This Is Villa Park

This Is Villa Park

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Aston Villa boast one fine academy, a positive in all this negativity, which receives high and well deserved praise on many fronts. The likes of Gabby Agbonlahor, our speed demon, Marc Albrighton, Ciaran Clark, who's hasn't been given a chance yet however contributed to some classy goals last season and Barry Bannan; have all worked their way through to the first team.

Having been shining lights, except Gabby, in the gloom overshadowing Villa Park and deepening injury crisis's in a difficult Gérard Houllier reign, they now vow to be part of a ultra-defensive Villa XI.

Not only do they express an enormous amount of talent, yet they also come with bundles of desire. Desire to do well, desire to play for the team that most of them support and love and desire to make Villa a major force in the Premier League again.

In most Premier League teams, home grown players are of the minority and teams don't see the benefits of them. What it brings to the club are passionate youngsters that are willing to improve to become a player that will be recognised by little children for years to come. Even if they lack in experience, they definitely make up for it in emotion.

Ciaran Clark. Source: Sky Sports.

Take Ciaran Clark for instance; properly making his first team breakthrough under Gérard Houllier last season, he proved not only to be a proven stopper in front of goal, he also became a goalscorer down the other end of the pitch. The versatile star, brings character to the field of play - a natural born leader, captaining both the reserve team and the youth England side - and also a sense of calmness. Clark brings composure into the heart of defence, a broad intimidating stature and an aerial threat.
This season he has only made just three apps, being overlooked by Alex McLeish. The two centre-halves standing in his way, appear as James Collins and Richard Dunne; two defenders with 563 Premier League appearances between them. It seems with those two ahead of him, only injuries will allow him to creep into the side.
As much as I am an admirer of James Collins, some of his performances this season have been of a poor standard. So why has McLeish still kept him in the squad when you  have a player like Ciaran Clark waiting in the wings?

Chris Herd. Source: Sky Sports.
There's not only Ciaran Clark that has made his way into first team contention, there are other's that have excelled in the position of being able to play week in, week out. Chris Herd, the Australian born "utility player," was never one that many Villa fans knew about before this season. He played a few games last season, however particularly burst through the scenes when Luke Young left this summer. Needed at right back, Herd stepped into the position perfectly; gelling into the team as if he'd been playing with them for years. Throughout the season, he's been used at the centre of midfield, acting as an anchor to support with both the defence and attack, allowing skipper Stiliyan Petrov to play in his more natural position.
Another graduate of the Aston Villa academy, he shows a huge amount of passion in whatever position he plays. Showing it when going in to whatever challenge, tackle or pass he makes, Herd boasts the sort of attitude all players should admire. You don't often find players like Chris Herd, a player that doesn't moan, puts his head down and gets on with the job in hand. A credit to the club, in my opinion. Offering composure, the ability to tackle without fear, threat in the air and the desire to do everything he does well, he is a player that shouldn't be missed off the team sheet.

Gabby Agbonlahor. "Villa is the perfect club for me. It's home!"
Source: Sky Sports. 

One of the oldest, that still lasts from the academy, striker Gabby Agbonlahor has been one of the success stories that has peeped out from Bodymoor Heath. Now playing in what I would call the best form of his career, assisting and scoring goals left, right and centre; we have a demon on our hands. A speed demon.
He is currently the longest serving player at Villa Park, after joining the youth academy at 1994 and then playing professionally at 2005. In addition to this, he is also Aston Villa's second highest Premier League goalscorer, just behind Dwight Yorke who score 60 goals.
When he burst onto the Villa's first team radar in the 2006/07 season under Martin O'Neill, he started on the right wing in a new look Aston Villa side which faced Arsenal at the Emirates. Now, the rest is history.
Gabby Agbonlahor plays for the badge, not for the name on the back of his shirt. He doesn't go for glory and he plays with his heart on his sleeve. Bringing a natural winning instinct and an a massive amount of passion to the team, he shows them what Aston Villa is all about. Thanks to him being from Birmingham and knowing the club inside out, it reaps in the rewards. The fans love him and he knows what it takes to be a hero and not an enemy.

Marc Albrighton. Source: Sky Sports.

Just like Gabby, Marc Albrighton lives, breathes and bleeds claret and blue. Making appearances in the Premier League under Martin O'Neill, he made his proper breakthrough along with Ciaran Clark last season. You have to say this was all down to Kevin MacDonald who put his faith into Marc when needed.
You can never question Albrighton's work ethic as he always runs his little legs off, wherever, whenever. Neither can you question his desire to be part of the team and return it to it's former glory.
"I know things had not been great but I am a Villa boy and I can’t think of anything worse than leaving the club that’s given me all my games and all my happy moments."
It is Marc Albrighton's passion that for me has led to me to love him as a player. Even though he has had a tough season this year and hasn't performed well when asked to, he still has the courage and bravery to go out on the pitch when needed and give his all. Whether that just be to run and run and run and run, he will do it and he will do it with pride. He will do it for Aston Villa Football Club.
This amount of sheer hard work was explained by both captain and manager alike after the Bolton game two weeks ago. “I am delighted for Marc,” said Stiliyan Petrov. He’s had a real tough time. Before the season started, all the expectations were really high for Marc. Everyone was looking to him to be a replacement for Stewart or Ashley when they left. It wasn’t the best start for him, but the one thing you saw was how hard he was working. He was upset. He’s that sort of player. He wants to learn. He wants to improve and if things don’t go his way on the pitch, he is not happy to just accept it, he wants to put it right."

There are many others; Barry Bannan and Gary Gardner spring to mind, yet I didn't want to bore you with my waffle. Is the academy graduates who will perhaps save us from McLeish's offensive tactics?

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