Random Footballer of the Week: Ulises de la Cruz

Each week we'll look back at a relatively obscure player and this time it's a former Aston Villa man

Aston Villa, Ulises De La Cruz

Aston Villa's Ulises De La Cruz celebrates scoring the opening goal against Charlton Athletic. Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

Across the world in any given period, there are thousands upon thousands of footballers plying their trades.

Only a select few achieve global cultural significance while many who briefly made an impact, are not heard about very often.

Each week, I'll be looking at a player that briefly made an impact but who remains forgotten about for the most part. You can throw suggestions in this direction on Twitter by tweeting @newstalksport or @raftastico.

This week, it's former Aston Villa and Ecuador right back Ulises de la Cruz

Claim To Fame

Before Antonio Valencia established himself as a force on the right flank in the Premier League, Ecuador had already provided another right sided player to the English top flight.

Ulises de la Cruz landed at Aston Villa in July 2002 after appearing for his country at their maiden World Cup in Korea & Japan. 

However, his arrival in Birmingham was not the first introduction to British football. Although, he had spent the first decade of his career in South America, De La Cruz had been at Scotland's Hibernian for a season, appearing regularly for Alex McLeish's side before making the switch down south to Villa Park.

As discussed with ex-Aston Villa forward Darius Vassell on last week's Newstalk's Team 33, the period that both he and De La Cruz were at Villa was marked by managerial changes.

The late Graham Taylor had brought De La Cruz to Villa and provided him with 20 league appearances in his debut season which saw Villa finish in a lowly 16th place.

David O'Leary's arrival as manager in the summer of 2003 saw De La Cruz's game time increase further, especially as the 03-04 season wore on and by the end of the 04-05 season, he had made 34 league appearances under the Irish boss in that latter campaign.

But the writing was on the wall in 05-06 as he made just seven Premier League appearances in O'Leary's final season, before Martin O'Neill's arrival in the summer of 2006 saw him sold to Reading.

And to bookend his career in the UK, his former Hibs manager McLeish brought him to Villa's great rivals Birmingham in 2009 after a period of inactivity after his Reading departure in 2008.

It was a short term loan and only saw him make one appearance, before rounding out his playing career back home in Ecuador.

His biggest claim to fame for those non-Premier League watchers was being part of the Ecuador side which reached the 2006 World Cup second round and going on to win over 100 international caps. 

Recent Status

As well as charity work, politics has been his calling and he was elected as an assembly member in Ecuador during the 2013 general elections.