Tim Sherwood has called on Gabriel Agbonlahor to repeat his derby heroics and insisted he is crucial to Aston Villa’s survival bid.
The forward scored just his fourth goal of the season in Villa’s 2-1 win over West Brom on Tuesday, which lifted them out of the Premier League relegation zone.
They face the Baggies at Villa Park again today in the FA Cup quarter-final following Christian Benteke’s last-minute penalty winner.
Agbonlahor has been criticised for inconsistent performances in recent years but Sherwood believes he can now be Villa’s trump card.
“I had a lot of chats with him, a lot of chats with Christian and every player. The strike partnership outside the top six, they’ve got to be the best two. But on paper doesn’t make any difference, you have to go and prove it and go and do it.”
Sherwood wants to tap into Agbonlahor, Villa’s record Premier League goalscorer. “Absolutely,” he said, when asked whether he identified Agbonlahor as key to Villa. Every game I’ve told him to play on the shoulder and look to get in behind, because once he gets in behind you he’s very quick and hard tostop.”
Sherwood is without the suspended Alan Hutton but could welcome back Ron Vlaar after a calf problem, with the skipper being assessed.
Meanwhile, West Brom boss Tony Pulis insists he has no problem with his Aston Villa counterpart Tim Sherwood following the latter’s comments about the size of the two midlands club.
Sherwood described Albion as a “good little club” before expressing his delight at having landed the manager’s job at a “massive football club” like Villa.
But Pulis said: “That is Tim — there are no problems with me or the chairman at all. Tim is Tim and he will be good fun for everyone around the West Midlands for the time he is at Aston Villa, I’m sure. I don’t think we need any (extra) motivation.
“It’s a local derby, it’s the quarter-final of the FA Cup and it’s absolutely wonderful that we’ve got to this stage.”