Date: 11th April 2008 at 8:48am
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Marlon Harewood – Cult Hero!?

Anyone who last summer saw stories in the media linking Villa with a move for Marlon Harewood could have been forgiven for dismissing the reports as either bad journalism, or else a bad joke. Having entered the transfer window with high expectations, by the close I found myself wondering whether Paul McKenna had begun moonlighting as a football agent. Although part of me had religious faith in Martin O’Neill’s judgement, a much larger part was absolutely devastated that having been linked with the likes of Javier Saviola all summer, we instead spent £4million on a player who I felt was a good championship striker at best.

Those fears were certainly realised in Marlon’s early performances for us. Most notably away to Spurs where his introduction when we were 4-1 up with just 24 minutes left to play was, in my opinion, the single most important factor in our throwing away of a seemingly insurmountable 3 goal lead. Up to that point we had looked relatively comfortable, but his complete lack of a first touch and total inability to hold the ball up was not only frustrating, but even embarrassing to watch at times. More importantly, it meant that we could not relieve the Spurs pressure which therefore resulted in wave after wave of sustained attack, and the rest is (nightmare-inducing) history.

Seemingly MON shared my, and I suspect most other Villa fans view on the matter, as from what I can remember Marlon didn’t even feature on the bench for a number of games after that. At the time I thought that would almost certainly be the end of his Villa career and he would be farmed out on loan or, even better, sold in January.

However, you have to give the guy an enormous amount of credit for the way he has turned things around and shown some serious bouncebackability. He’s obviously put in a tremendous amount of work on the training ground and is finally using his muscular physique to his advantage rather than looking like Emile Heskey in a blindfold. He now looks like the kind of player that defenders wouldn’t fancy playing against, and I’m sure the kind of player MON thought he was signing in the summer. He’s been running tirelessly and competing for balls, as well as popping up with some crucial goals like those against Liverpool and Reading which won us valuable points.

Most of all though, I’ve been impressed with his attitude and great display of professionalism. Not moaning to the media when he’s not playing, giving 100% commitment and realising that by being an impact
player coming off the bench he is not just playing second fiddle but actually giving the team a crucial extra dimension.

I never thought I’d say this, but now I’m actually pleased when I see Marlon Harewood’s number 9 held up, or even when he’s in the starting line up and hope he sticks around to do a similar job for us next season.

I’d still like Saviola though.