Carew Set For Substitutes Bench

Last updated : 30 January 2009 By Tom Vickers
John Carew will make his first appearance on the Villa bench since November as Villa take on Wigan on Saturday, but it's another targetman, who will be the focus of attention at Villa Park.

Emile Heskey, who signed from Wigan for £3.5m last week, will be in the spotlight as he takes on his former club just four days after scoring on his Villa debut at Portsmouth.

The England frontman was in fine form at Fratton Park as he grabbed a 21st minute goal that earned a crucial three points for the Claret and Blue and won him the Man of the Match champagne.

Gabby Agbonlahor looked to revel in playing alongside Heskey just as he does when lining up with Carew.

The Norwegian powerhouse, who has not played since sustaining an injury against Manchester United on November 22, now faces a fight to regain his first team spot.

Prior to his hamstring and back problems, Carew had hit the headlines for visiting a strip club on the eve of Villa's massive Uefa Cup clash with Ajax.

The striker was left on the bench for the game at Wigan in October but came on to replace Gareth Barry just after half time with devastating effect.

Carew set up one and scored one to reaffirm his claims for a starting spot.
Now, with Wigan the opponents again, Carew looks to make another unlikely comeback but for different reasons.


Heskey will take some shifting from the starting XI but it's all good news for manager Martin O'Neill, who now has real options at his disposal as his side fight for fourth spot.

O'Neill celebrated his 100th game as Villa manager in style as the Claret and Blue demolished Steve Bruce's men at the JJB and he will be hoping for more celebrations at quarter to five on Saturday.

Villa could go joint top, if only for a couple of hours, with a win as Manchester United take on Everton in the evening kick off and Liverpool face Chelsea on Sunday.

Had you outlined that scenario to any Villa fan at the start of the season, they would have questioned your wildest dreams.

Now it's a real possibility and the supporters are loving every minute of it.
Villa have managed some great wins of late, notably at Sunderland and last time out at Pompey. Those victories have been all the more satisfying due to the context in which they were played.

At the Stadium of Light, Villa were missing influential skipper Martin Laursen through injury and Ashley Young was sent off with 20 minutes to go with the scores level at 1-1.

But, Gareth Barry stepped up to smash in a penalty late on to earn an amazing victory.

At Fratton Park, Villa were without Nigel Reo-Coker, Young and Laursen yet still claimed a vital three points thanks to the right boot of Heskey.


Villa just don't know when they are beaten and thanks to that attitude they rarely are.

Wigan will not be overawed on Saturday and they know they are more than capable of winning in the Midlands. The Latics have never lost a league game at Villa Park and they have claimed 2-0 wins on two of their last three visits.

Ok, they are the only three visits that they have ever made in the Premier League but it is still an impressive record.

Bruce will be without Villa nemesis Antonio Valencia for the game, the winger scored both goals in Wigan's 2-0 win last season.

But, the former Blues manager will be able to call on new signings Mido and Hugo Rodallega, who impressed during the midweek draw with Liverpool.

Villa are again without Laursen, Young and Reo-Coker, meaning they are likely to remain unchanged.

Heskey will undoubtedly be the focus of the Villa attack and the focus of fans attention as he looks to get one over his old side.

But, don't forget Carew, who could prove just as crucial as the England frontman in the coming weeks.