Juan Pablo Angel has vowed not to sulk if he remains an Aston Villa substitute, even though it is likely that the club will sign a new striker during the transfer window next month.
Angel has spent the past six years fighting off competition for a place in the Villa starting line-up and, while it seems certain that his toughest battle is still to come, he will accept it with good grace.
The Colombia international striker has been omitted from Martin O'Neill's team in recent matches — Chris Sutton and Milan Baros have been the preferred strikers — but Angel always seems to bounce back.
"I'd like to play in every single game but the manager is the one who makes the decisions and you have to respect that," Angel said. "I am here to add to the team and to play a part, not to complain."
Rumours are rife that Villa manager O'Neill wants to sign Robbie Keane from Tottenham Hotspur while Villa also have Gabriel Agbonlahor and Luke Moore, two young strikers who have played in midfield this season.
But Angel has faced this competition since he joined Villa in January 2001. Strikers have come and gone but he is still here; still showing a good attitude; still impressing the Villa manager.
If anything, he has improved on his form of the past two seasons, which showed him to be a shadow of the man who was devastating during the 2003-04 season. Angel might have left Villa Park last summer had David O'Leary remained as manager and might have left in the summer of 2003 had Graham Taylor remained as manager.
Circumstances, it seems, conspire to keep Angel at Villa Park. This this will be his toughest test and he is ready for the challenge.
Another player bracing himself for a challenge is young defender Gary Cahill, who is enjoying a role alongside Liam Ridgewell for Villa.
Cahill produced another fine display for Villa during their 1-0 defeat at home to Bolton Wanderers last Saturday. He came close to scoring with a shot from 28 yards that was saved.
Cahill and Ridgewell look comfortable together, so much so that their presence is enough to ensure that Olof Mellberg, the Sweden international central defender, is playing at right back for Villa.
Cahill has long been tipped for an extended run in the Villa team and would surely have started the season in the starting line-up but for injury, while Ridgewell has come of age under O'Neill and, apart from the odd lapse in concentration, has improved more than any other Villa player this season.
"I am more than confident of playing with Liam," Cahill said. "He has done terrifically well this season, Olof is doing well at right-back. It is a good partnership but myself and Liam are disappointed there is not a clean sheet.
"The youth policy is good enough at Villa Park. Credit to all the coaches. There are a number of players who are playing week in and week out, not just in the squad. I think the manager will strengthen in the window but the young lads have proved they are definitely up to scratch and can perform at this level."
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