Aston Villa’s giant striker John Carew has lofty ambitions to match his height. The 6ft 5in Norwegian said one of the reasons he agreed to sign a one-year contract extension to stay at Villa Park was because he was excited about the club’s future.
Carew is enjoying the family atmosphere at Villa and the closeness of the squad, and he believes that camaraderie could be the key to Villa breaking into the top four in the Premier League.
“Our goal is to do better than last season,” said the 28-year-old. “We finished sixth and we want to do even better this year. It looks as though the squad will be even bigger and stronger than last year.
“At one point last year we were close to Liverpool on more or less the same points and we want to improve. There is no reason for us not to believe we can’t finish in the top four. To do that we will probably have to finish above Liverpool. It is possible and I believe, and I hope everyone else believes, because we are going to have a chance to do it.”
Villa kick off their campaign on Sunday at Villa Park against Manchester City and Carew is struggling to be fit because of an ankle injury, but he will not be out of action for long and is relishing the challenge of the new campaign.
Other than a four-year stay at Valencia, Carew has moved around a lot during his career but feels he has found a spiritual home at Villa.
“I am really happy here,” he said. “We have a great group and it is a great club to be part of.
“The club has good ambitions and I can see the young players just getting better and better. I am just happy to be part of this group.
“It was a new challenge when I came and I have enjoyed it. We have a strong group, which is getting stronger. Maybe in a big team you have more individuals with personal interests, here we are much more of a group, one unit. I definitely prefer that than being in a team of individuals who are thinking about their own thing and have their own agenda, which can happen in the bigger teams. We cannot afford that if we want to succeed. We have to be one unit.”
That togetherness could be the key to retaining the services of midfielder Gareth Barry, whose protracted bid to move to Liverpool has had more plot twists than a Alfred Hitchcock thriller this summer.
The Villa captain may have made it publicly known that he wanted to leave Villa Park but now the deal looks to be dead after his appearance against FH Hafnarfjordur cup-tied him in Europe until February
However, Carew said there was no ill feeling in the dressing room towards their popular leader.
“I think he appreciates what kind of club this is,” Carew said. “We love him, all the boys love him. He is a great player and a great person as well. He is very important to this team and I really hope he stays.
“All the players want him to stay and we just want things to return to normal.”
What gives Carew so much confidence of another successful campaign has been the emergence of Villa’s young stars like Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young, and he is predicting big things from the duo this season.
“The way they play and how they handle everything around them, on and off the pitch, is great,” he said. “It is like they have been playing for a long time all ready, and that is a sign that they can become big, great players.
“They manage to handle all the press and the pressure; all the fuss that surrounds them, well. They are so relaxed and are so clear about what they are supposed to do. They are so focused on the right things all the time. That is why they are doing so well at a young age.
“To be a really good player you have to be that way from the start. It is not as if it suddenly happens when you get to a certain age.”