Aston Villa Club Focus – Villa playing through the pain barrier

The international break must come as a welcome relief to Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish after he revealed that six of his first team players have been playing with injury. The commitment to the Villa cause from Stiliyan Petrov, Alan Hutton, Chris Herd, Emile Heskey, James Collins and Shay Given has impressed the Villa manager, but McLeish’s main concern is getting his side back to full health.

Villa assistant manager Peter Grant believes that all six will be available to face Tottenham after the international break and those who are not involved in duty will be at the training ground recuperating whilst the internationals take place. James Collins will be one of those at the club after withdrawing from the Wales squad for the weekend’s friendly against Norway.

Grant said: “They have been desperate to play and that’s been a big plus for us. Hopefully, we can look after them during this period and get them back on the training pitch fully next week.

McLeish called in a set of army fitness instructors to training this week and those who had not been picked for their countries were drilled by Army instructor Lee Swann. The Villa boss used the specialist training to keep his players motivated and the effect was mostly positive with young Villa winger Marc Albrighton commenting on how much he enjoyed the session.

Charles N’Zogbia was one of those players involved in the army training session and seemed eager to join in with all activities. Speculation has linked the former Newcastle man with a move to Sunderland and Villa have been quick to quell any rumours of a move. N’Zogbia only joined the club in the summer, but has managed an average start to his Villa career.

Grant insists that N’Zogbia has the qualities to become a top player and that any speculation of a move is nonsense, same with any rumours surrounding hotshot striker Darren Bent.

We feel in the last few weeks that Charles is starting to get there. It’s important that he starts the games very positively like he did on Saturday against Norwich. We think that he’s got to believe more in himself.

We’ve been giving him feedback and hopefully he’s going to improve even more. Top players are always going to be linked with other clubs, but if players leave here, they should only be going to top four clubs, because there’s not many clubs bigger than this one,” Grant said.

Darren Bent is another player who will be staying at Villa Park and the 27-year-old striker believes that he could fill the boots of Wayne Rooney for England. Rooney’s three game ban for the group stages of the European Championships next summer is paving the way for a striker to step into the breach and Bent has suggested that his form for Villa warrants a starting role for England at Euro 2012.

The Villa front-man said: “It’s a massive week for me. I’m up there with the best periods of my career – just as we’re playing Spain, the best team on the planet. I’ve never scored at Wembley and would be delighted to break that duck.

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