Gary Cahill's just a rather shy, likable Yorkshire lad, and definitely not the sort to let one game go to his head. But even he had to admit it was good to wake up to read a few nice headlines about him last Monday morning.

So far this season, the young Aston Villa defender has been booed off at half-time on his debut, spent four months out with badly-torn ankle ligaments and somehow, through no fault of his own, been dragged by the papers into a supposed contract row.

All from a campaign that promised so much after last season's encouraging loan spell at Turf Moor, where he was voted Burnley's player of the year.

So he can be forgiven for feeling quite pleased with his efforts on his first Premiership start at Villa Park last Sunday in helping to keep a clean sheet against West Bromwich Albion.

"I'm not going to lie," said Cahill. "It's been a pretty frustrating season.

"There have been things I didn't need to be getting involved in, with which I was a bit disappointed.

"And I did enjoy having a few more positive headlines.

"It started going wrong the week after I made my debut in that Carling Cup tie at Wycombe. I was on the bench at Stamford Bridge on the Saturday, then played for England Under-20s on the Sunday at Turf Moor against Holland.

"Then we got drawn against Burnley in the next round of the Carling Cup, which would have been not only my first game at Villa Park, against my Burnley team-mates from last season.

"But when I came back to training on the Tuesday, that's when I did the injury. And, while I was gutted not to play against Burnley, much worse was that it put my season on hold.

"I damaged both the inside and outside ligaments, and the cartilage, meaning it was a four-month job, rather than six weeks. And it's just a case of keeping it strong. Although it takes a while to feel confident on it, it's not an issue now. It doesn't affect me putting in challenges, turning and sprinting. And it's been a case of keeping my head down and biting at the bit waiting for my chance.

"I was nervous in a way last Sunday but, when you get thrown in the deep end like I did, you just go out and deliver on the pitch and I really enjoyed it, the whole atmosphere, everything."

Cahill had another fellow reserve teamer Gabby Agbonlahor alongside him, also making his full home league debut. And he admits that the crowd's reaction to them and Villa's other Academy graduates was a big help. "It was great that we had the fans behind us," said Cahill. "Gabby did himself proud and it's nice to see fans encourage that.

"I played to a good standard in the Championship last season, but the Premiership is a bit quicker, with better players. I know it's early days and it's only one game and the key is consistency. Only when you can do it on a regular basis will you know whether you can handle it. But, without getting too carried away, I do watch a lot of Premiership football and and you've got to believe you can make the step-up."

If Olof Mellberg is fit on Sunday, then Cahill might have to settle for being back on the bench again for the Birmingham City game. But, if the Villa skipper's hamstring again fails him, then Cahill could find himself feeling the full, intimidating force of Emile Heskey.

"Olof's back in training, which is good from a point of view of getting numbers back, so I still don't know if I'll be playing but I've got to prepare as if I am," said Cahill.

"Heskey's got pace and power and is a big physical presence. But Kevin Campbell's also a big, strong physical player, so I think I'll know roughly what to expect and hopefully we can keep him quiet."