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Fit to play - 15/04/2004

Fit to play
Happy to be at Villa
   Lomano Lua Lua
   David O'Leary
   Aston Villa
   Newcastle United

This is a big game for the club, not because I could be facing my old team mates, but because Villa are five games away from Champions League football. In the past I've talked down our chances of European qualification, but at this point of the season with five matches to go, we have every chance of pushing Liverpool and Newcastle right to the end. It's so tight, anything can happen, and teams such as Charlton, Birmingham, and Middlesbrough are all still capable of finishing in the top five. The manager, the players, and fans have all helped us to get into this position and we want to take it further. We have some tough games to play, but so have all the other teams fighting for Europe. We have done well after playing thirty-three games, and there's no reason why we can't continue this and move a little higher after we've played thirty-eight. Villa may not have the money and the squad of other teams, but we are here because we deserve to be.

The news from me is that I am fit to play. My hamstring injury has healed and I've been training without any problem today. Maybe I'll be on the bench, maybe I'll play from the start, that decision will be made by the gaffer.

There will be extra interest in the game because of my time in Newcastle, but I will prepare as I do for every game. Even though I talk of the fact that this is simply another game with a very important three points available, I have to admit that for personal reasons it is also very special. I have so much respect for the Newcastle people, and they will always hold a special place in my heart. My son was born there and during my time at the club I was made very welcome. The one regret I have is that I wasn't able to help win a trophy. Maybe Newcastle will win the UEFA Cup, they have a good chance - I will be supporting them and I hope, for the sake of the fans, that they can finally lift a cup.

When I left for Villa I knew the Newcastle fans would understand my situation. But I was still suprised with their reaction, I received so many emails to the website and letters to the club, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support - it was fantastic and is appreciated very much.

Looking to Sunday's game, I am a professional footballer and if selected then of course I will do everything to win the game for Villa. I want to do well, and some people may say I have a point to make. All I can say is that if I will do everything on the pitch to help Villa win the game, but if I score then I will have done the job I am paid for. I will not celebrate as I want nothing to come between me and the Newcastle people. The fans gave so much me to me and other than playing to the best of my ability, I will not do anything to hurt or insult them. I know that Lomana (Lua Lua) reacted to scoring against Newcastle, but I also know this was not aimed at the fans. He too got on well with the people and was upset that many took his reaction as an insult against them.

My Newcastle career is in the past and my future is with Aston Villa. My move here has gone better than I'd hoped for and I've absolutely no regrets with my choice of club. I've settled in very well and I'm enjoying my time both on and off the pitch. The only difficulty has been the injury, but the team have continued to pick up points. Next year could be very exciting for us, but let's see what happens this season...there's everything to play for.

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