The first time I saw Gabriel Agbonlahor play was a very long time ago as I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of him in Hong Kong Sevens action as a teenager. It is hard to believe just how long ago that was, and even more so since he announced himself to the English game with a debut strike against Everton as a fresh faced 18-year-old.
Since then he became an instant hit among the Villa faithful with his defence splitting runs and incredible pace a massive bonus to the side as he gained a reputation for scoring goals against the big teams and his progress eventually lead to a place in the England team in 2008 when he made his debut against Germany. After that game he was described as a ‘nightmare to play against’ by fellow international colleague John Terry and a boldly predicted future was on the horizon.
Yet as so often happens with our young starlet’s injury and form has restrained him in recent times, not to mention a wealth of very delicate personal issues that must have had a great impact on his football and that is why his performance against Manchester City in the League Cup was such a brilliant sight to see.
Indeed the goals were Agbonlahor’s first since January and his entire performance may prove the resurrection to his career that Premier League fans crave. He struggled under Gerard Houllier as he felt a degree of discontent at the way the club was being run and Alex McLeish hardly inspired masses of confidence in the Villa squad but now under Paul Lambert he finds himself under the tutelage of a man similar in style to Martin O’Neill, a manager who got so much out of the 25-year-old.
The great thing is that time remains on Agbonlahor’s side as he is still incredibly young and his versatility across the frontline and explosive pace over short distances make him, as JT so rightly put it, a nightmare to play against.
So is this season Agbonlahor’s for the taking and can he even begin to force his way back into the England fold for the first time since 66 minutes against Belarus in 2009.
What do you make of Agbonlahor’s performance and prospects for the upcoming season?
image: © Dagur Brynjólfsson