Blog: Laursen on anniversary, Randy Lerner and his B6 return
21st May 2014
It feels like a lifetime ago yet I still can remember everything from that day.
I was having a tough time at Milan and wanted to leave. I was looking eagerly at the Premier League after six years in Italy where I had learnt a lot.
I just knew in my heart that I was most suited to playing football in England. It was perfect for me.
I spoke to two other clubs as well as Aston Villa. Aston Villa was very interested in me. I was clearly very interested in Aston Villa because of the size of the club and the recommendation I had received from Thomas Sorensen.
Thomas is a good friend and he was very positive about the place.
It was really very easy for me to join.
Milan agreed the transfer with Doug Ellis and I agreed my terms. Then I arrived at Villa Park.
I walked around the ground with David O'Leary. It was just a great experience. I fully expected a magnificent stadium because of the history and tradition of Villa - but it was so much more than that. It had an aura.
I was so happy on that day. It was a very good feeling.
I just knew instantly that Villa Park would be a great place to play football - and I certainly wasn't disappointed.
I came out from the player tunnel that afternoon and I remember imagining in my mind what it would be like to play with the full ground of cheering fans. I was relishing the atmosphere, the excitement, the physicality, the tempo - everything about English football. And what an experience it ended up being!
There have been a lot of things happen in those 10 years.
It was a tough start, as everyone knows. I had a hard two or three seasons and then everything clicked.
It was such a great decision when I look back at it today - I played my best football here and the fans were magnificent to me. I will never forget their love for me as long as I live.
I remember me playing the best football of my career in those last couple of seasons. It was unbelievable. I felt so strong. I was in the right environment at Villa. I loved England and loved playing football in England.
I could use my strengths - I was very aggressive, loved to head the ball, liked to make some tackles - all the things fans here love to see from a centre-half.
It was the perfect match. It was what I thought it was going to be - but I could never imagine it was going to be that good.
Those two seasons were brilliant. In the second one, I became club captain, which was a real honour.
It was about playing regularly but also putting in consistent performances during that period too.
Not many fans know this - but I was back at Villa Park this week for a Football Aid charity match.
It was my first time playing here since I retired.
I've got to be honest, it was very emotional.
It was a day I had been really looking forward to for a long time. I was offered the chance by Football Aid and I jumped at the chance.
To get changed in the dressing room, put on the kit again, head out to play on that pitch, it was just amazing.
All those memories came flooding back as I sat in that dressing room.
To play 90 minutes was great too. It was super to be back.
But I think the supporters would be disappointed if they saw me play now! They'd be thinking 'who is this?' I remember another Martin Laursen!
I am not playing too much football. I can play without any problems but not too regularly. That's when I would starting having knee issues.
I am still competitive, of course, as most former sportsmen invariably are. I still have that determination. I wanted to do well and play well.
It wasn't important to win or lose but I wanted to do myself justice. It was a good day for the fans to play with Gavin McCann and I - and see all the things that players do.
By the way, I didn't score! We had a few corners and I went up for them as you'd expect but I couldn't find the net - maybe I needed the Martin Laursen song to inspire me. That's what was missing!
On to current claret and blue matters and obviously I read, with interest, the statement from Randy Lerner that the club is up for sale.
First off, let me tell you that Randy is a great guy, full-stop.
He has put a lot of money into our club - on and off the field.
No-one should forget that.
He was responsible for the state-of-the-art training ground. It was drawn up on paper under Doug Ellis but Randy came in and immediately invested his money into getting it built.
It is now just fantastic. It is truly great - one of the best facilities in football.
He wrote in his statement of finding new leadership and new investment. He has so much honesty.
What struck me was that he had decided, in his heart, that it was time to step aside.
He could easily have continued as the owner and chairman for several more years and not invested - but he decided to put the club first. That shows incredible dignity.
He's acting like a fan - which I am sure he is - and saying it's time for the next stage of progression for the club. That shows his strong feelings for Villa.
He has taken the difficult - I'm sure - decision to look for someone else to take over.
Let me sign-off by chatting about our partnership with Acorns - a relationship which Randy was responsible for.
We must never forget Randy's involvement in that.
It was - and remains - just magnificent.
To be the first Premier League club to have a charity's name on the front of the shirt is something I still think about to this day.
I know the players were really honoured to play with Acorns on our shirts.
People sometimes think of players as being in their own cocoon but, trust me, we were so amazed and delighted when we heard about the partnership.
And we all loved visiting the hospices and seeing the children, spreading a bit of joy in their tough lives.
I still look at the pictures from the kit launch I took part in at Brindley Place and feel real pride.
I think of Randy Lerner as a great man. He was willing to uphold the traditions of Villa as one of the very best football clubs. Let's not forget that.
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