Plenty was expected of Fabian Delph after the highly-rated youngster joined Aston Villa from Leeds in 2009, but injuries have somewhat stalled the progress of the midfielder.

Delph was able to muster just eight appearances last season due to persistent knee troubles, but a new campaign has offered a fresh start for the 21-year-old.

Alex McLeish, however, has been taking his precautions with Delph and - against the player's wishes - and chose to leave him out of a pre-season trip to Portugal.

But the Villa boss has certainly been impressed with Delph during his brief tenure at Villa Park, and opted to start with the England under-21 international in Saturday's Barclays Premier League encounter with Fulham.

Delph was able to complete a full 90 minutes in a goalless draw at Craven Cottage and remains very much in McLeish's plans going forward.

"It was a great performance from Fabian," said the Scot. "I thought he was excellent. We were really pleased with him.

"We took the decision not to take him to Portugal and he wasn't happy, but it was for his benefit medically.


"He gave a great performance at Fulham. We left him behind with the Fulham game in mind.

"I told him that, I said 'I'm thinking about you for next week. I'm not making any promises, but I am thinking about you for the Fulham game and the doctor thinks it's best that you stay here and recuperate for the Fulham game'.

"He gave a cracking performance.

"He's very elegant on the ball, he's got athleticism and if we can keep the injuries at bay and protect him then he'll be a great asset for this club."

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