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Aston Villa

The rise of Aston Villa’s FA Cup hero – Fabian Delph

It may surprise some to know that this is his fifth season at Villa. It’s taken time for Fabian Delph to adapt to the rigours and demands of the Premier League.

It’s definitely not always been plain sailing. He wasn’t allowed to leave Leeds until the right amount came along; we all know what Ken Bates is like.

As well as a drink driving charge, only 26 league appearances in his first three years at Villa and a loan spell back to his first club have all combined to make Delph’s career so far frustrating, to say the least. Or so it seemed.

Now at 25, Delph is in the form of his life; the main ingredient in Tim Sherwood’s intoxicating magic potion that has saved Villa from their impotent days under Paul Lambert, one where during his 115 games in charge, their average goal ratio was 1.09. And that includes cup games.

Even before the arrival of Sherwood, Delph was perhaps the one ray of light during the dark days of Paul Lambert. He earned an England call-up and has been ever-present since then, highlighting his unquestionable drive and determination to play his way to the top even in one of the worst sides of the Premier League at that time.

His last performance encapsulated his form this season and it couldn’t have been on a better stage. The Villains’ glorious 2-1 win against Liverpool on Sunday saw Delph put in a man of the match performance, after his Sterling effort that even saw him outshine Raheem.

He supplied the perfect pass to Christian Benteke, who slotted coolly for Villa’s equaliser before Delph made it 2-1 himself after turning Dejan Lovren inside out and sliding the ball under the on-rushing Simon Mignolet.

It lead to Garth Crooks naming him in his BBC Sport Team of the Week: “It looks like Villa boss Tim Sherwood has inherited a leader while England boss Roy Hodgson has someone to replace Frank Lampard in his midfield.”

Some praise indeed to be likened to one of England’s best goalscoring midfielders, but Delph has always had goals in his locker. Even at Leeds he scored his first as only a 19-year-old. He had the reputation around Elland Road as a player who couldn’t score tap-ins, he was one of those players that would only score goals that had a degree of quality about them.

As a Leeds fan myself, I remember his last permanent season with us. He scored six goals and even his first just enveloped his confidence and shooting ability from outside the box. After receiving a pass from Neil Kilkenny, Delph pushes the ball out of his feet and with 25 yards between himself and the goal, he fires a shot onto the post and in.

The next game he scored another two 25-yarders against Walsall, another against Hartlepool, a 40 yarder against Stockport (the keeper was nowhere) and then the goal of the season against Brighton. No wonder Villa paid £6 million, despite being a League One player.

The kid has always had the talent and the drive. But in his first season at Villa he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. A sentence that no footballer wants to associate themselves with. It put him out for eight months.

He returned for a few games after his injury in the latter stages of the 2010/11 season but failed to make an impact before transferring to Leeds in the second half of the 2011/12 season, but he picked up an ankle injury in February and was out for the rest of the season. Pretty unlucky.

But now he’s been given what he was owed by karma, and it’s most definitely deserved for the former Football League player of the Year, Leeds player of the year and Aston Villa supporters’ player of the year.

There is no reason why Delph can’t continue to play this way and be a permanent name on Hodgson’s teamsheet. He’s always had the talent, the drive and the willingness and who knows – perhaps an FA Cup medal?