Making his Marc
Rob Parrish talks to Aston Villa winger Marc Albrighton about life under new manager Paul Lambert, how the club plans to bounce back from the disappointment of last season, beating champions Manchester City in their own back yard and his own piece of Premier League history.
By Rob Parrish - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsrobp
Last Updated: 10/10/12 10:05am
Marc Albrighton is a name which is seared into the memory of pub quiz teams up and down the country.
Alongside Brian Deane, Eric Cantona, Mike Newell, Les Ferdinand and Moritz Volz, the Aston Villa winger holds the distinction of having scored one of the landmark goals in Premier League history.
Albrighton took the English top-flight tally to 20,000 in December 2011 when he struck against Arsenal at Villa Park in front of his beloved Holte End and, despite the game eventually ending in defeat, it remains a sweet memory.
"It is a fantastic feeling," he told Sky Sports at a Mars Just Play session designed to get more adults playing the game. "No-one can take that away from me, that is history and I am really proud of that."
But tangible success is what every player truly craves, and the 22-year-old is no different, particularly after returning from a frustrating pre-season foot injury in style in Villa's recent shock Capital One Cup success against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
"It was a great game to come back into," he admitted. "Everyone had written us off but it is great for me on a personal level and great for the club, it is one of the biggest results we have had in the past few years and hopefully we can build on that.
"We go to every ground hoping we can win the game. In the dressing room before we said we were capable of beating this side, we knew we had enough in the squad to cause an upset and hopefully we can build on that and take that performance into every game we play."
Villa are certainly in the midst of a building process at the moment. Paul Lambert was appointed as the club's new manager this summer - astonishingly the fourth boss Albrighton has played under despite his tender years - and tasked with lifting the Midlands outfit from the doldrums of last season.
It is a transitional process which is very much in the fledgling phase, but one which former England Under-21 international Albrighton is buying into 100 per cent having been impressed by what the club's new manager has to offer.
"He knows what he wants and he has told us what he wants," he said. "What he wants is hard work, people who are prepared to put a shift in and on top of that people who have the ability to be composed and perform well on the pitch. That's what we need to do to get in the team and hopefully we can have a few good days this season.
"It looks like he likes his younger players from the signings he has made, he likes players who are hungry to succeed, move forward and learn as footballers. That is exactly what I want to do and if the gaffer can improve me as a player then that will be brilliant.
"You learn different things from different managers; they have all got different methods. It looks like our manager has learned a lot from his playing days under Martin O'Neill, so it can only bring good to this club because Martin O'Neill was such a good manager."
Lambert played as a midfielder under O'Neill during their successful time together at Celtic before going on to carve out his own career as a manager which brought him to Villa Park after excelling with Norwich following previous spells with Colchester, Wycombe and Livingston.
But it is against O'Neill - now in the hot seat at Sunderland - whom all Villa managers to have followed him are immediately measured. The Northern Irishman secured three successive sixth-placed finishes before his abrupt departure in the summer of 2010.
Since then, Villa have stalled. They slipped to ninth the following season with Gerard Houllier's reign truncated by worrying health problems, before the decision to appoint former Birmingham boss Alex McLeish did not bring the required results, culminating in a paltry haul of just 38 points which left them just two points and two places above the relegation zone. In the previous year, that total would have seen them drop.
After two seasons of upheaval, Albrighton knows that consistency is now the key if Villa are to re-establish themselves as a Premier League force, but is well aware that such a process will take time, a commodity all-too rarely on offer in the high-pressure world of the Premier League, where every result is scrutinised in infinite detail.
He said: "The club have brought Paul Lambert in, not as a one-year thing, he is not going to turn everything round in a year, he is going to have at least a couple of years to get this transitional period out of the way and then we can push on and hopefully we will be back to where we were.
"I don't think managers get the time they deserve. It is hard to come and make your stamp on a club straight away when you have not either had the funds or the backing. I think Paul Lambert will get his fair share and will do brilliantly for us.
"We have got a great squad, great managerial staff; everything is in place at the club for us to do well. Everything is settled and hopefully we can start pushing on up the league."
The disappointments of the previous two seasons have hurt everyone at Villa, particularly a supporter-turned-player such as Albrighton, who has been on the club's books since the age of eight.
And while the new season has been far from plain sailing - with just one Premier League success from their opening seven games - the midfielder is confident the addition of Lambert's raft of fresh and hungry young players will galvanise the squad and help them towards a brighter future.
"We know we haven't performed over the last couple of seasons, but we want to put that behind us now," he admitted. "We have fresh faces in the squad and are hungry to succeed. We are going to have down days this season, every team does, but hopefully we can have more good days.
"I think we have got to set our targets realistically. We know we're not going to get in the Champions League and win the title. We've just got to get the ship steady again and get back on track after some ups and downs these last few years."
* For those of you still wondering, Deane scored the 1st Premier League goal, Cantona the 100th, Newell the 1,000th, Ferdinand the 10,000th and Volz the 15,000th.
Mars and the FA are offering a week of free Just Play Sessions across the country from 8th Oct. Search online for Just Play to find your nearest centre.