Marvelous is already a role model

By Graham Hill

MARVELOUS Nakamba is already a role model in his native Zimbabwe – after playing just one Premier League game.

When Nakamba, 25, signed for Villa this summer from Bruges, plans were drawn up to build a statue in his honour in the city of Hwange where he grew up.

He is only the fourth Zimabwean player to make the grade in England.

And now Nakamba wants to show young players in his homeland they can do the same – after learning his skills on pitches made of sand, but never giving up on his dream.

Nakamba was inspired by Peter Ndlovu who played for Coventry, Birmingham and Sheffield United in a 13-year spell and is now manager of South African side Mamelodi Sundowns.

The Villa midfielder made his Premier League debut against West Ham on Monday – and says he is making his country proud.

Now he wants to show his efforts – and the sacrifices of his family – were all worth it.

Nakamba says his mother Charity had to work away for months at a time as a maid in South Africa so he could have the money for football boots.

He said: “I think people will be very proud of me when they see me play.

“Also, I can become an example back home, a role model.

“Everyone is looking up to me. And when I go back I can encourage others and say ‘impossible is nothing‘. And to believe as long as you have discipline and dedication.

“Life was not so easy growing up, but with football I was able to enjoy life. Football gave me a lot.

“To give everything for what I want and everything for my family is an example for football in Zimbabwe, not to ever give up no matter how the situation is.

“You never know what might happen tomorrow, you have to keep going.

“Sometimes I would be playing on sand, but I held onto that dream and had that hunger, we thought that if we could do it here then what possibilities were there when the pitches were better. It kept us going.

“I watched a lot of the Premier League growing up, it’s the league they show most back home.

“Peter Ndlovu is somebody I know very well, when I go home, I always see him. He’s a role model to me. I look up to him.

“He encouraged me to give everything in Belgium so I could go to a better league, and he preferred that I went to England. He thought it would be best for my career.

“Peter was willing and hoping for me. But he also said that I could not relax and then I would need to work hard.”

Nakamba says he knows what it is like to struggle as a player – which means his hunger is the same now that he is in England,

He added: “Football kept me out of many other things, it wasn’t an easy life, but I was always happy when I was playing football

“My mother had to go to South Africa to work as a maid so that she can support me with football boots and everything like that. She was there for me, but I stayed in Zimbabwe.

“After three or four months she would come and visit me, she had to do that to provide for the family.

“I stayed with my father, but it helped me to focus more and give everything to succeed in football.

“It helped me a lot, to grow up, to be mature, to be satisfied with what I have.

And the name? “My parents were very excited about me, maybe that’s why they gave me the name Marvelous.

“So far I haven’t come across anyone with the same name. My younger brother is called Junior. I hope my son will be named Junior Marvellous!”


Taylor: Villa fights show passion

By Graham Hill

ASTON Villa defender Neil Taylor admits he loves it when his team mates have a bust-up.

But he reckons an apparent head butt from Anwar El-Ghazi on Tyrone Mings crossed the line.

And he admitted there will be talks this week about the incident as Dutchman El-Ghazi came close to being dismissed when it was sent for a VAR review.

Mings and El-Ghazi squared up to each other during Monday’s draw with West Ham at Villa Park.

El-Ghazi reacted furiously when defender Mings gave him a rollocking for not tracking back.

And El-Ghazi stuck his head into Mings’ face during the flare up.

Villa boss Dean Smith and his players were quick to make it known the players made their peace at half-time.

Taylor says it is good when players delver home truths.

But he added: “I like to see two lads arguing.

“I really enjoyed that actually!

“It’s people that care. That’s what matters for me.

“I’d rather that than they let things go

“But if it was a head butt then that’s not what we want to see.

“If he’s done that, then we’re going to talk about it.

“They’re both feisty characters and both big lads. I wouldn’t want to get into the middle of them!

“It was just a bit if a disagreement, one thought one thing, one thought the other at the time.

“They were just showing their passion. I don’t think it was frustration.”

“I haven’t seen one of those for years. But it’s nothing personal, you’re out there to do your job for the club.

“It happens in football, it’s a passionate game.

“And in the dressing room at half time they spoke to each other and it was all settled. They were just trying to do their best.”

Taylor admitted it was not out of character for El Ghazi – but hinted it was a unwise to try and aim his head at the 6ft 5ins Mings.

He joked: “Where did he get him, in the stomach?”

Taylor added: “it’s not out of character. We don’t see it every week to that level.

“But we train together and things happen all the time in football because we’re clashing and working hard.

“These things are not that uncommon but obviously for it to be seen on TV is a little bit different.

“It’s a disappointment for us, but we’ve moved on quickly.”

West Ham skipper Mark Noble admitted he may have caused the clash.

He said: “Tyrone was telling him he wasn’t doing his job and it was me who ran off the back of him. It was probably my fault!

“That’s what happens in games.

“The pressure is on us so much to win games, from everyone, the press, fans, our families and the club.

“That’s what it means to people.”

Taylor says Villa’s foreign signings are still getting to grips with the speed of the Premier League.

The Wales defender added: “When you play abroad the pace of the game is never like that, end to end, basketball. It’s all different to them.

“A lot of these foreign lads will never have seen a game with that pace.

“It can be hard explaining it at times but these lads are all looking for new houses, learning to drive on a different side of the road and the language, everything that comes with settling in. They’re committed lads who train hard every day.

“They are only going to get better.

“The standard of training is right up there because essentially we could put two good teams out there.

“Everyone’s vying for places and training in the week is crucial for you trying to get in the team at a weekend.

“Everything is at a high level and we are all pushing each other. As long as we are pushing each other like that it means we will get results and clean sheets. I don’t mind it.”

Smith: Jack is focused on success

By Graham Hill

ASTON Villa head coach Dean Smith says Jack Grealish is a football ‘nut’ who puts in extra hours to improve his status as a Premier League player.

Smith admitted his captain even catches up on sleep at the training ground so he can fit in more sessions.

“I’m surprised his missus is still with him!,” joked Smith ahead of Monday’s clash with West Ham at Villa Park.

Grealish says he was ‘angry’ after referee Kevin Friend booked him for diving at Crystal Palace two weeks ago – and denied Villa a late equaliser as a result.

But Smith says Grealish is determined to put in the work he knows is needed to maintain standards now that he is back in the top flight after inspiring Villa’s promotion last season.

“Jack’s a football nut,” said Smith.

“He’ll train and go and find a room somewhere and fall asleep.

“Then he’ll wake up and go and do a gym session. That’s how he is. He’s that sort of character.

“I’m surprised his missus is still with him!

“He’ll go back and he’ll be watching football at home as well.

“You end up sometimes dragging him off the training ground. But he wants to get better. It’s a massive plus in his favour.”

Grealish summed up his feelings after the Palace game.

”It was a massive frustration that night, horrible! I just couldn’t sit still. It was a tough one to take but it’s something you’ve just got to deal with. I was so angry,” said the Villa midfielder who turned 24 last week.

Smith believes there will be a steady improvement from Grealish, whose progress is bring monitored by England coach Gareth Southgate.

“There’s more to come from Jack,” said Smith.

“He picked the ball up from the halfway line and played a couple of one-twos to get into the situation you saw against Palace.

“What we want him to do is to be running at opposition players and hurting them like he did at Selhurst Park.

“He’s got to the pace of the Premier League, that’s for sure.”

Smith thinks standards will get even higher at Villa if more players are called-up for England.

Tyrone Mings was in the last squad and Gareth Southgate is monitoring Grealish’s progress.

Smith added: “Tyrone came back came back from the England set-up and the first thing he has said to me is how professional the top players are, the Raheem Sterlings and Harry Kanes of this world.

“I think Tyrone’s a really good professional, so that can only influence our dressing-room and make him better.”

Smith also admires the work Manel Pellegrini has done at West Ham.

He added: “I listened to him at the Football Museum in Manchester. He’s one who has done 1,000 games as a manager.

“Everyone can see the job he has done. Our sporting director Suso has told me a number of tales about what a good person he is. His signings and recruitment have been very astute. He’s a top coach.”

Mings: ‘Villa’s fee surprised me’

By Graham Hill

TYRONE Mings feared Aston Villa ‘had their pants pulled down’ when they agreed to sign him in a deal worth £26.5million.

Even Villa boss Dean Smith admitted he ‘scoffed’ at the price – and Mings admits he thought he would leave Bournemouth for £10million LESS.

But Smith was determined to sign the defender after he helped Villa win promotion last season during a successful five month loan spell.

And now Mings, 26, reckons it was a fair price in a summer which saw £80million-rated Harry Maguire joined Manchester United in a world record deal for a defender.

Mings has underlined his potential with a rapid call up to the England squad.

But even he raised an eyebrow at the price that finally saw him move to Villa Park – an initial £20million plus £6.5million in add-ons.

Mings said ahead of Monday night’s clash with West Ham: “I was surprised.

“I knew Bournemouth wanted the money back for players they’d signed so I thought the figure would’ve been about £15-16million.

“Everyone would’ve looked at that and said: ‘That’s probably a good deal’.

“Then it went up to whatever it went up to in the end and people were looking at it thinking: ‘I don’t know whether we’ve had our pants pulled down here!’

“I feel anyone whose opinion really counts is inside Villa.

“I don’t think there was anyone at the club with the impact I had last year, that thought it was a rip-off.

“It might’ve been higher than they wanted to pay but it’s supply and demand. There’s only one of me and I felt like I could come back here and make a positive impact – the manager thought that as well.

“But then you do look at some of the prices centre-backs went for and those that were quoted. I think it was about right!

“I knew at some point it’d get done.

“I didn’t think the longer the club waited the cheaper it’d be. I didn’t think if they waited until deadline day they’d get me for £10million. That would’ve put everyone in a bad situation.”

“In the end Villa probably got the deal done at the best price and the best time as well.

“They’re just numbers at the end of the day. I just wanted to sign for Villa. The price doesn’t come out of my bank account.

“I knew it was a deal I wanted to get done and I knew Villa wanted it done and I knew Bournemouth wanted it done. Whatever price they settled at was for the money men to decide. It doesn’t weight heavy on me, no.”

But Mings admits that if his Villa loan had not worked out last season then his chances of being a Premier League defender could have been over because his injury record had lowered his profile.

He said: “I knew that coming to Villa, things had to go well, because my career was in danger of slipping away. It was me that suggested it.

“I’d been out of the spotlight for so long that I needed run of games.

“But if you’d told me when I was driving up from Bournemouth to Villa in January, that everything would happen that has happened in this last nine months, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

“It’s been nine months since I came to Villa, before Christmas I was playing in the 23s, Premier League Cup, I think the biggest lesson I can take out it – and hindsight is a wonderful thing – is that no matter how trapped, or out of control you feel your current situation is, there’s always another path you can take, but at the time I couldn’t see that path.”

Mings did not get to play for England despite being included in the squad for the games with Bulgaria and Kosovo.

He said: “I didn’t walk away feeling disappointed, my over-riding feeling is one of pride but it sends me back here with a burning desire to get into the England team.”

New deal on the way for Davis?

By Graham Hill

VILLA are ready to offer striker Keinan Davis a new contract.

The Football Insider website claims the 21-year-old has impressed boss Dean Smith and he is being lined up for a new Villa Park deal.

Davis has a key part to play in the Villa squad this season with after the club failed to bring in another striker after dealing a record £22million move for Brazilian frontman Wesley Moraes.

But former non-League striker Davis has been an emerging talent at Villa and Smith sees a big future for the 6ft 3ins player on a long-term basis.

Davis has started just one senior game for Villa so far this season but scored in the 6-1 Carabao Cup win at Crewe Alexandra.

It was under former boss Steve Bruce that Davis first broke into the first team at Villa and found himself linked with moves to the Premier League.

But injuries and the form of on-loan Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham last season meant Davis was not an automatic first pick. He has now been given added responsibility though and played the final half hour of the defeat at Crystal Palace last week.

Smith admits to Maupay move

By Graham Hill

DEAN Smith has admitted for the first time that he DID try to sign Neal Maupay from Brentford – but walked away from the deal as it was too expensive.

Smith says he was not prepared to agree to deal worth £20million and the French striker went to Brighton instead.

The Villa boss says he will not spend the club’s owners’ money without thinking through if a player is worth it.

Smith says still he carries the careful spending of his days at Walsall and Brentford with him.

Smith told reporters: “I certainly have worked to small budgets!

“It shapes the way you are.

“Those values have never left me. I try and treat the money as if it were my own, as I did at Walsall.

“Maupay for instance. I love him as a player but the numbers that were getting talked about were too much for me.

“There are a lot of players out there you’d obviously like.

“What you want if you’re going to bring someone in is that you want to increase that value.

“What you don’t want is to decrease it because otherwise you’re not doing a very good job.

“I believe our job as coaches is to improve players and when you’re doing that you are improving the value as well.”

Smith: Villa almost ‘did a Bury’

By Graham Hill

DEAN Smith admits Aston Villa almost went under like Bury last year after some ‘scary times’.

And he warned that the same thing could happen to clubs looking to spend big in a bid to reach the Premier League.

Villa came close to being declared bankrupt last summer after missing out on promotion when they lost the Championship play-off final to Fulham under Steve Bruce.

Former chairman Tony Xia could not meet a tax bill of over £4million – but the club were saved from going bust when billionaires Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris took over.

A year later, they bankrolled a £127million spending spree for Smith – but the Villa boss knows how close the club came to the brink.

And he says he is as careful with the club’s money as he was as manager of Walsall and Brentford.

The Villa boss said ahead of the trip to Crystal Palace: “We all know the trouble Villa were in after that play-off final defeat.

“I followed it as a fan. It was scary times for a club like Villa to potentially go into liquidation. The owners came in at the right time.

“We are very fortunate they’re wealthy men who have the club at heart and the best interests of how they want to get Villa moving forwards.”

Snith says if that can happen to Villa, it can happen to anyone.

He added: “There are an awful lot of big football clubs in the Championship who are pushing the boat out trying to get back into the Premier League because of the financial rewards that are there.

“Tread that path with caution – because not every team can be successful and the ones that aren’t are the ones who can get caught out.”

Smith: Mings owes JT for call-up

By Graham Hill

ASTON Villa boss Dean Smith admitted John Terry played a huge part in Tyrone Mings earning his first England call up.

Mings has only played three Premier League games for Villa since completing a £20million move from Bournemouth this summer.

But England boss Gareth Southgate saw him in action in the 2-0 win over Everton last Friday and brought him into the squad.

Mings has been working with former England skipper Terry who is in his second season as a coach at Villa Park.

And Smith said the influence he has had on Mings, 26, is clear.

The Villa boss told reporters:    “It’s a really tight relationship with JT.
“He has a tight relationship with all defenders and he works closely with them, little details to help them. There’s progression in all our defensive displays this season. 

“Tyrone can take credit for his performances but JT can take credit for the work he has done on the training ground.”

Smith says he raised an eyebrow when Bournemouth wanted to do a £26.5million deal, including add ons, this summer.

But now he says Mings was a ‘snip’

Smith added: “I said when we signed I thought it was a really tough negotiations with Bournemouth.

“They knew we wanted yo sign him, they knew he wanted to come so they could drive a hard bargain.

“At the time I thought we were paying over the odds but it was a deal worth doing because we wanted him so badly. We knew what a player he could become. 

“He also had a great relationship with the staff, players and supporters.

“I thought it was a tough one to pay but one well worth paying. When you look at the market after that and what some teams have paid it looks a snip that’s for sure.”

Mings said he thought it was a joke when he was told he was in the squad.

The Villa defender admitted: “I thought it was a prank when I first found out.

“I got a text when I came in from training from the England player liaison officer, Emily her name is. I text back saying: ‘Oh s**t.’ Excuse my language. She then called me and said: ‘I’m not joking.’ It was only when I spoke to her on the phone, I knew it was genuine.

“Obviously I am delighted. It has been a long journey to get to this point. Everyone has their own journey. There are people in the England squad that have come from non-league too. It probably makes it a little bit sweeter. But every English players dream is to be called up into the national squad.

“I’m fully aware of the history of the club, the great players who have come before me and played for England. Hopefully I get a chance to play.

“JT gave me a pat on the back. As I have said previously, he is such a great person to learn from. The work he does to help me improve as a defender has been absolutely tremendous.”

Bent: Conor has a point to prove

By Graham Hill

EX-VILLA striker Darren Bent says Conor Hourihane is staking his claim for a recall after losing his place in Dean Smith’s starting line-up.

The Republic of Ireland midfielder was included in the side for the first game of the new season at Tottenham.

But he then lost out to £15million Brazilian Douglas Luiz.

Bent reckons Hourigane has a point to prove after starring in the Carabao Cup tie at Crewe on Tuesday when he scored twice in a 6-1 hammering to set up an all-Premier League tie at Brighton in the next round.

But Bent says his performances last season, as Villa staged a strong finish in the Championship to win promotion via the play-offs, should have seen him stay as one of Smith’s first choice players in the top flight.

Jack Grealish and John McGinn have both kept their places in Smith’s plans – but Hourihane, who signed a new Villa deal this summer, has been edged out by Luiz.

Bent told Carabao Cup on Quest he has been impressed by Hourihane: “He was brilliant last season in the Championship and was crucial to why Villa went up,” he said.

“He’s been a bit harshly left out after the first game of the season. He probably felt he had a point to prove. He put in a really, really good performance, arguably he could have been man of the match with his two goals but what a display.”

Smith hails ruthless Villa display

By Phil Jennings

VILLA boss Dean Smith praised his side’s ‘clincial’ display after they beat Crewe 6-1 in their Carabao Cup tie at Gresty Road.

Goals from Conor Hourihane (2), Ezri Konsa, Freddie Guilbert, Jack Grealish and Keinan Davis made sure Villa eased through.

Smith felt the result was not as clear cut as it seemed, but he was happy to see a Villa side with 10 changes make sure of victory.

The Villa head coach told the club’s official website: “We were very clinical and the quality showed through – certainly with our second goal.

“Keinan Davis was great all night.

“After we went 2-0 up I thought we were very good and ran away with it.

“We showed resilience as well, we had 10 changes, Jota kept his place in the team because he didn’t start the first two games and needed to get some minutes.

“There were a lot of players who haven’t been together since pre-season, but everyone knew their jobs. Their application was first class, it was a real team performance.

“We have quality in the squad, there have been a lot of changes but I’ll pick a team I think is going to win a match. There’ll always be a chance to show me what you can do.”

The only blemish on the night was an injury to left back Matt Targett who came off injured in the first half.

Smith added: “He felt his hamstring and we’re hoping it’s not as bad as you can feat with that kind of injury.

“We whipped him off the field as quickly as possible, he did with a pass, not sprinting or running, we’ll have the prognosis on Wednesday.

“The fans backed us in numbers again, I’m even having to fight for tickets myself! It was great to get six goals for them.

“We got into a winning habit last season and we’ve now bounced back after starting the season with two defeats. We have to keep this going now.”