Tributes paid to Aston Villa's club-record appearance holder Charlie Aitken

Charlie Aitken Credit: Aston Villa

Tributes have been paid to former Aston Villa player Charlie Aitkin who has died at the age of 81.

The defender spent 17 years with the club, during which time he made a total of 660 appearances – 657 starts plus three as a substitute.

Aitken also mirrored the club’s fluctuating fortunes from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, making the journey from the old First Division to the Second to the Third – and back again – between 1967 and 1975.

As well as representing Villa in three different divisions, he also played in the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Charity Shield and the UEFA Cup.

In a series of Tweets, the club wrote: "Aston Villa is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of club-record appearance holder Charlie Aitken, who has died at the age of 81."The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Charlie’s family and friends at this incredibly difficult time.

"Charlie Aitken established an Aston Villa club record which will almost certainly never be broken. "During 17 years with the club, he made a total of 660 appearances – 657 starts plus three as a substitute."Rest in peace, Charlie."

Born in Edinburgh on May 1, 1942, Aitken played for Scottish junior clubs before heading to Birmingham for a trial with Villa in 1959.

After impressing in the reserves, Aitken made his senior debut at home to Sheffield Wednesday in the last match of the 1960/61 season, on the day another Villa legend, 1957 FA Cup-winning captain Johnny Dixon, played his final game for the club.

The following season Aitken established himself as Villa’s regular left-back, a position he held until January 1976, when he played his final game against Queens Park Rangers.

In between times, he missed very few matches and was an ever-present in five seasons.

He served the club under six managers – Joe Mercer, Dick Taylor, Tommy Cummings, Tommy Docherty, Vic Crowe and Ron Saunders.

Capped three times by Scotland Under-23s, Aitken also scored 16 goals for Villa.

His most notable moments were the Third Division championship in 1971/72 and promotion back to the top flight in the club’s centenary season of 1974/75, when they also won the League Cup.

He was voted Midland Footballer of the Year that season, and early in the following campaign he played in both legs of Villa’s first competitive European match.

Unfortunately, the adventure was soon over following a 5-1 aggregate defeat by Royal Antwerp.

Aitken passed Billy Walker’s appearance record in December 1973 and remained at Villa Park for a further two-and-a-half years before joining New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League in the summer of 1976.

During his time in the USA, he played alongside two of world football’s greatest players, Brazilian ace Pelé and Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer.