Dean: Tammy doesn’t deserve this

By Graham Hill

DEAN Smith had given his support to Villa loan striker Tammy Abraham after the player suffered racist abuse on social media.

Abraham scored 26 goals last season to help Villa win promotion through the play-offs.

But he returned to parent club Chelsea for this season to try and force his way into new manager Frank Lampard’s plans.

Abraham found himself taking a key penalty in European Super Cup shoot-out against Liverpool – but he missed from the spot to hand the trophy to Jurgen Klopp’s side.

That resulted in racist remarks behind aimed his way on Twitter and other social platforms.

Other players were targeted after similar incidents and it is something Smith wants to see disappear.

The Villa boss said: “Tammy was one of those who came in for some abuse and he’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet and did fantastically here.

He’s a great guy with a really good family. He missed a penalty in a football game, that’s all he’s done. So he doesn’t deserve the reaction it got.

“If people are coming and saying things on social media, then the platforms have to do something about it.

“Either that or they get named and shamed by people who know what’s right and wrong.

“We all know what’s right and we all know what’s wrong. And I’m sure Paul Pogba’s the same. Nobody deserves, whether in football or society, to be abused on any platform. What we need to do is name and shame those people. Once it comes into the public domain who these people are, I’m sure they’ll stop.”

Elmo deal bucks trend at Villa

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.”

Smith: ‘Wesley will come good’

By Graham Hill

ASTON VILLA boss Dean Smith launched a strong defence of £22million club record signing Wesley and smiled: ‘He’s only one goal behind Mo Salah!’

The Brazilian striker has yet to score after his big money move from Bruges this summer.

Villa spent £127million on new players and Wesley was the most expensive of all.

But he has attracted critics with ex-England midfielder Paul Ince telling BT Sport after the defeat by Bournemouth: :”I’m one of the biggest moaners in the world but at least I could play the game,

“He didn’t do anything but moan and fall on the floor. He needs to start doing a lot more and start playing football.”

But Smith insists it is too early to be questioning whether the globetrotting 22-year-old can cut it in the Premier League – and wants the snipers to back off.

Wesley goes up against a watertight Everton defence at Villa Park on Friday night – with Marco Silva’s yet to concede this season and recording 10 clean sheets in their last 12 matches.

But Smith believes the Villa striker will live up to his potential after scoring 14 goals for Bruges last season – but only five of them coming since November.

Smith told reporters on Thursday: “There’s certainly no frustration with Wesley from me and his teammates.

“I think a lot can be made out of nothing really, he’s two games into a season – and one goal behind Mo Salah at the moment.

“I’m not judging centre forwards this early in the season.

“What are we coming to when we’re making judgements on players after two matches?”

Smith maintains that the 6ft 3ins striker is a key member of his team.

But Villa have lost both of their opening top flight games and Smith will hope Wesley clicks sooner rather than later.

The Villa boss added: “There’ve been questions about him playing in the Premier League, but he played in the Champions League last season, he’s not too shabby.

”I can see that every day in training, he’s shown potential in his performances so far and that potential will come through.

“He never hides away from the ball, he goes and competes.

“He’s already created enough chances for for other people be scoring.

“He showed me enough in pre season to show me he’s going to be a top player.

“His English is very good, he understands more than he lets on.

“He left Brazil when he was 16 and went to Slovakia and then Belgium.

“So he knows Europe very well, he’s someone the players really like, he trains very well.

“And he does a lot of unselfish work, look at his goals tally last season, but look at his assists as well.

“They’re very high.

“I think we are getting the best out of hm, he’ll get better and better.”

Neil Taylor is set to come up against Seamus Coleman tonight for the first time since the Everton player’s horror injury after a challenge by the Welshman.

The Republic of Ireland captain Coleman suffered a double leg break in the incident in March, 2017, which saw Taylor sent off and banned for two games.

Coleman was out of action for a year following the international clash but is now set to go up against the Villa defender once more.

But Smith admits he will have no special message for Taylor before the game.

The Villa boss said: “Things like that happen in football. He’s probably played 100 games since then, it’s an incident that happens and we move on. It’s not really been a concern of mine at all.

“Neil Taylor’s performances have been good in the first two games, defensively and going forward.”

Smith: Targett must earn his place

By Graham Hill

NEW Villa left-back Matt Targett has been told he must earn the right to be first choice ahead of Neil Taylor.

Villa boss Dean Smith has favoured the Welshman so far ahead of the £11million signing from Southampton.

Taylor’s inclusion against Tottenham and Bournemouth raised eyebrows as it was thought that Villa’s new face would be favoured ahead of some of last season’s key men.

But Smith went with Taylor at left-back and Ahmed Elmohamady on the opposite side of the field.

And with Elmohamady being awarded a new contract on the eve off the Everton game, he shows no signs of swapping him for Frenchman Freddie Guilbert at the moment.

Also, there were no tell tale signs that Taylor is about to be dropped to make way for Targett.

Next week’s Carabao Cup tie at Crewe may be a different story.

But for now, Smith is making a strong case to keep Taylor in his plans.

Smith told reporters on Thursday: “Neil Taylor’s performances have been good in the first two games, defensively and going forward.

“He had a couple of chances last week. The idea is to bring in quality players who can grab their shirts off them.

“I’ve had conversations with Matt Targett to say he’s got to earn that shirt off Neil Taylor. I felt Neil Taylor’s two performances so far have been good ones.

“It’s about players playing at the top level to keep their shirts but the others have got to play at a top level to grab them off them.”

Grealish can boost England hopes

By Graham Hill

GARETH Southgate will be at Villa’s Premier League match with Everton on Friday night.

The former Villa captain is due to see the game with assistant Steve Holland ahead of naming his Three Lions squad for the Euro 2020 qualifying matches against Bulgaria and Kosovo.

Southgate will be casting his eye over several contenders on both sides.

But it will be an ideal opportunity for skipper Jack Grealish and defender Tyrone Mings to stake their claims to a place in the squad.

Villa keeper Tom Heaton, along with Everton’s Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane will also be under the microscope.

And Villa boss Dean Smith says that – whatever happens with Grealish – it will be Soiuthgate who decides if he is ready or not.

Grealish has made no secret of his England ambitions but has made a mixed return to the Premier League so far.

Villa boss Smith told reporters: “It’s down to Gareth if he deserves it or not, he’s not in control if he gets chosen for the squad.

“All he can control are his performances. If he keeps playing the way he did in the second half against Bournemouth he’ll soon get noticed.

“He’s a terrific talent and the one thing he’ll be disappointed with is the header he missed. He’s getting better and sooner or later he’ll be in that squad.

“He thrives whenever the pressure is better or greater for him. He is a real top player, we see it day in day out. Others only see it once a week.”

Pundit Sutton hits out at Villa

By Phil Jennings

FORMER Villa striker Chris Sutton is the latest pundit to cast doubts on their return to the Premier League.

Sutton insists he wants to stay in the Premier League,

The ex-Celtic and Blackburn forward played for Martin O’Neill’s Villa between October 2006 and May 2007 before retiring.

But he also expressed surprise that not many of last season’s promotion winning squad have survived into the new campaign.

That was because many of them were released and replaced with new, younger, players.

But the core of last season’s squad, Jack Grealish, John McGinn, Conor Hourihane, Tyrone Mings, Ahmed Elmohamady, Neil Taylor and Anwar El Ghazi HAVE played some part in the opening two fixtures.

Sutton praised owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris for backing manager Dean Smith.

But despite two encouraging displays, Sutton told BBC 606 that he is not optimistic based on what he has seen so far.

The HITC site reported Sutton as saying: “It’s very difficult to criticise the board because they have given Dean Smith money

“You look at the team that got them promoted, there are not many of those players that are starting.

“Villa look to me that they are in a bit of trouble. You cannot give teams a four or five games head start. It was really important against Bournemouth.

“Against Spurs, in many ways was a free hit. But Bournemouth at home, with respect to Bournemouth, you’re thinking ‘what an opportunity’. Villa’s problem is, are their new players going to gel quickly enough? I’d love to see them stay in the Premier League.

Pundit: Targett omission ‘strange’

By Graham Hill

FORMER Premier League striker Noel Whelan says it is ‘strange’ that Matt Targett has yet to play for Villa in the Premier League.

Targett was one of a string of summer signings brought to Villa and the 23-year-old made it clear he was not coming to play second fiddle after failing to hold down a regular place at Southampton

Villa played £11million for the England Under-21 defender, but so far it is Neil Taylor who has been given the nod at left-back.

Pundit Whelan – who played for Coventry City, Middlesbrough and Leeds – told the Football Insider site that he is puzzled about that.

And he says Targett should make his full Villa debut against Everton on Friday night.

He said: “It’s really strange.

“Targett has really good Premier League experience and been signed to strengthen a position that needed strengthening.

“Who not play him straight him away?

“I would definitely play him against Everton. The kid is fit and that’s why they spent all that money on him. Put him in.”

Smith has also kept Ahmed Elmohamady in at right-back despite the arrival of French defender Freddie Guilbert who signed last January but was loaned back to his previous side Caen before coming to Villa this summer.

Villa U23s in action on Saturday

By Phil Jennings

THERE is football at Villa Park this Saturday if you are missing seeing the first team in action.

Dean Smith’s side take on Everton on Friday night of course in their latest Premier League clash.

But less than 24 hours later, the Under-23s will be in action against Norwich City at Villa Park – so, if you want to see a game get along for the 2pm kick-off.

This is the Under23s’ first home game of the season and comes on the back of their draw at Swansea City on Monday night.

Keiran Evans scored for Swansea to put the Welsh side ahead at Landore Training Complex.

But the arrival of substitute Jacob Ramsey after 50 minutes swung the game back Villa’s way.

Just two minutes after coming on, Ramsey had a hand in Villa’s equaliser which was scored by Michael Tait.

Villa line up: Sinisalo, Walker, Bridge, Bazeley-Graham (D Revan, HT), Suliman, Brunt, Vassilev (J Ramsey, 50), Archer, Tait, Clarke, Wright (Guy, 83). Unused subs: Searle, Birch.

El Ghazi: Everton is ‘a new chance’

By Phil Jennings

ANWAR El Ghazi insists Villa cannot let pressure get to them after only two Premier League games.

Despite two encouraging displays. Dean Snith’s side have lost both of their opening top flight games this season to Tottenham and Bournemouth.

And while it is far from an ideal start, El Ghazi says Villa have to learn from their mistakes.

Villa play host to Everton on Friday night in another tough fixture.

But El Ghazi says the team have been boosted by the way they have played in both of their matches so far – knowing it will come right for them soon.

El Ghazi told reporters: “Friday is a new chance. We have to be positive.

“Nothing has happened yet. We’ve played just two games.

“There’s not a lot of pressure yet, we just know we need the points to show what Aston Villa are.”

Villa paid the price for conceding two early goals against Bournemouth – as opposed to two late ones at Spurs.

El Ghazi added: “It was a harsh lesson. We’re playing in the Premier League now not the Championship.

‘Every mistake we make will become a big one.

“That’s what the coach said. We need to be clever and focused for 90 minutes long. We’re in the hardest league in the world now. We can’t be sloppy. We can’t pass badly. We have to be more clever in all areas of the pitch.”

Hogan: ‘It was difficult at Villa’

By Phil Jennings

SCOTT Hogan has admitted he ‘did not enjoy’ his time at Villa – and looks set to complete his exit from the club.

Hogan was loaned out to Championship side Stoke City before the deadline and says he has his ‘hunger’ back.

The striker failed to live up to his £12million billing when he moved to Villa from Brentford.

And Villa boss Dean Smith moved him on to the Potteries where he says he has a new lease of life.

Hogan told reporters after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Derby: “Did the Villa experience scar me? I wouldn’t say scarred, but it’s taught me a lot. It was a difficult time in my career and I didn’t enjoy one bit of it.

“My confidence got knocked. I had a couple of injuries. It wasn’t going well. I just didn’t fit in.

“I worked my way up the hard way through non-League and had all sorts of jobs like cleaning toilets, working in factories.

“I was maybe guilty of losing that hunger a bit when I got my move to Villa and all that went with it.

“I tried over the two years I was there. I tried everything. Sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up and I needed a fresh start.

“I’m guilty for a lot of it and I have to use it as a learning curve to kick on again.”
Hogan says he wants to drive Stoke on to promotion this season and forget about his Villa experience.

Hogan, 27, added: “I have to try and get back to where I was heading at the time when I left Brentford for Villa and I was doing really well and there was a lot of talk around me.

“I want to do that here this year and get this club back into the Premier League

“I’ve got a lot of people to prove wrong. I’ve been written off by a hell of lot of people who don’t think I’m this and don’t think I’m that, that I’m a waste of money.

“They can say what they want. That’s what is driving me to do well and I’ve got a manager here who believes in me.”