Martin Laursen has told how his disappointment at being a frustrated spectator were alleviated by Aston Villa maintaining their Premier League unbeaten run in his absence.
The Villa captain made a winning return to Martin O’Neill’s starting line-up in the weekend victory over West Bromwich Albion after sitting out two league and cup games.
A knee injury meant Laursen had been sidelined for the home draw with Arsenal, away win at Hull City and FA Cup third round success at League Two Gillingham.
The Danish defender also paid tribute to Zat Knight, who deputised in his absence, only to lose his place alongside Curtis Davies for Saturday’s win over Albion.
“I don’t take an automatic recall to the starting line-up for granted even if I’m fully fit,” said Laursen.
“Our defenders did well over the past three games and it was good to see Zat Knight score that crucial late equaliser against Arsenal.
“I really enjoyed watching the game on Boxing Day, and like every Villa supporter I feel we should really have beaten the Gunners.
“We were the much better side in the first half and although Arsenal got on top after the interval, I thought our lads showed tremendous spirit to get back from two down.
“It was an important draw too because it kept us three points ahead of Arsenal, a situation we maintained after winning at Hull a few days later.
“Everyone was convinced it was heading for a goalless draw but Ashley Young’s superb late cross forced an own goal and we had three more points on the board.”
Laursen was also pleased to see Villa advance beyond the FA Cup third round with a hard fought victory at Gillingham, although he predicted another tough test at the next stage.
Villa will face a trip to either Cheltenham Town or Doncaster Rovers. The pair will attempt to play their third round fixture for the first time tonight after the original tie fell foul of the weather.
“At the Priestfield Stadium last week, we had everything to lose against a very strong League Two team,” added Laursen.
“Although we are much better on paper than Gillingham the FA Cup always brings the best out of lower division teams and it was quite a struggle before James Milner settled it in our favour with his second goal.
“Now we have to wait for the outcome of the tie between Cheltenham and Doncaster to discover our fourt -round opponents. Whoever gets through we know it will be another testing game.”
Meanwhile, Villa defender Stephen O’Halloran is set to visit specialist knee surgeon Dr Richard Steadman – the man responsible for prolonging Laursen’s career.
The reserve team defender’s plans of making his first team debut for Villa have been put on hold after he suffered two serious injuries in the space of nine months.
O’Halloran damaged cruciate ligaments on loan at Leeds United in March last year and was stepping up his recovery when he suffered a similar problem during a spell with Swansea City last month.