In a pretty good initiative on Villa’s part, fans are now given the chance to vote on the man of the match after every game, with the overall winner (highest point accumulator) being named player of the month. Anything that get’s the fans involved is a good thing and this has resulted in Mr Gabriel Agbonlahor being named our player of the month for August.
After each match, the player with the most votes is awarded three points, with two for second and one for third. Our top five is as follows this month, with Agbonlahor taking the crown after receiving more individual votes than Fabian Delph in second.
1st: Gabriel Agbonlahor (4 pts)
2nd: Fabian Delph (4 pts)
3rd: Shay Given (3 pts)
4th: Chris Herd (3 pts)
5th: Barry Bannan (3 pts)
Agbonlahor earned four points from finishing second against Blackburn and Wolves while Delph finished third against Fulham and first against Blackburn.
It seems that our fans can read a game pretty well as Given won the Fulham vote, Herd won it for Wolves while Bannan was first against Hereford. All correct decisions in my opinion.
For me personally the player of the month would have been between Agbonlahor or Given, with Given just about pinching it if I was pushed. They’ve both started the season in fine form though, and that’s all that really matters.
Agbonlahor seems to have recaptured the form which makes him so dangerous, and even though I still would ultimately like to see him as a striker, he’s looked very impressive playing on the left hand side. He’s already popped up with two important goals, and his celebration against Everton tells you everything you need to know about how much the Villa and it’s fans means to the player, great to see.
Fabian Delph has the makings of a top player, and it’s great to see him getting more game time as he looks to develop into the player we all hope he can be. After a hugely impressive start to the season, his performances have slightly tailed off in the last couple of games. Still, the potential is there for all to see, and at 21 he has plenty of time to develop into a top top player. At times he seems to be trying too hard, and this does on occasion cost us, as shown when conceding a needless penalty against Everton. There is plenty more to come though from this exciting young talent.
Given has been somewhat of a revelation, and already a candidate for ‘signing of the season’. He clearly needed to be playing, and it’s great that he is for our football club. He was sensational against Fulham, and has performed well in just about every game to date. We’ve always been aware of his goalkeeping qualities but what I love seeing is how he seems to be inspiring the rest of the defence to up their games. Collins and Dunne look like the players of a couple of seasons ago, with Dunne in particular excelling with his International team-mate behind him. A brilliant bit of business on our part.
Chris Herd has only played the one premiership game this season, but what a performance it was. He was sensational against Wolves, and kept an England winger (Matt Jarvis) extremely quiet, eventually resulting in his substitution. Phenomenal in the air, strong in the tackle and has a terrific attitude to the game. He almost knocked himself out in the aforementioned game, after colliding with a post yet stayed on the pitch and was correctly awarded Man of the Match. Like many of the youngsters, he has a genuine affinity with our club and plays like a fan, always giving 110%. Expect more from this versatile young star.
And finally we finish with Barry Bannan, who you get the feeling is on the brink of something very special. Us fans have been aware of his talents for a while, and on the occasions he has played this season, he has looked a star in waiting. Blessed with an otherworldly left foot, he also has a football brain that belies his young age. He was awarded man of the match for the Carling Cup game against Hereford, and you feel this may be the first of many. He has shone for Scotland this season, has impressed when coming off the bench for us and you feel a starting role is just around the corner, perhaps this weekend against Newcastle. Like Herd he has a genuine connection for the club, and I’m incredibly excited to see what he can achieve this upcoming season.
So how about you? Let us know who your player of the month is for August by getting in touch either here in the comments section, or on our Facebook and Twitter pages (links above).
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.
Attempting to finish up some work yesterday, I put the Russia vs Ireland match on the background hoping I wouldn’t get too distracted. Within minutes my optimistic plan had failed as I was drawn to the action, and 90 plus minutes of something pretty special from our Villa heroes, Shay Given and Richard Dunne.
Initially I was keen to see if Given would show any adverse reactions to the niggling injuries he has been carrying recently. The first half answered that in pretty emphatic fashion with the keeper making a number of top draw saves to frustrate the Russians. He moved easily, and showed tremendous agility to fling himself to his right to keep out a testing half volley that was destined for the bottom corner. He went on to make a number of top top saves, including a point saving effort in the last few minutes. I’ve touched on it before, but I also love seeing how vocal he is and you can see the difference it is making to the Villa defence already.
If Given was impressive, then Dunne was something else as he produced a quite incredible performance that just may well rank as one of the finest Irish defensive displays of all time. He was sensational, and as the match went on, you started to realise that you were witnessing something very very special. We’re all familiar with another Irish centre-half here at the Villa, and Paul McGrath indeed produced a number of inspired performances for his country, most notably against Italy in the world cup back in 1994. When he says the following then you know that what Dunne produced, was pretty special:
“Congratulations to Richard. That was the best performance I have ever seen from any Irish centre-half – and that includes myself.”
He really was that good, winning header after header, breaking up play and producing one of the best goal-line blocks you will see in a while. With around fifteen minutes left he suffered a nasty looking injury, head-butting the ground as he made yet another tackle. He received a number of stitches, dusted himself down and went back on to the pitch to ensure that the Irish team would keep yet another clean sheet (7 in a row now). It was something quite amazing and a game I was proud to watch. These words from Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni sum up just how good our Villa representatives were:
“I thank God that we had Richard in this game. He was fantastic.
“He sacrificed himself because he went back on to the pitch with four stitches. He understood the need to stay on the pitch.
“Shay Given also saved two or three goals. They were fantastic saves.”
If that wasn’t enough, rising star Barry Bannan also had a night to remember as he inspired Scotland to a narrow 1-0 victory over Lithuania. I didn’t watch the game at the time, but from what I have seen and heard since, Bannan was incredible. Us Villa fans know talent when we see it, and for a couple of seasons now it’s clear that our little Scottish star has the potential to be very special. He’s blessed with one of the finer left foots around, and he deserves an extended run in the first team sooner rather than later. Indeed if Bent is out this weekend I’d love to see him come in with Gabby moving up top. Bannan (along with Dunne and Given) must be absolutely buzzing after starring for their countries, and he deserves a chance in my opinion.
Bannan was a threat with his deliveries all night, and it was his free kick that brought around a penalty for Scotland after a Lithuania player inexplicitly handled the incoming ball. Bannan actually wanted to take the penalty himself, a sign of the confidence he possesses in his abilities. Scotland should have perhaps listened as Fletcher went on to see his penalty saved. Bannan went on to set up the only goal of the game, playing a delightful chipped ball into the box for Naismith to volley home in some style.
We wrote this on our Facebook page last night and here it is again, courtesy of the BBC text updates:
‘A standing ovation for Barry Bannan as he is replaced by Scotland in the 84th minute. He has been the hosts star performer bar none this evening.’
Bannan himself was clearly overjoyed with the outcome in his competitive debut:
“It’s a marvellous feeling, this is my first competitive game and after playing in the friendlies to get out there and start at Hampden, it’s what dreams are made of.
It’s a great result for us. We knew what it was going to be, a tough game, and we got what we came for.
To get the three points is a big result and hopefully we can kick on from there.”
Sadly Stiliyan Petrov couldn’t make it a perfect night for our Villa stars as his Bulgaria side tasted defeat against Switzerland.
We here at Up the Villa want to offer our congratulations to all our international stars on a great night. They’ll come back to Villa full of confidence and that can only be good for us.
Up the Villa!
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.
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!
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.
First things first, let us take a moment to celebrate the fact that football is back. Feels good right?! Despite a pretty uninspiring weekend all around the Premier League there are few more exciting feelings than seeing your team kick off the new season, and all things considered, we have to be happy with a solid point at Craven Cottage.
As I was travelling back from my holiday, I was unable to catch the match, instead finding myself standing in fields and the like in a desperate attempt to find signal. After a couple of hours of constantly pressing refresh, the game finished 0-0 and by all accounts our new keeper had played a blinder.
After seeing the highlights this was confirmed and already it looks as if Alex McLeish has pulled off a master-stroke by saving Shay Given from the plush leather seats that form the Man City bench. I’ve said it before, and why I choose to bring it up again I’m not quite sure but Shay Given wasn’t my first choice to be our new number one. His shoulder didn’t really bother me, as I’m sure our medical staff know more about these type of things than myself, I was simply of the thinking that we’d be better suited bringing in a younger keeper who could be our number one for a longer period. There are times when I’m happy to admit I was wrong, and this is one of them. Of course we have to remember that he’s only played a handful of games for the Villa, but the early signs are darn promising.
At Fulham he pulled of a number of very impressive stops, and more than that his communication and sheer enthusiasm were great to witness. A player like Shay Given (take note James Milner) doesn’t deserve to be sitting on a bench, and it’s already apparent in the interviews he’s conducted that he’s beyond happy to be playing regular football again.
Reading around and seeing a few pieces on TV, it’s apparent that it’s not just us Villa fans infatuated with our new number one. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the phrase ‘signing of the season’ used so much during the opening weekend of the season (Aguero played on a monday, so in our Villa favoured view that doesn’t count!)! Here are a few press snippets and as I’m sure you’ll agree, they make for pretty positive reading.
Sunday Express: Buying Shay Given could turn out to be one of the best bits of business Alex McLeish has done in quite a while.
Sunday Mercury: Alex McLeish saluted Aston Villa’s ‘Shay-viour’ after the super stopper ensured his and the manager’s competitive debuts were in safe hands in the draw at Fulham
Daily Star on Sunday: The Republic of Ireland No.1 pulled off a series of fine saves to deny Fulham a deserved victory and left you wondering why City boss Mancini showed him the door. Given, 35, proved that he is still top-drawer and has many years left in the top flight.
Mail on Sunday: Shay Given was the star of the show on his Barclays Premier League debut for Aston Villa. The Irishman was always going to be a snip at £3.5m and he proved the point at the first opportunity.
Sunday Telegraph: Well, at least Aston Villa have no worries about replacing Brad Friedel. New goalkeeper Shay Given was the decisive figure on an afternoon which initially promised much for the away side but ultimately left Fulham frustrated.
I love Mr Given already. As a result of our goalkeepers heroics, we also managed to keep a clean sheet away from home, managing the feat for the first time since we beat Hull in April 2010. For all his detractors (and lord knows there were many), it’s great to see our new manager has already got our defence looking more solid than we did last season, and this can only bode well for the upcoming season. A couple of seasons ago, we had one of the better defensive units in the league, and if we can get back anywhere near that level, we’ll be in a position to do well.
We wouldn’t be Villa fans if we didn’t have something to moan about, and while the lack of chances created is a bit of a worry, I’m pretty confident things will turn around soon on that front. Darren Bent scores goals for fun, and when N’Zogbia is fully up and running, we’ll offer more of a threat than we did Saturday. I was pleased to see Delph given a start, and I’m hoping for a big season from him this season. We are in desperate need of a goalscoring midfielder, and he could be the man to chip in with 7 or 8 this season.
Still let’s keep it positive and take things into context. Fulham finished above us last season, have a lot more match fitness than ourselves and were at home. A point and a clean sheet is not to be sniffed at.
Apologies to everyone for the lack of posts recently, as mentioned I was away on Holiday with limited internet access. Thanks to everyone for getting involved on our Facebook and Twitter pages (links above by clicking on the relevant logos) and to everyone who has joined our Fantasy Football leagues. You people rock. Also we’re in the process of making a few changes to the website so apologies for that.
I don’t know if it’s the euphoria that we’ve actually made a signing, but the more I look and think about the Shay Given move, the more it feels like we’ve done something pretty special bringing him to Villa Park.
I’m not going to say he was my first choice, I was in the camp that wanted to bring in a younger goalkeeper and not have to worry about the position for the next 10 or so years. Still if you look at the options out there, we’ve arguably got the best available keeper on the market. Ali Al-Habsi was always likely to return to Wigan and after the tiny matter of stealing their manager from them, any negotiations with the Blues for the signing of Ben Foster would have been fraught with difficulties. I would have liked to have had a look at Kieren Westwood, but he’s an unproven quality in the premiership and after the departure of Mr Reliable Brad Friedel, we really needed someone to come in who’s done it consistently at this level. Make no mistake, Shay Given has, and before a tainted few years at Man City (sound familiar?), he was without doubt one of the very best goalkeepers in the league and possibly Europe.
I think we only have to look at the reaction of fellow football fans and people in the wider football world to know we’ve done well signing Given. I’m still getting used to Twitter but I’d say 99% of the people making comments on the move were leaving 140 positive characters. Arsenal fans in particular couldn’t believe our luck, and were equally as angry at Mr Wenger for not making a move. Man City and Newcastle fans were equally kind with what they had to say and you know something, it feels great. It’s nice that other fans are jealous of a move that the Villa make and it’s just as good to see hundreds of people say how well he’ll do for us and how well we’ve done bringing him here. Of course he has to produce now he’s made the move, but I think he’ll more than payback the £3.5 million spent on him.
Here are a few ‘tweet’s’ from those not directly linked with the Villa and as I said, they make for very pleasing reading:
Henry Winter (Telegraph journalist): Congratulations to avfc. Just signed one of best gks around in Shay Given. Upbeat dressing-room presence & fantastic club ambassador too.
Phil McNulty (BBC Sport journalist): Shay Given signs a five-year deal with Aston Villa. Excellent, experienced goalkeeper with plenty left to give.
Matt Holland (former footballer): Great business by AVFC. Replaced a 40 year old top keeper with a 35 year old better one IMO.
Yes he is 35 but to use one of football’s finer clichés, goalkeepers tend to get better as they get older and he has five years on our previous number one Friedel, a man who very rarely let us down.
It really is amazing the difference one signing can make, and it’s a great first purchase for our new manager Alex McLeish. I have faith he’s going to continue to make shrewd purchases and I honestly believe we may surprise a lot of people this season, the majority of whom are too quick to write us off.
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