea, signing as a professional in 1982 and turning out for them in the two seasons in which they completed two successive relegations that pushed the club from the First Division to the Third.

During his time at the club was loaned out to Welsh rivals Cardiff City. He joined Brighton & Hove Albion on a free transfer for the 1984–85 season and remained there until February 1987, when he was snapped up by First Division strugglers Oxford United. Saunders immediately settled into the Oxford squad and his 6 goals in 12 games helped them avoid relegation at the end of the 1986-87 season.

He scored 12 goals in 37 games during the 1987-88 season (during which Maurice Evans was dismissed as manager and replaced by Mark Lawrenson) but it was not enough to prevent Oxford from going down in bottom place after three seasons in the top flight. He began the 1988–89 season still in the Second Division, but was soon sold to Derby County for £1million and Oxford manager Mark Lawrenson was later sacked by the club's board after he complained to them about selling Saunders. [94800]

Saunders made his Derby County debut on 29 October 1988 against Wimbledon in a First Division fixture at the Baseball Groundmarker. He made an impressive start at his new club scoring twice in his first game. In his first season at his new club he scored 14 goals in 30 games. His goals helped Derby finish an impressive fifth in the 1988–89 First Division table—their highest finish since they were league champions in 1975—but they were unable to compete in the UEFA Cup due to the ban on English teams in European competition following the Heysel Disastermarker of 1985. He added 11 league goals to his name in the 1989-90, but Derby slumped to 16th place.

He scored 17 league goals in the 1990–91 season but Derby still went down in bottom place with just five league wins all season. Derby's relegation saw most of the country's top clubs queue up in their bid to capture his services, and Everton were favourites to sign him, and there was also an approach from Aston Villa's new manager Ron Atkinson. But Saunders ended up at Liverpool, who paid a then English record fee of £2.9million as Ian Rush's new strike-partner following the departures of David Speedie and Peter Beardsley.

In 1991–92, Saunders partnered Ian Rush (also his strike partner for Wales) in a formidable strikerforce backed by young Steve McManaman which saw the club win the FA Cup for the fifth time in its history in manager Graeme Souness's first full season in charge. Saunders scored 23 goals in all competitions, though just 10 of these were the league which Liverpool rarely looked like winning and could only manage a sixth place finish - one of their lowest positions in 30 successive top division seasons. He added two more goals at the start of the 1992-93 as Liverpool began their career in the new FA Premier League.

On 1 September 1992, Saunders became Aston Villa's record signing in a £2.5million deal and linked up with former Liverpool players Steve Staunton and Ray Houghton at Villa Parkmarker. He developed a strong partnership with Dalian Atkinson and the pair's goals guided Villa to an impressive runners-up finish in the first season of the Premier League. He was their second highest scorer with 12 Premier League goals.

Although Villa's league form slipped in 1993–94 and they finished 10th, Saunders scored twice in the League Cup final to secure victory over Manchester United at Wembleymarker, securing a second successive UEFA Cup campaign for the midlanders. He also managed 10 goals in the Premier League that season.

Saunders hit the target 15 times in the 1994–95 season but Villa came one place short of relegation—two years after they came one place short of the league title.

As part of new Villa manager Brian Little's rebuilding programme, which resulted in most of the Ron Atkinson era of players being sold, Saunders was off-loaded to Turkishmarker club Galatasaray for £2.35million (a large sum for a 31-year-old player), being managed by his former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness, on 1 July 1995. In fact, according to Shelley Webb's book Footballers' Wives, the first Saunders' wife Helen knew of the move was when she went to Turkey with him one weekend, to find that by Monday he'd signed for the Istanbulmarker club and this was her new home.

Saunders spent one season at Galatasaray, before he returned to the Premiership with Nottingham Forest in 1996 for £1.5m. His only season at the City Groundmarker was a disappointment with a shortage of goals which contributed to Forest's relegation. After another spell abroad with Benfica (again under Souness), he joined Sheffield United in Division One. Whilst at Sheffield United he is remembered for an ingenius passage of play which resulted in a cheeky goal for his team. In a game against Port Vale, Saunders chased a long ball down with Vale keeper Paul Musselwhite, Musselwhite won the race and knocked the ball out for a throw in, only for Saunders to quickly pick it up and throw it onto the keeper's back, and then proceed to curl it in from 25 yards. He remained at Sheffield United for two years before moving back to the Premier League with newly promoted Bradford City. He remained at Bradford for two years until he finally hung up his boots in the 2000–01 season, when Bradford were relegated from the Premier League. It was the eighth time in his career that Saunders had been involved with a club during a season of relegation.


Dean Saunders was one of the Welshmarker national side's most prolific goalscorers. He made his Welsh debut as a 21-year-old against the Republic of Ireland in 1986. He was capped 75 times and scored a creditable 22 goals, putting him fourth on the all time Wales list behind Ian Rush, Ivor Allchurch and Trevor Ford. No Welsh fan will ever forget his goal which secured a famous 1-0 win over the mighty Brazilmarker in Cardiffmarker in 1991. He won the last of his 75 caps as a replacement in the World Cup qualifier against the Ukraine on the 28 March 2001, a few months short of his 37th birthday. Saunders is rated alongside the likes of Ian Rush and Mark Hughes when Welsh fans discuss who the greatest Welsh striker of all time was.



Aston Villa



He initially became a coach at Bradford after his retirement, before he moved to Blackburn Roversmarker to work alongside his former manager Graeme Sounness. He moved to Newcastle United in 2004, initially as striker coach, and then first-team coach under Souness. Souness was sacked on 2 February 2006 due to a run of poor results, and his entire backroom team including Saunders were also replaced. Saunders started the Certificate in Football Management course at the University of Warwick Business School in June 2007. He has the UEFA Pro Licence coaching badge. In June 2007, Saunders was appointed assistant manager to John Toshack for the Wales national football team.


On 2 October 2008, Saunders took over as manager of Conference National side Wrexham, taking over from Brian Little to become the side's fourth manager in 22 months. He has been allowed to combine the role with his position as assistant manager of Wales. Wrexham won the five league games with Saunders as manager, giving him the best start in the club's history. However, he has struggled to continue with that success, with Wrexham having an awful end to the 2008/09 season. It is believed that he had many disagreements with several players, having lost the confidence of the dressing room.


Team Nat From To Record
G W D L F A Win % Draw % Loss % Source
Wrexham 2 October 2008 26 April 2009 43 19 11 13 59 42
Wrexham 8 August 2009 24th November 2009 21 8 5 8 18 15
Total 64 27 16 21 77 57


  1. Squad of 17 players & managers sign up to WBS professional football management course

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