Dalian Robert Atkinson (21 March 1968 – 15 August 2016) was an English footballer who played as a striker.
During his club football career, he played in England for Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Manchester City, winning the Football League Cup at Villa in 1994. He also played for many teams abroad; in Spain for Real Sociedad, in France for Metz, in Turkey for Fenerbahçe, in Saudi Arabia for Al-Ittihad, and in South Korea for Daejeon Citizen and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Atkinson died on 15 August 2016, after a taser was deployed on him by West Mercia Police near his father's house in Trench, Telford, in which area he had grown up.
Atkinson first came to prominence at Ipswich Town as a teenager, impressing seasoned experts with his speed and daring, which included a hat-trick against a Middlesbrough side containing Gary Pallister and future Ipswich captain Tony Mowbray at the heart of their defence, in the 1987–88 season.
In 1989, manager Ron Atkinson (no relation) brought him to Sheffield Wednesday for £450,000 where he formed a fine front partnership with David Hirst for a single season. He was an ever-present in the league for Sheffield Wednesday in his only season there, scoring 10 goals but being unable to prevent them from being relegated. After relegation he was sold to Real Sociedad for £1.7 million. He was the first black player in Real Sociedad's history. He was nicknamed El txipiron (The squid) by Sociedad fans during the 1990–91 season. His team did not have a good year, although Atkinson made a good contribution over the season, scoring 12 goals in La Liga.
Atkinson joined Aston Villa for £1.6 million in July 1991, and became one half of another impressive partnership alongside Dean Saunders, when Saunders arrived from Liverpool a year after Atkinson arrived there from Real Sociedad. The partnership was broken up in 1995 when both players were sold to Turkish clubs – Saunders to Galatasaray and Atkinson to Fenerbahçe for £1.7 million.
Atkinson is probably most often remembered for his magnificent solo goal against Wimbledon in a 3–2 away win on 3 October 1992, which won Match of the Day's Goal of the Season award for the 1992–93 season, the first season of the new FA Premier League, when Villa finished runners-up. Starting deep in the Aston Villa half of the pitch with a one-touch trap from a lofted ball that immediately took him away from a defending player, Atkinson then skipped past two more Wimbledon players and, pausing briefly as he reached the edge of the opposition penalty area, produced a delicately arched chip-shot that floated over the rushing goalkeeper. Atkinson also had the distinction of scoring Villa's first Premier League goal, when he scored their late equaliser in a 1–1 draw at Ipswich on the opening day of the season.
Atkinson is remembered by Aston Villa fans for his goal in the 1994 League Cup final win against Manchester United, and that he scored twice in the semi finals against Tranmere Rovers (once in the first leg and once in the second).
Atkinson represented the England B side in a friendly 4–1 loss against Republic of Ireland B on 27 March 1990. Atkinson scored England's only goal in the game.
Atkinson failed to settle in Turkey and had loan spells with Metz and Manchester City. Atkinson left the club in 1997 and ended his career with stints in Saudi Arabia and South Korea, finally retiring as a player in 2001. He returned to Telford where he ultimately lived at Little Dawley. In his last years his health suffered with heart and kidney problems.
Atkinson died on 15 August 2016 after being tasered by police near his father's house in Trench, Telford. Police had responded to a call as Atkinson threatened to kill his father, Ernest. Atkinson's older brother Kenroy said "My brother had lost it. He was in a manic state and depressed – out of his mind and ranting. He had a tube in his shoulder for the dialysis and he had ripped it out and was covered in blood. He got dad by the throat and said he was going to kill him. He told dad he had already killed me, our brother Paul and sister Elaine and he had come for him." After being tasered, Atkinson went into cardiac arrest on the way to the Princess Royal Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 03:00. He was 48. The incident was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
His former manager at Wednesday and Villa, Ron Atkinson, called the incident an "out-and-out tragedy" and noted that Dalian "had terrific ability".
Atkinson's Humanist funeral took place at Telford Crematorium on 19 November 2016, followed by interment of his ashes at Hadley Cemetery.Aston Villa
Football League Cup: 1993–94