Martin Laursen might not have played much of a part for Aston Villa this season. In fact, it was his knee injury in late August - and the alarming failure to replace him either then or in the January window - that has proved a major factor in Villa's troubled campaign.

But, on a rare trip back to England from his long recuperation at home in Italy following knee surgery, Laursen felt the pain of Saturday's defeat as acutely as any of the 16 players David O'Leary had on duty at Highbury. "I feel for everybody," the big Dane said.

"It's a difficult period for the manager, just as it is a difficult period for everybody. It's not easy to look at and for me not to be able to do anything is the hardest part."

Laursen might have gone from Villa Park for most of the season since his knee operation in September but he has not turned into a forgotten man.

"I speak regularly to Thomas Sorensen and Olof Mellberg," he said. "Alan Smith, the physio, rings me twice a week and every day I'm on the website so I know what's happening. I might not be physically there but I am curious and I always know everything that is going on.

"I wanted to go away to concentrate only on my recovery. The decision I came to, together with the club, to stay away was a good one. But I still have a good relationship with my team-mates and I cannot wait to get back."

When that might be will depend on what happens when he returns to Colorado next month to get the once-over from the man who operated on him, world renowned knee specialist Richard Steadman. "I start jogging in mid-May, at least that is the plan," he said.

"Before then, I have to go back to Colorado to see Dr Steadman at the beginning of May. And, if he says my knee is fine, which I think he will, then I will start to run and commence the outdoor work."