All eyes on Warnock return

Posted Saturday, September 26, 2009 by PA

Aston Villa defender Stephen Warnock insists there is no bad feeling between him and Blackburn as he heads back to Ewood Park for the first time in Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash.

Warnock left Rovers shortly before the transfer window closed on September 1 and has established himself as Villa's first-choice left-back.

But he is unsure what sort of reception he will receive from the Blackburn supporters as Villa look for a seventh straight win in all competitions.

Warnock said: "The Blackburn game was one of the games I looked for straight away to see when we would be playing against them. I'm surprised that it's come around so quickly but I'm looking forward to going back there.

"I'm not too sure what kind of reception former players normally get there.

"I think they're usually quite good. Hopefully I'll get a good reception, but you just never know.

"There's no bad feeling. I've spoken to the chairman (John Williams) and the manager (Sam Allardyce) after I signed here and everything was left on good terms. There was a good understanding between us.

"It's a great club and they gave me the chance to move on and get my career back on track so I'm forever grateful to them."

Nigel Reo-Coker returns to the Aston Villa squad after a two-game absence.

Rio Coker did not feature against Portsmouth last weekend or Cardiff in the Carling Cup in midweek after a training ground bust-up with manager Martin O'Neill.

Midfielder Steve Sidwell is again ruled out with a thigh strain but winger Ashley Young (calf) and striker Emile Heskey (ankle) are expected to be fit to play.

And Warnock knows it will be dangerous to underestimate Blackburn despite their poor start to the current campaign.

He said: "They have got good quality in the team and signed quite a lot of new players this year and I think it needs a little bit of time for them to gel and to get used to the speed of the English game.

"The way they play is tough to play against. They play a lot of percentage football and it's very difficult to deal with but they have got a lot of quality in the team so they can mix their game up."

Sam Allardyce believes Stephen Warnock deserves a warm reception from the Blackburn crowd.

Allardyce admits he did not want to see the 27-year-old, who was voted Rovers' player of the year for 2008-09, leave the club, but said the reported #8million deal sealed in August represented good business and that there should be no ill-feeling towards the player.

Asked if he expected Warnock to be applauded by the Ewood faithful, Allardyce said: "I hope so, he has been a great servant to Blackburn.

"He got the move he wanted and we got the money that matched what we felt his value was. We were satisfied with that, even though we were disappointed to lose our player of the year.

"When you see Manchester United selling (Cristiano) Ronaldo then you see it's a business. When somebody is giving you the sort of money that we got for Stephen, then you can't say no.

"I didn't want it to happen but in the end it did. I think that, as always as a manager, you learn to live with the difficulties that the transfer window brings your way.

"The best thing we did was we got the right price, then we moved on and after that we got a really good replacement in Pascal Chimbonda, so we won't miss Stephen Warnock perhaps quite as much as we expected.

"It's a fantastic move for Stephen, the right time in his career, so I've got no problems with that. We just hope he plays not so good on Saturday, we beat them and then after that he can go on to win as many things as he possibly can!"

Gael Givet is Allardyce's only injury worry. The defender picked up a knee injury in the defeat at Everton last Sunday but, while he is not expected to have recovered in time for the weekend's game, he should be back to face Arsenal the following week.

Lars Jacobsen is in contention to return to the Rovers defence having missed last week's league fixture after his wife gave birth.

El-Hadji Diouf will be considered for selection despite an ongoing police investigation into allegations he racially abused a ball boy at Goodison Park.

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