Date: 31st January 2009 at 1:56pm
Written by:

Friday, 23rd January

Today is a day of mixed news.

The good news is the Emile Heskey transfer, as widely predicated, does go through. Welcome to the club, Emile.

The bad news is that Martin Laursen is out for 2 months after having knee surgery. Gareth Barry regains the captaincy in his absence.

Saturday, 24th January

Doncaster 0 – 0 Villa. With Emile Heskey signing too late to play, Ashley Young beginning his suspension and John Carew still not fit enough to be involved, attacking options were not great. That said, NRC played on the right and set up possibly our best chance, Gabby got into a duel with Neil Sullivan (which the keeper won, unfortunately) and James Milner had a decent enough game in what really was a bit of a test for him in Young`s absence.

It was an entertaining 0-0. Doncaster play nice football, and I am surprised they are where they are in the league. They were unlucky with a couple of corking efforts that hit the woodwork, and we ourselves hit the bar and were thwarted on a few occasions by the aforementioned Sullivan.

I think both teams will have a mixture of, “Could have won it” and “Could have lost it though” and therefore a draw was a reasonable result. We will be expected to go on and win the replay, but as Leicester and QPR have shown the last couple of seasons, things don`t always work out that way. Having said that, it is likely we`ll have a stronger team out than in those games, and with either Heskey or Carew providing an extra attacking option, we will hopefully go through.

In other news, there is plenty of talk about us making a move for Michael Owen, although MON doesn`t really say much either way, as is typical of his idiosyncratic style! He does however suggest that any sort of move will happen in the summer and not this window.

Sunday, 25th January

After a not-particularly-enjoyable Merseyside derby ended in a 1-1 draw, us or Donny are drew against either of the Scouse sides. Replays for both are due to be played 4th February.

Charles N`Zogbia apparently wants to come to us now, not Arsenal. Or he prefers a move to us. I dunno. Does anyone even care bout this loon anymore?! I am not convinced we`ll be signing him anyway. That`s not to say that he`s not a decent player, as he is, at least on what I have seen of him. But I am not convinced about the character of the bloke AT ALL.

Michael Owen talk continues, and we are also linked with Man City duo Daniel Sturridge and Michael Johnson, as well as Gillingham`s 21 year-old striker Simeone Jackson, who played well against us in the 3rd round of the FA Cup.

Monday, 26th January

It`s revealed that NRC, who suffered an injury against Doncaster, is out for a couple of games now. With Laursen out and the potential for further injuries and suspensions, it will be interesting to see if MON makes any more signings this window. I think the size of the squad sometimes gets made out to be worse than it is, but the fact is we would probably all feel better with a couple of (worthwhile) additions.

The Academy lads beat Reading 2-1, with Andreas Steiber and (yet again) James Collins getting the goals.

Meanwhile, Marseille striker Elliot Grandin is linked with a loan move to us. He is also quoted with the bizarre comment of, ‘I have nothing to say, wait and see. But Villa are a great and very big club, which I did not know.”

Tuesday, 27th January

Portsmouth 0- 1 Villa. Welcome Emile! The debut boy scored and what a cracking goal it was too. I thought we were good value for the lead at half-time, the second half was a bit more uncomfortable but in all honestly, much like the second half against the Albion, there was a lot of huffing and puffing without Friedel having to do an awful lot. Of course, at the time, it doesn`t feel like that! We can be thankful to ex-Villain Peter Crouch for missing a sitter, though.

The introduction of Heskey saw a change in formation, and although I don`t like to brag, it was one I predicted! Craig Gardner coming in on the right made sense, as did Sidwell being the player that made way. Obviously, once Ashley Young is back, I`d expect Gardner to be dropped, but I have no qualms about him playing in the meantime. He really is a great example of an important squad player.

Oh, and a quick word on Belhadj; scum.

Moving on, earlier in the day we were linked with Paul Scharner from Wigan. There are rumours that he has a £6m release clause but I have no idea if that is true. Decent player though, and has a bit of versatility that MON likes. With Laursen out, it would definitely make sense.

Wednesday, 28th January

We are once again linked with Michael Owen, who goes and gets himself injured for another few weeks again. Therein lies the problem; he is never fit. If you are just asking me about his ability I would love to see Michael Owen in a Villa shirt, and if we do end up saying then I WILL welcome him with open arms. But the injury situation does concern me, and I am sure it concerns any club looking to buy him, too.

Other transfer talk links us to Josh Wright of Charlton, and Marlon Harewood with a link to one of Portsmouth, Stoke or Middlesborough.

Liverpool draw with Wigan, Everton and Arsenal draw, so only Chelsea spoil the evening by beating ‘Boro. It does however make for a wonderful looking table, and the prospect that we can be second come the end of the weekend is absolutely fantastic!

Thursday, 29th January

Martin Laursen quits international football. Anything that prolongs his Villa career is fine by me.

John Carew and Freddie Bouma both play 45 minutes of a behind-closed-doors friendly which we lose 2-1 to Derby. The big man missed a pen! Still, the important part is them edging closer to fitness.

Further good fitness news… NRC is hopefully not out as long as first feared and Craig Gardner looks to have shifted the knock he took against Pompey.

Finally, Villa ‘target` Charles N`Zogbia claims he`ll never play for Newcastle again as long as Joe Kinnear is in charge after the Barcodes boss mispronounced his name. Blimey, imagine what would have happened to the Republic of Ireland side in the 90`s if they all took that attitude with Jack Charlton?!