By Graham Hill
AMID all the pre-season transfer talk at Villa was the prospect of Ahmed Elmohamady leaving for Newcastle United.
After all, the Egypt captain had played for Steve Bruce at Hull before joining him at Villa Park – why would he not now leave for the north east?
He does not fit the age profile boss Dean Smith searched for when looking for new faces in a £127million spending spree this summer.
And he did not appear to be a first pick at right back with Frenchman Freddie Guilbert completing his move from Caen.
But here we are. Two games in. And Elmohamady has featured in both starting line ups.
And any suggestion that this is one final hurrah for him this season was quashed by the award of a year’s contract extension on Thursday.
Clearly, Smith realises that he cannot throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to rebuilding this Villa squad.
He still needs some experienced voices in the side and he has also shown that on the opposite flank by picking Neil Taylor ahead of new £11million left back Matt Targett.
It could all change as the season progresses of course, especially if results do not come quickly.
But for now, Smith is happy to keep Elmohamady at Villa Park.
The Villa boss told reporters: “He’s going into the last year of his contract so it’s always important that there’s some longevity there.
“He’s deserved it for his performances, which is what all players deserve to get new contracts from.
“He was integral to the 10-game winning run we had at the end of lsat season to get into the playoffs. If you captain a country like Egypt, you have to be a certain type of character and player.
“He’s established himself in our dressing room and the English game and he’s a very well respected and good player to have in our squad.”