Writer: Ross Mackiewicz
Date:Friday September 9 2011
10th September 2011
Now that the international break is over - to the jubilation of some of us - Villa get back down to the business tomorrow with a trip to Goodison Park with Everton playing as hosts.
A bore draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the eve of the international break, along with an attendance peaking just over 30,000 has had the sceptics dwelling on the doom and gloom. Nevertheless, an undefeated start is never a hindrance and although the progress under Alex McLeish is steady, it is still progress!
Two new arrivals made their way through the doors of Bodymoor Heath on transfer deadline day in the form of Jermaine Jenas and Alan Hutton arriving from Tottenham Hotspur.
Whether or not both will start tomorrow remains to be the seen but the likelihood of Hutton filling the void of the departed Luke Young at right-back looks inevitable.
As for our hosts, The Toffees have endured a summer of frustration with a number of departures and no investment whatsoever due to their financial restraints.
Royston Drenthe and Denis Stracqualursi are the only two incomers arriving on season-long loans.
A fans protest is scheduled tomorrow which has been organised by the 'Blue Union`, who have ultimately lost patience with Chairman Bill Kenwright. The sale of Mikel Arteta to Arsenal on the last day of the transfer window has been the final straw for some.
From a personal point of view, I hope their club can overcome these turbulent times. They are a club with a similar history to ourselves, with a terrific fan base and a long overdue need for silverware.
As for the fixture it is the most played match in English football, with tomorrow being the 193rd time we have met. A staggering feat emphasising the affiliation both clubs have to the sport in this country.
Darren Bent had to pull of the England fold last weekend due to a groin injury that has been niggling him for the past fortnight.
In doing so he missed the back to back wins over Wales and Bulgaria.
Regardless of that, the manager is positive that he will be fit for tomorrow, also playing down the severity of his diagnosis:
'He`s not going to miss three or four games or anything like that. Now we are trying to get him ready for the weekend. It is not a serious injury. He is not going to be out for two or three weeks. He`s not been on the pitch but has been working in the gym with the machines and technology we have at our disposal.'
'We will treat him with caution and haven`t been exposing him to the hard ground. At this moment in time, so he is doing some work in the pool and a few other things.'
Big Eck has also had his say this week on the modern day climate in terms of finance.
He has stated that we need to be realistic with our spending due to the financial clout held by others:
'I`m not saying we`re a selling club but we have to be realistic in these modern times.' he said.
'The super clubs have taken it to a level where they can take any of your players and there are even super, super clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona as well. There are a bunch of super clubs that are very difficult for everyone else to compete with in the long run. They are on a different planet.
'Who would have thought Cristiano Ronaldo would have left Manchester United but everyone has their price. The main thing for me is that we produce another five players for England. Gary Cahill rightly lauded the academy system here. We have some great young players in Ciaran Clark, Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan. These guys are all beginning to make an impact. Ultimately a super club might buy them but we have got to keep producing them.'
Club legend Paul McGrath was in awe of compatriot Richard Dunne this week as he put in a sterling display for the Republic of Ireland against Russia in their Euro 2012 qualifier.
'God` lauded he centre back on his twitter account, saying:
'Congratulations to Richard.'
'That was the best performance I have ever seen from any Irish centre-half - and that includes myself.'
Monumental praise from the big man!
England international Leighton Baines withdraw from the national squad last week due to a foot injury but hopes to be fit for tomorrow and make his 70th consecutive Premier League appearance.
Their two new signings Drenthe and Stracqualursi will be thrown straight into the squad.
Villa will need to be wary of the Aussie midfielder as he has netted no fewer than seven times against us in various meetings.
His capabilities in midfield will need to be quelled and his danger in the air from set-pieces will have had McLeish utilising defensive ploys in training to prevent it.
Darren Bent is the one major concern ahead of the trip to Merseyside.
Alan Hutton is in line for his debut. It remains to be seen if Fabian Delph keeps his place in wake of Jenas` arrival.
Irish duo Shay Given and Richard Dunne have been declared fit after their masterful displays away to Russia in the week.
McLeish cleared up their situation at his presser:
'The only complaint Shay had was a bit of stiffness in his back but the groin situation of the past couple of weeks seems to have cleared up. Dunny took a whack on the chin and got four stitches but he has reported back for training feeling good - and so he should.'
After putting in a warrior like performance for his country, a battered and bruised Richard Dunne will look to continue his heroics.
The 31-year-old used just about every part of his anatomy to repel the Russian onslaught and gain a valuable 0-0 draw in the Irish quest to qualify for Euro 2012.
Everton have not beaten us in the league since March 2006 where they dished out a 4-1 drumming at Goodison Park.
Incidentally, Gabriel Agbonlahor made his debut in that game and scored.
Everton manager David Moyes has never lost to his Scottish compatriot Alex McLeish in the Premier League, accumulating one win and four draws.
This will be our first real big test of the season and give us a fair idea of where we are at.
Despite the lack of arrivals and no Mikel Arteta pulling the strings in midfield, The Toffees will still pose as a major threat and will be there or thereabouts in the top half of the table come next spring.
If Villa are resolute in midfield and are organised at the back, then there is every chance we can take something back down the M6.
Not much in this one, 1-1 draw.
The Toon Army (Newcastle United) come to town next Saturday for the 3pm kick-off.
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Date:Friday September 9 2011
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