Friday, 16th January
Martin O`Neill picks up Manager of the Month and Ashley Young gets the Player of the Month award. Congratulations are due to both, as it is brilliant news.
Although John Carew and Wilfred Bouma both step up their training, neither man will be available for the trip to Sunderland. The latter will obviously take a while longer to be back anyway, but hopefully the big man will be involved again in the first team at some point this month.
Back to Ashley Young, and MON describes him – and Gabriel Agbonlahor – as ‘priceless`. He also describes the Citeh bid for Kaka as ‘staggering`.
Saturday, 17th January
Sunderland 1 – 2 Villa. Not a great first-half was compounded by some shocking defending for their goal. We picked up a little towards the end and were better in the second half. There can be arguments made about luck for both goals, although there can also be arguments made against the ‘luck` element. There can not however be any arguments over Ashley Young`s sending off, although there is mitigation available in as much as I don`t think there was an intent to hurt the player, it was just plain daft. We will miss him.
Thankfully we didn`t miss him too much in this game as, poised at 1-1 with us down to ten men (with the player that was sent off arguably our best player) and the away side at a ground where the home team is in decent form with ‘new manager syndrome`, we could have easily folded and may well have done in previous years. But this is a different Aston Villa now, and we dug deep to get the win. In many ways, you could argue this is our best win of the season so far (although Arsenal away takes some beating); it is definitely one of the best, anyway.
In other news, the Academy lads slumped to a rare defeat 2-0 away to Leicester.
Sunday, 18th January
Transfer news is fairly slim, and the only real ‘story` seems to be Spurs after NRC. Personally I don`t see this happening, and I`d be concerned if it did. If everyone is fit then he would not get into my best XI, but NRC is invaluable as a squad player. People like him and Craig Gardner are very important, even if they are not in the ‘best players` category.
Monday, 19th January
MON says that he needs to reinforce the squad. With news coming that Martin Laursen will be having further investigation into his knee injury, and the suspended Ashley Young, the urgency around the Villa may be rising.
On the subject of Ashley Young, he is to be fined for his dismissal on Saturday.
Further ‘outward` rumours and that is Marlon Harewood linked to Middlesborough. This is certainly not going to happen until the squad is strengthened appropriately, but I would not be surprised if Marlon has left come 2nd February. If he hasn`t, I think it is 99.9% certain that he will go in the summer. Either way, no-one can moan about his attitude, and it`s a shame he hasn`t being as impactful as a sub as he was last season, as while we would still need another striker, he would probably be getting enough football to justify him staying at the club. Why he hasn`t been used as much can only be answered by MON, but what is clear is that his days at Villa Park are highly unlikely to go beyond the summer; possibly this month.
Tuesday, 20th January
Today`s transfer rumours amount to a possible swap deal involving Leighton Baines and Nicky Shorey. Exciting stuff!
Doncaster beat Cheltenham 3-0 to set up Saturday`s FA Cup fixture.
Martin Laursen`s scans have proved inconclusive, so MON says the plan is to assess his fitness on a game-by-game basis.
Wednesday, 21st January
Sad news arrives in the form of the death of former captain, Johnny Dixon. He was the last captain to lift the FA Cup, and he was at the club for 17 years. I actually have the honour of having seen him play (albeit he was in his 60`s) for the Villa Old Stars. I think that is testament to the man`s love for football and Aston Villa, as well as his ability as a footballer, that he was still kicking a ball in representation of Aston Villa at that age. The word ‘legend` is over-used in football (see a certain George Boateng quote for a horrid example) but Johnny Dixon was an Aston Villa legend of the highest order, and from what I can tell a darn nice bloke too. I am sure everyone joins me in wishing his family all the best.
Back to the modern day side, and the club are due to begin contract talks with Stilyian Petrov, who for me has quite possibly been the player of the season so far. Also, MON says we have had no contact from ‘Boro for Marlon.
Thursday, 22nd January
Just 24 hours after one genuine Villa legend dies, so does another. This time it is Vic Crowe. Just like Johnny Dixon, his association with Aston Villa spanned a period of 17 years, although Crowe was a player who later returned as a coach then manager. Anyone who knows their Aston Villa history will at least know the name Vic Crowe, as once again, this is a man that can actually be described as a legend. Perhaps his greatest achievement was leading our third division side to the League Cup final in 1971. Once again, I am sure everyone joins me in wishing his family all the best.
The day ends with a pretty much rock-solid rumour that the signing of Wigan`s Emile Heskey is imminent. In all fairness, from a News Now point of view at least, It was ‘Vital Villa` that were there first with the breaking story!
The Week In Villa #22 (16/01/09 – 22/01/09)
Friday, 16th January