Friday, 12th September
With nothing but preparation for Monday going on, it`s a quiet news day at Villa Park. About as exciting as it gets is suggestions Carlos Cuellar may start on Monday.
Saturday, 13th September
Unfortunately, the Academy lads suffered a rare loss; 3-0 away to West Ham. Freddie Sears (good player) grabbed a brace for the Cockney boys.
As preparation for Monday continues, Stilyian Petrov reveals that he – and pretty much all the players – fear for their place in the side due to the strength of the current squad; Craig Gardner announces his belief that teams must hate playing the Villa; Nigel Reo-Coker states he believes in the ‘Villa Vision`, adding that holding onto Gareth Barry was a statement of intent for our top 4 ambitions; and Ashley Young seconds that. So, lots of positive vibes.
Sunday, 14th September
Another positive – but very strange – vibe comes from ManUre manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who claims that Villa are not only dark horses for the top 4, but dark horses for the Premiership title! Mind games already Fergie?
Back to the regular positive comments, James Milner adds to the ‘we-can-challenge-the-top-four` message.
MO`N reveals that Tottenham did approach him about working for them while at Celtic, but he declined mostly due to the fact that they work with a Director of Football; at the time, it was astronomically poor co-commentator/pundit, David Pleat. Even if he was willing to work with a DOF I am sure he would have turned that down!
The weak transfer talk from the Sunday papers amounts to further talk of Emile Heskey. That said, I genuinely wouldn`t be surprised to see that happen if he has not signed a new contract with Wigan come January 1st.
Finally, Craig Gardner signs a new four-year deal, which personally I think is terrific news.
Tomorrow, we actually get on with some football!
Monday, 15th September
Oh yes! A 2-1 away win to Spurs, a score-line which flattered the hosts. Nigel Reo-Coker gets his first league goal (no not his first goal, he scored in the League Cup against Wrexham last season, remember? He did Ah, there it is!) and Ashley Young scored the second with a wee bit of assistance from the Spurs keeper. They got a consolation goal which was also fortunate and, with memories of last years debacle in the heads of players and fans alike, there was some mildly tense moments towards the end.
However the truth was, for all their huffing and puffing, Spurs never really looked like grabbing another goal and our overall performance was one which thoroughly deserved the victory; an overdue victory in the capital at that. The last one came in 2004 when Darius Vassell and Jlloyd Samuel scored the goals that overcame Charlton at the Valley.
The only worrying aspect of the performance (other than Marlon`s miss!) was John Carew got injured. We hopefully find out tomorrow it is not too serious
Tuesday, 16th September
and it hopefully isn`t. While he is definitely ruled out of the game in Bulgaria, medical staff are still hopeful that he will be available for the derby game at the Hawthorns on Sunday.
The aftermath of the night before does see some praise for Villa – Gareth Barry and Stilyian Petrov in particular from MO`N – but the media seem more interested in Spurs. That suits me just fine and I am sure it suits the players as well. Hopefully we can maintain our position in the top 6 at least for the season, just quietly going about our business.
Miss-more-than-hit rumour site Fans FC suggest that Man City are looking to sign Ashley Young. Personally I think his position is one of the last they will be looking at, when you look at their squad they definitely have bigger priorities. In addition, the £15m figure quoted is pure nonsense.
In more contract news, promising defender Nathan Baker (who looked good when I saw him in pre-season) has signed his first professional contract with the club. He could be one to step up as fourth-choice defender if Zat Knight decides he needs regular first team football at any point from the January transfer window.
Wednesday, 17th September
It seems we are superstars in Bulgaria, as the players were fairly mobbed when they landed. Unsurprisingly, Bulgarian native Stilyian Petrov is the main attraction.
Carlos Cuellar and James Milner are both pencilled in for starts. John Carew hasn`t travelled with the squad, and Ashley Young is likely to be injured too.
For reasons that I am not entirely sure of, the reserves drew 1-1 with Wolves in a friendly at Bodymoor Heath. Andreas Weimann got our goal.
Thursday, 18th September
We won! Ok it was not a great performance, and we had a bit of help with their defending for our first goal and they had two sent off but a win is a win and it almost guarantees us our place in the group stages. After all, if we mess this up we`ll get exactly what we deserve!
I guess overall the performance can be described as ‘professional`, and it`s never a bad thing to see three midfielders getting on the score-sheet Nigel ‘The Goal Machine` Reo-Coker in particular! Gareth Barry took a superb penalty and I think we all expected Stilyian Petrov to get some more goals, maybe this will be the start.
Personally, despite what the commentators were saying, I thought the pitch looked awful. That said, Litex were clearly no mugs, and I was impressed in particular with Tom. I wouldn`t mind us scouting the Brazilian, to be honest!
Cuellar did ok, looked solid enough. He was supposed to be in for Laursen according to earlier reports, but Curtis Davies had a swollen knee.
Next up is the Albion. Hopefully we will have Carew and Youg back. Davies too, as I am sure he will be up for the game against his former team that said, out the three I believe he is the least important to come back. When Ashley Young doesn`t play, we just do not look the same team. So let`s hope he`s back bring on the Baggies!
The Week In Villa #4 (12/9/08 – 18/9/08)
Friday, 12th September