Friday, 6th February
As you would expect with tomorrows fixture, a fair amount of people from both clubs make comments about Brad Friedel, and they`re all positive. On a personal note, I think Friedel has been getting better as the season has gone on, and he really does make you wonder how long he could go on for.
On to the match itself, and the aforementioned Friedel is expected to return to the starting line-up along with Emile Heskey, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Stilyian Petrov.
Saturday, 7th February
Blackburn 0 - 2 Villa. Man I`ve missed going away! Cracking day out compounded not only by the result, not only by setting a club record, but also by the performance. This was one performance where that word 'luck` didn`t come into it. We were the better side and thoroughly deserved the win; dare I say it, it can even be described as a 'top 4 performance`. Fairly solid at the back, dominating performances from the two central midfielders and looking like we could score every time we went forward, it really was up there with our best performances this season. Finally, for anyone that got to see 'The Week In Villa` last week, Matthew Joyner gets to keep his life…!
The day gets better later in the evening, as six players - Gareth Barry, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young, Luke Young, Emile Heskey and James Milner (the latter promoted from the U-21`s) - all get called up for England duty.
One piece of news does tarnish the day though, as Gareth Barry gets booked for celebrating Agbonlahor`s goal in (apparently) an over-exuberant manner and therefore is suspended for the FA Cup at Everton.
Sunday, 8th February
Reports suggest that MON is still not convinced that Gareth Barry will stay. Of course there is a lingering doubt until he signs, but to be honest I think he will.
In other news, Fabio Capello states how pleased he is with the amount of English players in the Villa side, including recent signing Emile Heskey.
Monday, 9th February
Luke Young has to pull out of the England squad for Wednesday with a toe injury. Hey, it is nice for the players to get the recognition but when it`s just a friendly I`m all for every Villa player on international duty to get slight knocks to rule them out but be fit again for our next game!
James Milner heaps praise on Martin O`Neill, crediting the manager with why he has been selected for the full England squad.
In other news, we strike a deal with Channel 5 to have our next two home UEFA Cup games (provided we beat CSKA Moscow) screened live. My question is, what about the screening of the away games? Surely that is more important?
Tuesday, 10th February
Well, aren`t we loved! Right:
David Platt says he is a believer that we can break the established top 4.
Rafa Benitez essentially says the title race is between them, us and (the likely winners) Man U.
Newcastle MD Derek Llambias says we are the model that they are using for the future of the Barcodes.
Lots of nice praise, there. Of course, it`s all irrelevant if come May we`re out of both cups and the top 4, but it`s still nice to hear!
In other news that can be described as 'nice`, Brad Friedel is continuing to do good work for grass-roots football in his native America. His not-for-profit Premier Soccer Academies offer scholarships based on ability and not the cash of the parents. There are also plans for four more camps this year. It makes you wonder, if a country the size of America really started to take football seriously, they could eventually take over the darn game! Well, at international level, anyway.
Wednesday, 11th February
I was pretty ill today, and went to bed straight after work. I therefore missed the England game. However, what I know is this; Barry and Agbonlahor both played, which is fair enough. Emile Heskey also played, which is not really fair enough, as he was carrying a slight knock. Ashley Young and James Milner were both unused subs, which makes you wonder why Milner was promoted from the U-21`s. Still, at least they didn`t get injured!
Obviously I also know the result and I assume from what I have read that I did the right thing by sleeping through!
Back home, and MON states that our 'no fear approach` is what has helped us go on this away run. I concur. I am actually always more confident when we`re away, which is tactical as much as anything.
Also, Martin Laursen says he is dreaming of Jeannie, sorry Wembley. He is hopeful of returning late March/early April, and is also hopeful we`ll still be in the FA Cup by then. I hope that when he does, he can go on another injury-free run. Not just for us, but for him. You can`t help but feel sorry for the bloke.
Thursday, 12th February
Gareth Barry says that he never meant to cause problems in the summer. I have mixed feelings on this. I believe his previous agent was a bit of a problem and I genuinely believe he loves the Villa and if he can have success with us then Villa is where he will be. However, the comments attributed to him in the summer moaning about MON and the like just smacks of trouble causing to me! Still, it`s all over now, we appear to have moved on and hopefully he will sign a new contract and be a star at the club for many years to come. I mean many years too; as a player with no pace but a good brain, he could probably find it easier than some others would to stay at the top level, providing he keeps his fitness levels to an acceptable standard.
Anyway, next up is Everton, where we are minus the aforementioned Barry. He will be missed, but hopefully we can do the business without him. It will not be easy and there`ll be no shame in losing at Everton if we do go out, but we have a good record against them and confidence is high. So let`s bring it on!
Aston Villa have six players away with their countries in the October international window.
Midfielder Jordan Veretout hasn't just had to adjust to life in a new country, at a new club and with a new language, there was also the small matter...
Err. The Vital Villa man of the match v Stoke City...
Manager Tim Sherwood has given his normal Monday briefing, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan has also given his thoughts as frustration reigns.
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