GAK Graz – 0 (v) 8 – Villa – Pre-Season curtain raiser a stroll with Petrov the highlight.

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This friendly “training” fixture, organised against sixth tier Austrian outfit GAK Graz, was never going to be the sternest pre-season curtain raiser for Roberto Di Matteo.  Nonetheless, it was an emphatic win, capped by a half of football featuring Stilyan Petrov.

Much has and will rightly be written about Petrov’s recovery and unerring desire to play professionally again.  

It’s hard not to marvel at him as a human being.  In a footballing era of professional greed, selfishness and celebrity, Petrov remains the antithesis.

What also appears certain is that Stan not only looks in fantastic health, but has the drive, determination and stature Aston Villa requires.  Indeed, it would be neither tokenism or sentimentality which may yet lead to him occupying a squad number for the coming season.

Whilst Petrov couldn’t conceivably be the driving force behind a promotion push at 37; he is perhaps the man to contribute 30 minutes as required.  

He is also the intellectual, level headed and responsible figure to have in the dressing room.  Attributes not readily applied to Agbonlahor, Richards, Lescott or other senior figures whom remain.

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The friendly provided Di Matteo an opportunity to examine a number of faces from the current squad as well as blooding new recruits Elphick & Gollini.  As such, we saw a changed team at half time:

First half: Gollini, Richards, Elphick, Baker, Cissokho, Gana, Gardner, Gil, Veretout, Ayew, Kozak.

Second half: Bunn, Hutton, Okore, Lescott, Bennett, Westwood, Petrov, Grealish, Agbonlahor, Sinclair, Gestede.

If there is anything to be read into the options, perhaps the absence of Leandro Bacuna is one.  Equally, the very fact that Baker, Bennett and Gardner have been taken to Austria suggests they are expected to be within the core of the group this term.

On the same logic its reasonable to assume that Di Matteo must have conceivably resigned himself to a year of transition.  This was of course inevitable owing to the protracted takeover, resultant delays appointing RDM and the knock on effect of recruiting replacements.

The need to rehabilitate and make some practical use of players like Agbonlahor, Lescott and company is frightening, but a necessary evil.  Until suitable replacements can be found, the reality is that we have to hope that new management and a demotion will improve affairs.  It has to be a concern though.

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Positives from the match included newly signed centre half Tommy Elphick leading the side out in the first half, Bennett firing a couple of tasty free kicks in and overall a morale improving victory.  8-0 isn’t a scoreline often posted against our name as the victors either.

At the very least it is a win and an initial stride towards match fitness.

For one man though, it likely represents a great deal more.  

Up next, a double header for the first team squad, split across Worcester City (3pm) & AFC Telford (12pm) on July 16th.

Up The Villa.

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