Let’s face it, after the first 45 minutes yesterday we all would have taken a point, and over 24 hours after the final whistle blew, I’m still delighted with the spirit and character shown by our Villans to come back not once, but twice. This was NEVER going to be the easy game that a lot of people seemed to think it would be. Regardless of the problems Everton are going through they are still a more than decent side, with Internationals throughout the starting eleven. I would have been happy before the match with a point, and after the way we fought for a hard earned draw, I was delighted after.
While the first half was disappointing, I was amazed to see the reaction of some Villa ‘fans’ when we went one nil down. I always try to be positive with regards to the Villa, but when we do play badly (like the first 45 mins yesterday) I’d rather discuss it sensibly than begin criticising everything to do with our great club. Comments like ‘McLeish and Lerner out’ after 45 minutes of mediocrity do no-one any favours, and I’m genuinely worried how some will react when we do lose our first game this season. It seems some people can’t wait to get the knives out, but I’m sure the majority won’t overreact, and won’t think the world is ending. It’s all about the bigger picture and for me at least, McLeish has had a very promising start to the season.
Anyway enough of that! On to the players ratings after a battling point yesterday. As always feel free to get involved, and share your views (Twitter and Facebook links are at the top of the page).
Shay Given: 7 – I love seeing him in nets for us, and as mentioned a number of times this season his communication is a joy to watch. Made a couple of vital stops, and although he almost got caught out towards the end of the match, he made a great save in the last minute from an Everton corner. Could do nothing with either of the goals.
Alan Hutton: 5 – Not the best debut for the former Tottenham man, who looked off the pace throughout. Poor in possession, and Everton were successful with far too many attacks on the left side. He needs games and to build his match fitness but this wasn’t the best start for the Scottish international.
James Collins: 6.5 – The whole defence were found watching for Everton’s opener, but he grew into the match as the game went on. As always a beast in the air, and put his body on the line on more than one occasion.
Richard Dunne: 7 – After one of the best defensive performances in recent memory for his country in the week, Dunne continued his good form with an impressive performance. Looks more calmer with Given behind him, and is continuing to read the game extremely well.
Stephen Warnock: 5 – He’s started the season extremely well considering his issues last campaign. Poor game yesterday though, and he was beaten far too many times by Seamus Coleman. Poor in distribution, hoping for an improved performance next time out against Newcastle.
Fabian Delph: 5 – I’m a big fan of the player, but he needs to learn to tone it down at times, as he’s almost trying too hard. Neat and tidy at times, though our midfield was often dominated throughout the game. Gave away a needless penalty just as we were getting back into the match.
Stiliyan Petrov: 7 – As mentioned our midfield were overrun at times, though he tried his best to keep us possession and to allow us to get a foothold in the match. Stepped up when he had to with an absolute peach of a goal. The reaction of his fellow players tells you everything you need to know about the how much they respect him.
Charles N’Zogbia: 5 – Just waiting for him to really announce his arrival at the Villa, as he put in another poor performance yesterday. Showed some nice touches, but just not clicking for him yet. Was once again taken off in the second half.
Emile Heskey: 5 – No time for him to make an impact as he was withdrawn after 15 or so minutes with a hamstring strain. Disappointing after a promising start to the season.
Gabriel Agbonlahor: 7 – Quiet for the first half (along with the rest of the team) but looked much more threatening in the second half. A cracking run deserved more before he popped up towards the end of the match to rescue a point for us with a well taken header. His celebration showed just how much he loves the Villa and the fans.
Darren Bent: 5 – A poor display from our main man up front, who didn’t look quite right after his recent injury problems. Missed a good chance at the start of the second half, and while yet again the lack of service to him is a worry, he needs to make more of an impact. Saved us early on with a header off the line.
Barry Bannan: 7 – Replaced Heskey early on, and his enthusiasm for the game is great to see from a Villa viewpoint. Always wants the ball and tested Howard with a few efforts from distance. Needs to work on the defensive side of his game, and was extremely fortunate to not give away a penalty as he appeared to catch Baines in the second half.
Marc Albrighton: 7 – Came on when we were chasing the game, and did what he had to do, putting in a peach of a cross that Gabby couldn’t miss. Very encouraging cameo after a pretty disappointing start to the season.
Stephen Ireland: 6.5 – I was impressed with Ireland when he came on, and I’m hoping he uses this appearance to push on for the rest of the season. He wanted the ball, and made a number of cracking runs. Positive signs.
Man of the Match: It’s tough this week as there was no real stand-out performance. For stepping up yet again though, I’m going to award it to Agbonlahor, who has started this season in very good form.
Summary: After a first 45 minutes that were pretty diabolical, a draw at Everton is not to be sniffed at. We came back not one, but twice, and it’s great to see our Villans display such character. A cracking goal from our captain and Gabby once again stepped up when we needed him. We’re still unbeaten, and hopefully we’ll get the three points next week and that will represent a very promising start to the season.
Under 21 roundup, star would have quit had Houllier stayed, more links to an old boy and Bent update….busy day!
The encouraging start to the season continued last night as some of Villa’s young stars impressed while on under 21 duty with their respective countries.
Nathan Baker started for England U’21′s but his night was cruelly cut short as he suffered a knee injury just before half time. During the game he look composed on the ball, and spread it around nicely from his centre-back role. Could do nothing about the goal as Israel broke from a corner with Baker out of position after pushing forward for the set piece. No news yet on the extent of his injury but we wish him well.
Nathan Delfouneso and Gary Gardner both made appearances during the second half, coming on side by side with around twenty five minutes to play. Gardner was making his debut at this level and while he didn’t get many chances to show what he can do, he did spray a number of cracking balls out wide, and it is only a matter of time before he makes an impact at first team level. I thought the Fonz looked really sharp, and deserved his goal for his lively cameo. It came via the penalty spot, and despite a rather awkward stop, start, step back, run forward run-up, he still finished with aplomb, slotting the ball into the bottom corner. The game finished 4 – 1 to England and our young Villans should be proud at their performances.
Another young striker, Andreas Weimann, currently on loan at Watford scored a goal in Austria’s under 21 victory against their Greek counterparts as they won 3 2. This was in addition to the two he grabbed last Friday against Luxembourg. Not a bad few days! He’s very highly rated at the Villa and I would like to see him given a chance this season. The Championship is a very good league so the loan should stand him in good stead. Good luck for the rest of it!
As I write this Richard Dunne has just finished performing heroics in Russia, and has made a quite incredible goal-line stop which you need to see. Given was also sensational behind him and this can only bode well for the Villa, well in boys! In other Dunne news though, the defender has admitted that he would have ‘probably left had Houllier had stayed’. Now we all know about the infamous fall out last season, and his form was inconsistent at best last campaign. I don’t think it’s worthwhile talking about the past, and you can see from his performances already that Dunne, along with Collins are enjoying playing under the new manager. We’ve only conceded the one goal in three games, and I hope that this impressive form continues as the season progresses. A Richard Dunne playing at his best, can only be a good thing for the Villa. You can see the difference having Given behind him makes, and I hope we can get back to being the defensive force we were a few seasons ago.
The links to Villa old boy Steven Davis first came up towards the end of the transfer window, and now it appears as we were genuinely interested in the midfielder as McLeish has revealed the following:
“Steven Davis is a Rangers player. We asked about him, but we know how much he means to Rangers”
“We never pursued it because they made it clear he wasn’t for sale.”
I was a fan of Davis during his initial tenure at the Villa, and thought he performed well albeit in a very poor Villa side. Despite links to Man Utd he went on to Fulham where he did very little before shining in Scotland with Rangers. He does have talent, but for me we have too many similar players here, and I’d prefer to see the likes of Bannan/Ireland given a go before we wasted money and wages on a player we don’t really need. We’ve been burnt before on signing players from Scotland, and I fear we would again if we were to bring Davis back to our club.
Lastly today and a quick update from AMC who has said Bent is ‘touch and go’ to face Everton this weekend. Now this doesn’t sound too promising, and while I hope he makes it, if there is any doubt we’d be better letting him sit this one out, rather than run the risk of losing him for a longer period. If he is out then we have to find a way of creating, and taking our chances. I would like to see the aforementioned Delfouneso given a run-out, but I expect that Gabby would move up, with perhaps Jenas or Bannan taking his place on the left. Time will tell but we hope it’s nothing too serious!
As always, feel free to share your views on here, or via our Facebook and Twitter pages.
So far today we’ve seen the usual amount of Villa transfer madness.
Here is an update:
It looks like young Irish left-back Enda Stevens has all but confirmed his proposed move to Villa, and will be joining in January after Shamrock’s Europa League campaign.
We were apparently in talks with Joe Cole, but he has completed his year long loan move to Lille.
Still looking likely that the Hutton move will be completed at some point today.
The latest link is with Jermaine Jenas, with Sky Sports News (SSN) reporting that we’ve made enquiries for the England midfielder.
Latest update is that Villa and Tottenham are discussing a loan move for Jenas.
Despite reports linking Fulham with a move for Hutton, the Birmingham’s Mail Mat Kendrick understands that the player is en route to Bodymoor Heath for a medical. Talk emerging of Jenas to Stoke.
It has been confirmed that Villa have completed the signing of the aforementioned Edna Stevens and he will join the club in January.
Hutton fee has reportedly been agreed and a medical is close. Jenas deal edging towards being completed as well.
Still waiting for an update on Hutton and Jenas. It is understood we have a 6% sell on fee for Gary Cahill should he move to Tottenham or another club.
After a quick break from reading football to play it, come back to read official Villa announcement that Jenas and Hutton are undergoing medicals. It seems that these two will be the end of our transfer dealings and the latest news that Hutton has turned down Fulham surely means an announcement is inevitable.
And we’re done! Villa have completed the signing of Alan Hutton on a deal until 2015 and Jermaine Jenas has signed on a year long loan. Good deals in my opinion and we have a very promising young left back to come in in January.
We here at Up the Villa love seeing pictures of our beloved football team winning. With that in mind, we’re starting a new feature and will string together a collection of photos every time the Villa wins. We’re hoping we’re going to be busy this season. The first set of pictures features images from our first two victories of the season against Blackburn and Hereford.
You may have noticed the website has also been given a bit of a spruce-up and for that we’d like to thank Alex Currie (link on the right!) for all his hard work.
Please let us know what you think of our new feature, it was enjoyable putting it together, and we hope you like watching it!
It was a struggle, but we got there in the end and the most important thing is that we find ourselves in the draw for the next round. We’ve all seen Villa fall victim to upsets previously, and there’s no denying it sucks. I was therefore pleased to see McLeish take the cup seriously and despite making eight changes, we put out a strong side. It appears that we’re placing more emphasis on the cups this season and that’s the way it should be. Only a few seasons ago we reached the final of this very competition and despite the tournament having plenty of detractors, there’s no doubt that winning it would be a huge boost to the fans and the club itself.
Focusing on the match and ultimately we did enough to see off the challenge of a spirited Hereford team. There were plenty of positives we can take from the match and the most important thing in my eyes, is that we kept the momentum rolling to continue our very encouraging start to the season. Habib Beye also earned his wages for once, and we kept another clean sheet. Eric Lichaj also grabbed his first goal for the Villa, and boy did he celebrate in style! It’s also refreshing to see how much it meant to him, and soon after the match he ‘tweeted’ the following:
‘Think I’m deaf now… Never heard my mom scream so loud and for so long after her son scored. Happy man ’
Now that’s what it’s all about and I love knowing that Lichaj, and the rest of the youngsters seem to have a genuine affinity for our football club. This is the best group we’ve had coming up in a long long time, and I’m so excited to see how they progress. Barry Bannan again ran the show yesterday (sorry Blackpool he’s not going anywhere) and looks like he’s going to play a big part this season, and Weimann and the Fonz also impressed when coming on. I would much rather give these players a go, than spend money on a player who may not necessarily be needed. Which brings me nicely on to my next point!
A number of sources have linked us with a move for Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson with a fee of £3.5 million mentioned. Now he’s only 23, and anyone coming up through the Old Trafford ranks must have something about them. For me though, I wouldn’t be too keen on bringing him in. I don’t think we need him and while the squad could do with one or two new faces, surely other areas are more of a priority? I think we could do with a defensive midfielder, not someone like Gibson who is more of an attacking option. Yes he has a great shot, but that is not reason enough to bring him in. The fact a lot of Man Utd fans don’t rate him says it all, and I would much rather us use our existing players than waste unnecessary money and wages on a player we don’t really need. The aforementioned Bannan is a much better option, and we still have players like Ireland and Makoun sitting on the bench.
So to finish, well done Villa for negotiating your way to the third round. On a night where a number of other Premiership sides were ‘upset’, it was important for us to progress, and to keep the positivity around the club before the top of the table clash against Wolves this Saturday!
As well as comfortably beating Blackburn this weekend, a number of stories surfaced about Jean Makoun, our enigmatic midfielder who seems to be polarising opinion at Villa Park. Despite only being a Villa player since January, there have been numerous posts suggesting that he may soon be departing, with Greek side Olympiakos heavily linked in a loan deal.
There can be no doubt that Makoun is a quality player, and you only have to look at his performance against Manchester United last season to see signs that he can make it in the Premiership, and can make an impact. It is worth pointing out though that he has only made seven appearances for the Villa, and taking away the display at Old Trafford, he has certainly struggled to adapt to top flight football in England.
This season has seen Makoun named on the bench for our opening two games, and not make it off it as he has remained an unused substitute. Indeed in our last game against Blackburn, McLeish chose to bring on Barry Bannan (who did his prospects no harm with a great cameo) leaving our Cameroonian international frustrated yet again. At the moment is appears he may be no higher than fourth in the pecking order for our central midfield, and with Petrov and Delph forming a very encouraging partnership, he may find chances limited in the upcoming months. I imagine Makoun, along with a few others will get a chance against Hereford this week in the Carling Cup, and an impressive performance might go some way to changing our managers opinion of him.
Even in the last 24 hours or so there have been conflicting stories regarding Makoun, and here is a little snippet to give you an idea. The Daily Mirror reported that Makoun could leave but despite the story seeming to not carry much weight, Mirror journalist James Nursey ‘tweeted’ a few direct (or so he says) quotes from Alex McLeish that would seem to suggest Makoun doesn’t have much hope of a future at the Villa.
‘Gents, about Makoun, I personally asked AM directly about JM (leaving Villa Park) and that was his response. AM clearly doesn’t rate Makoun. sorry’
‘The only way JM will stay is if no-one comes in for him. He’s lightweight, has not settled on or off pitch and AM clearly don’t rate him.’
This would make it seem like the player has little chance of success at the Villa, but in the last few hours the player himself has spoken of his desire to stay a Villan for the foreseeable future.
‘I want to start games, the new manager has come in and I need to impress him. I want to fight and prove myself in the best league in the world – I love English football.’
So is he staying or going? Personally speaking I’d like him to stay, we saw last year the massive impact multiple injuries can have. His quality is not in question, and he’s played regularly in the Champions League. I can’t see him going without someone else coming in, and we’ve been linked with a number of midfield players in recent times. Scott Parker is the link that won’t go away and while I’d be loathe to spend anywhere north of £5 million on him, there can be no doubting his qualities as a footballer. A newer link is to Celtic’s Israeli internation, Beram Kayal. He does look like he can play, but we’ve been burned before on players coming to the Premiership from Scotland.
With the transfer window shutting soon we should get our answer. As I’ve said personally speaking I would keep him here, he hasn’t had much of a chance to show what he can do and his knitwear is a constant source of amusement.
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The start of the football season is always special with the first home game of the season usually an exciting occasion. In a pretty eventful summer, even by Villa standards, it will be nice to finally focus on what really matters….the football.
Blackburn are the visitors and while the fixture itself is pretty uninspiring (with us playing then 232 times in the last few seasons) it could have been a lot worse and does at least offer us a good chance of securing a victory. Indeed we last faced Blackburn only a few weeks ago and came out on top, a typical poachers effort from Darren Bent the catalyst for victory. Yes it was ‘only’ a preseason game but anyone who watched it would have seen it was far more similar to a premiership encounter, and this will hopefully be a good omen for us. In other recent matches against Rovers, we’ve also fared well and I sincerely hope that this good record continues tomorrow. Blackburn didn’t have the best of starts with losing to Wolves so will certainly be keen (pardon the pun) to secure a much needed positive result.
How we line up will be interesting. After securing a valuable point in our opening game at Fulham, I’m hoping Mr Shay Given (who has been passed fit) has a far more quiet afternoon tomorrow. Despite starting the match with three strikers, we didn’t really create much and we will need to provide our main man Darren Bent with a lot better service. I don’t expect too many changes with regards to personnel but I do expect us to be a lot more attacking. Charles N’Zogbia will have had another week of much needed physical training, and I expect us to offer much more of a threat. Alex McLeish is not stupid, and after his controversial appointment, he won’t play negative tactics at home. I think we may surprise a few people this season and if we can continue the attacking football that Gerard Houllier was beginning to implement with some much needed defensive stability, then the majority of fans will be happy with that.
Sticking with McLeish, and after a good reception last week at Fulham, I hope that this continues tomorrow and the fans get firmly behind the manager and the team. Booing, banners and the like don’t help anyone and even if you’re still not convinced by our new man in charge then don’t let it effect your support of the team. There is nothing any of us can do about it now, Alex McLeish is our manager, so let’s get behind him. He’s made an extremely brave decision in replacing Houllier and is already saying the right things with regards to the supporters:
“I’m looking forward to walking along the track, taking my place in the dugout and seeing the team kick-off, hopefully to victory.
“Ever since I moved across the city, there’s obviously been a lot of controversy.
“The first event was away in Hong Kong, the next one was the away game at Fulham and now it’s the home game against Blackburn.
“But that’s what you have to do in life. When you get a challenge, you’ve got to confront it.
“Don’t shirk away from it. You’ve got to front every one of these challenges head on.
“It would be great to think that you just turn up on the pitch and the fans give you full backing from start to finish, but we know that we have to excite them.
“We have to get them up on their feet, getting right behind the players, intimidating the opposition, making them feel a little bit apprehensive about their task of coming to Villa Park.
“So these are all important ingredients so that the fans can do their bit.”
In the midst of these quotes is the following; ‘When you get a challenge, you’ve got to confront it’ and there can be no doubt he has. It seems almost surreal to think back a few months but the level of hostility towards McLeish was incredible. 20,000 or so people joined a ‘We don’t want McLeish’ page on Facebook, there were protests at Villa Park and I lost count of the supporters who said they wouldn’t have anything to do with the Villa when he was in charge. It will be interesting to see what these fans think now, as to date, McLeish has done a fine job in his tenure as Villa boss. We kept a clean sheet away from home in the Premiership, a feat not managed since April 2010 in his first game. We’ve also seen Villa make two purchases that could prove to be inspired. Given is already looking like a steal at £3.5 million, and when N’Zogbia is up to full speed, we’ll have one of the most exciting players in the league wearing a Villa top. What’s not to like?
Finishing off now and I’m hoping that we secure the three points tomorrow afternoon, to continue the positive start to the season. I won’t make a prediction (naturally due to not wanting to jinx the team) but I hope that come 5pm tomorrow, Blackburn have even more reason to hate playing us. The club needs the win, the fans need the win and so does Alex McLeish. Let’s get behind the team, the manager and make Villa Park the fortress it should be.
As you can see we’re making a few changes to the website and hopefully these will all be completed soon. Also if you haven’t, check out our Facebook and Twitter pages (links above by clicking on the appropriate logos) to get involved with thousands of like minded Villans.
Following the release or departure of 12 players this summer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Aston Villa squad barely has enough players left to form a competitive five-a-side team. That’s not the case and despite the need for one or two new faces, we still have a decent sized squad with a surprising amount of cover in some areas. With that in mind we here at ‘Up the Villa’ are going to profile everyone (well almost everyone) in our squad, discuss their values as Aston Villa players and what qualities they bring to our football team.
As we’ve had a bit of a love affair (totally justified by the way) with Shay Given recently, first up in our new feature is Mr Bradley Guzan. After a string of impressive performances for Juan Pablo Angel’s new team Chivas USA, Guzan went on to be named ‘MLS Goalkeeper of the Year’ in 2007. This was enough to convince Villa to make their move and after a deal fell through in January 2008, the transfer was finally completed in July of that year. The fee was a reported £600,000 and despite the keeper not getting the number of appearances he would have liked here, there is no doubt that the overall level of his performances has comfortably paid back the money spent on securing his services.
Guzan made his competitive Villa debut in a league cup defeat against Q.P.R. His European bow went a lot better though as Guzan kept a clean sheet and impressed as Villa beat Slavia Prague 1-0 in the Czech Republic. This display prompted Martin O’Neill (he of little hyperbole) to describe Guzan as a ‘Class goalkeeper in the making’. That particular European campaign ended in infamy with Mr O’Neill’s decision to field the reserves against CSKA Moscow. Guzan also made his first and only Premiership appearance to date in the same campaign coming on against Liverpool after the other Brad (Friedel) was sent off.
The start of the 2009-10 campaign and in particular our participation in the Peace Cup was arguably the moment fans became more aware of Guzan’s capabilities and especially his prowess for saving penalty kicks. After performing well throughout the tournament, Guzan saved his best for the final, producing a solid display before saving two penalties in the shoot-out. The second stop in particular was vital and also provided me with one of my favourite Guzan moments. Alessandro Del Piero (yes he of the amazing set-pieces) stepped up knowing that a successful penalty kick was all that stood between Juventus and a Peace Cup triumph. Guzan had other ideas. Del Piero tried…um to pass it into the net down the middle (as you do) and Guzan read him like a book, easily saving the weak effort. Villa went on to lift the Peace Cup, although there was nothing peaceful about the look Guzan gave Del Piero for what he just tried. Despite it being a preseason tournament, this remains one of my favourite Villa moments of recent years.
As the season kicked off, more glory would follow as Villa made it to the League Cup final. Guzan was instrumental in seeing Villa make the final, and his performance against Sunderland in the last 16 is one of the finer goalkeeping displays a Villan has made in recent seasons. Not only did he save a penalty in normal time, he also made an excellent save in extra time before going on to save three more penalties in the shoot out, ensuring Villa’s progression to the next round. The wild semi final second leg against Blackburn (people tend to forget he kept a clean sheet in the first leg) is perhaps where some people made their minds up that Guzan might not be good enough to ultimately be Villa’s number one. It’s interesting to wonder what would have happened with regards to the final if Guzan kept a clean sheet in the second leg.
Still O’Neill had a decision to make and ultimately plumped for experience as Brad Friedel was the man between the sticks at Wembley. As we all know we went on to lose and for me at least, Guzan should have kept his place in goals. He was a massive reason we made the final in the first place, and much like Stoke did last season when playing Sorensen (who played all the cup games previously) instead of Begovic, I think the manager should have kept faith with the keeper that performed heroics to get us there. I can only imagine how Guzan must have been feeling.
Last season saw Guzan loaned out to Hull City and by all accounts he did well. What the future holds for Brad with regards to Villa is hard to tell. Of course we’ve just signed Shay Given, so premiership opportunites at least, are likely to be limited. Whether he goes back out on loan, leaves permanently or stays at Villa, I think he has the potential to be a solid keeper in the future, and at 26 he still has many years ahead of him. Having a capable reserve goalkeeper is vital at the top level, and we definitely do at the Villa. Whether he will ever be our number one remains to be seen but considering the price we brought him for, we’ve done pretty well out of the deal.
Enjoy the Guzan save from Del Piero below (and enjoy the commentary!)
In yet another twist to the Carlos Cuellar saga (it seems that transfers both in and out at Villa seem to take an age) it now appears that he may yet be staying at the club after comments from both parties seem to suggest that for the time being at least, the move is dead.
Rangers apparently expressed a bit of concern about his latest injury, and were also struggling to come to an agreement over wages with Carlos picking up around £35,000 a week at Villa, a task not helped by the Scottish clubs elimination from the Champions League qualifiers. Alex McLeish has also said the following, and still refuses to rule out his exit:
“Carlos is a very good experienced player. I think Rangers have gone cold on the idea so, as far as we are concerned, he is a Villa player.
“He is a solid defender and did a tremendous job for Rangers when he was up there in his first spell. He is a terrific defender and is very experienced cover.
“He is not far away from running, so he is maybe a week or two away from joining the group. Will he still be here in a fortnight? I can’t predict that.
“We just have to get on with things and keep plugging away to get results.”
It’s an interesting one with King Carlos. A lot of the fans (myself included) hold him in high regard, and I actually think he’s one of the better centre-backs at the club. McLeish is the latest in a line of managers though to not really give him a chance and while we all fancy we could do a better job as the gaffer, surely they can’t all be wrong about the player? Personally I’d like to see him stay but if he’s not going to play and isn’t part of the long term plans, then we’d be better to at least get some money in for him, and get his wages off the books. The last thing I want to see is another O’Neill signing leave for nothing or a fraction of their true worth, we’ve been down that road too many times before.
Now on to more positive news and it really is significant as it has been reported that Shay Given should be fit to make his home debut this weekend against Blackburn. Alarms were raised when James Collins began taking goal kicks towards the end of the Fulham match, and in the aftermath it was revealed he had a slight groin strain. The good news is though he should be back in training tomorrow and with no setbacks free to play on the weekend. Now please join me in a collective sigh of relief.
Looking past the first team and our youngsters play their first match of the NextGen tournament tonight, taking on European giants Ajax in Amsterdam. Make no mistake this is a huge deal for the club, and can only benefit the young stars taking part. Mark Warburton, the creator of NextGen has revealed why Villa were worthy candidates to take a place in the inaugural competition:
“You can go to Bodymoor Heath and see you have got world class facilities there.
“I know [Villa's academy director] Bryan Jones very well and have seen the excellent work that has been done in the academy.
“You can also look at the FA Youth Cup over the past couple of seasons and see the quality teams that Villa have put out there.
“Even back when I was a young player for Leicester in the 1980s, Villa always brought through young players.”
We’ve taken a strong squad over to Holland, with some well known names such as Daniel Johnson, Samir Carruthers, Graham Burke and Benjamin Siegrist all involved. The best of luck to the Villa and let’s show the rest of Europe we have one of the very best youth set-up’s in football. Just no-one get any ideas about stealing any of our young stars.
Finishing today and a rather fanciful link to Nicolas Anelka. This popped up late last night with talk of a loan move and before long was all over twitter, Facebook and the like. The source is highly dubious with it looking like it has been picked up from a users comment on the Sky Sports transfer window watch site. Sky then decided to publish it in the main section and like that, a new transfer rumour was born! Will it happen, probably not. Would it be nice, well yes! He’s still a great striker and if he joined Bolton (no offence intended) I’d like to think he would come to us….even taking off my Villa hat we’re still a bigger and more attractive club. Still I can’t see it happening but it’s still good to be linked to players of this quality. After the news of enquiries for Milner and Johnson, it still suggests we’re looking to strengthen, and strengthen with players who can make a difference. I have faith we can have a good season, but numbers are undeniably low in the squad and a couple of new faces could make a massive difference to our fortunes this campaign. Over to you Villa.