The Week In Villa #5 (19/9/08 - 26/9/08)
Friday, 19th September
Martin O`Neill is optimistic that Ashley Young, John Carew and Curtis Davies are all fit for Sunday. Here`s hoping.
Speaking of Curtis Davies, he has said that he expects a hot reception at the Hawthorns on Sunday. In all fairness, so does everyone else!
Finally, Gareth Barry has spoken of his pride at joining 'The 400 Club` after making his 400th appearance against Litex Lovech; a performance he marked with a goal from the penalty spot. It`s safe to say that if he spends the rest of his career with the club that he will be as close as we have ever had to running Charlie Aitken`s all-time appearance record close. When you consider that Barry has always had a good footballing brain but has never had any pace, well then if he looks after himself and stays relatively injury-free then he could go on well into his 30`s.
Saturday, 20th September
With this being yet another day of rest for our players (roll on next Saturday, eh!) then the news is pretty slim other than more derby talk. Both teams are optimistic that they will have players returning from injuries and Tony Mowbray has said that he has no regrets over selling Curtis Davies.
I always like them kind of interviews. What is Mowbray supposed to say? "Yes, selling Curtis Davies was the worst thing we ever did"? Regardless of his opinion, his answer is always going to be the same isn`t it!
Anyhoo, I digress. So, in actual football action, the Academy lads drew 1-1 with Norwich. James Collins, who I am hearing good things about, scored our goal.
The other bit of relevant news on this day is that the club have announced that we will be helping Acorns launch their festive campaign on Monday. Ashley Young and Martin Laursen will be there. I must say that I am more than happy to be a Villa fan and would never have - nor can I even imagine - it any other way but the Acorns involvement is something that I am exceptionally proud of.
Sunday, 21st September
3 wins in 7 days! Superb! We deserved it overall, although Albion certainly made it uncomfortable. Much like the win at White Hart Lane, it was uncomfortable without us being at panic stations. If anything, I would say this was a sterner test than the Spurs game. To be fair, Albion are probably a top defender and forward away from a mid-table comfort zone. However, we took full advantage of some slack defending for both of our goals and we provided some slack defending of our own for their goal. To be fair to our lads, especially Agbonlahor, there was still plenty to do for the goals and done well it was! In addition, had it not been for that pesky post, Carew may well have had a hat-trick.
Monday, 22nd September
Generally the news today is the aftermath of the derby but there are some other notes of interest. Phil Mepham leaves the club to seek pastures new, and various reports continue to indicate that Emile Heskey will be joining us in January. Reports range from £5m to £10m. If Heskey does not sign a new contract in January then I would be surprised if Wigan were that intent on holding on to him. But in all fairness, this is Potato Head we are talking about!
Tuesday, 23rd September
Isaiah Osborne signs a new contract. Not a bad thing, although I would like to see him go out on loan for a few months at a Championship club to see how he deals with it. Sometimes I see him and think we could have a real player on our hands, and sometimes I think he will not make it. Which is forgivable at that age, but it would be good to see him get see regular football at a level to test him on a consistent basis.
We also announce that Villa Park will host England`s U-21 play-off game against Wales. That is a big game for the youngsters and is likely to include Gabriel Agbonlahor, James Milner and Craig Gardner, so it would be nice to see a decent turn-out. I for one plan on going!
For anyone that attends reserve away games (that`s pretty hardcore, so fair play if you do!) our away game at Chelsea - to be played at Brentford - has been moved back a week from the 6th October to the 13th October.
So, as is the trend with us at the moment, we now need to move on from the last game and get ready for the next. Tomorrow we return to Villa Park as we host QPR. We are set to make a few changes but the nucleus of the side will still be strong, according to the boss, so I`m expecting us to go through.
Wednesday, 24th September
Well, how wrong can you be! Okay, due to ill health I did not attend the game. So I am relying on the radio that I listened to, match reports, highlights and my Dad to get an idea of how it went. The general consensus seems to be we were lacking in the final third. It`s very frustrating and, while QPR are no mugs, it`s fair to suggest that we should have gone through and, with a bit of luck, we would have been in with a decent chance of winning the competition when you look at the teams that have gone through.
Also, while I am certainly not looking to make him a scapegoat for this defeat, you have to wonder how much longer Marlon Harewood will be a part of the squad. He did well in his 'super-sub` capacity last season, but in pre-season and so far this season, he has looked below the standard we require and I am starting to think that if we are going to progress, we need better options up top.
Thursday, 25th September
With the aftermath of the QPR defeat hogging the news, I look around to see what else is going on; and it seems to be us linked with right-wingers; Jermaine Pennant and Aaron Lennon, to be exact. It`s hard to take these links with too much seriousness, as James Milner was recently signed and Nigel Reo-Coker is currently keeping him out of the team. I would take either of them over Wayne Routledge to be fir but I just don`t see it happening.
It is time to dust ourselves off and look forward to Saturday. After winning three games in seven days there was always the possibility that we were not going to carry that run on and, at the end of the day, what`s done is done. The real test is how we react, so a win against Sunderland would be just what the doctor ordered.