Agbonlahor set for super-sub role

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Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier insists it is not a risk to bring striker Gabriel Agbonlahor back into his plans after a five-week lay-off following groin surgery for Wednesday's home clash with Blackpool.

Agbonlahor has not tasted any reserve-team action since his return to training last week but he will be among the substitutes for the Barclays Premier League clash against Ian Holloway's side.

It is a welcome boost to Houllier who will be without fellow forwards Emile Heskey and John Carew for another three weeks with respective knee and calf problems.

"Gabby will be on the bench," said Houllier. "It is a huge boost. He has only played 20 minutes for me and then he had to go off in my first game against Blackburn if you remember."

He added: "Now Gabby has had the operation and he's back. I wouldn't say that he's totally fit and ready but he can be on the bench and help out if needed.

"It is not a risk, I wouldn't take a risk. Everything he does in training shows that he is okay. It is just a matter of match-fitness now.

"I look at the records and he can score some goals."

With Nigel Reo-Coker out for two to three weeks, Stephen Ireland could come into contention to start against Ian Holloway's men.

He was urged last week to work harder by Houllier, who has been pleased with his reponse.

"He has come on well," Houllier said. "I have no issue with anybody here. I didn't play him in the derby (against Birmingham) because I didn't feel it was a game for him.

"In fairness, it was difficult for him to come into the Fulham game with them pushing - but he did extremely well. He has pushed himself a bit more."

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Gabriel Agbonlahor
Premier League
Aston Villa

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