Gabriel Agbonlahor: Villa's Emergent Star

Steven MeredithContributor IDecember 6, 2007

The emergence of Gabriel "Gabby" Agbonlahor began last season and has continued in superb fashion this year.

Agbonlahor—born Oct. 13, 1986 in Birmingham—is a fine product of the Villa Youth Team that also produced England international Darius Vassell.

In recent seasons, the hype surrounding that youth team generally focused on Luke Moore, who helped Villa win the FA Youth Cup in 2002 when he was 16. Despite being the same age, Gabby was left somewhat in the shadows. His scoring record was very impressive in the youth team—with 62 goals in just 72 games, he mirrored Vassell's equally impressive totals and broke Vassell's youth record for most goals in a season in 2004 with 40.

Gabby made his premiership bow for Villa in the 2005-06 season, after gaining some first team experience on loan at Watford and Sheffield Wednesday. He scored in his debut, but Villa were outplayed by Everton and lost 4-1 at Goodison Park. That season, he was featured in nine games, starting three and scoring one goal.

Agbonlahor started last season in the first team from game one against Arsenal and has not looked back since. The start of last season saw Villa as the last unbeaten team in the football league. He ended up as Villa's Young Player of the Year and scored nine goals in 38 appearances in the EPL (playing in every game).

Gabby's finest attributes are his pace and ability to run at defenders using his speed. His natural and favored position is central striker, but his blistering speed often places him wide on the right to suit Martin O'Neill's tactics. He is equally effective in both positions and has featured well this season, scoring six goals in 15 starts.

Since Gabby's father was born in Nigeria, the Nigerian FA tried their utmost to have him play for their country. He was even included in an under-20 squad for Nigeria, but respectfully declined, opting instead to commit his future to England.

Agbonlahor has broken into the England under-21 squad—and it is only a matter of time until he manages a full England call up following the footsteps of Ashley Young.

The Villa frontline of Agbonlahor and Young creates devastating speed for defenders, and John Carew completes the attacking force with his strength and aerial threat.

The future looks promising for Gabby and for Aston Villa—provided Villa can hold on to the local starlet, who is attracting interest from Arsenal.

Gabby is already a fan-favorite. You can hear the Villans singing his name to the tune of Karma Chameleon—"Gabby Gabby Gabby Agbonlahor...he's gonna score..."

England neutrals will all agree that he has a very bright future.


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