Gana on survival belief, Drogba’s Villa approval and English lessons
When Idrissa Gana was offered the chance to join Villa, he sought advice from one of the Barclays Premier League's finest.
"Go for it," was the emphatic answer he received from a player who scored more than 100 goals in English football's top division.
That man was Didier Drogba.
"It is true Didier told me to sign," said the Senegal midfielder.
"He said I should sign because Aston Villa is a good club, even though they have spent the last few seasons at the bottom end of the Premier League.
"He played against Villa many times."
Ivory Coast forward Drogba - who won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and the Champions League during two spells at Chelsea - is an important role model to Gana.
So his advice was always going to strike a chord with the 26-year-old.
"He is a good personality and a good example for every African player," explained the Villa ace.
"We have the same agent and that is why he called me and talked to me. He is an important role model for me."
Villa's current predicament aside, Gana says Premier League life is every bit as exciting as his mentor described.
After signing from French side Lille in the summer, the all-action midfielder made an encouraging start to life in claret and blue with hard-working displays in our first three top-flight games against Bournemouth, Manchester United and Crystal Palace.
His bright beginning was curtailed by hamstring problems which ruled him out for most of September but he has been a regular fixture in our starting line-up since the appointment of Rémi Garde.
"I'm finding the Premier League exciting but also very hard because of the results we've had this season," said Gana.
"But I'm happy to be here and to play for Aston Villa.
"It was very easy settling in here because the weather is not much different to Lille and the city of Birmingham is very nice.
"There were a lot of people here who helped me out to make the integration very smooth.
"I will continue to try and do my best for this club because it is a huge club that shouldn't be on the bottom of the table."
As well as delivering consistent performances, Gana is also starting to talk a good game.
His English has improved vastly under the tutelage of player personnel, welfare and liaison officer Lorna McClelland.
Gana sees it is as a crucial factor if he is to succeed in the English game.
"It is important for the integration of the players and for the team," he continued.
"All of the coaches speak English so if you don't understand the language you won't understand all of the instructions.
"So we have to learn. It is important for me and for the other players in the team."
Gana insists he will not stop believing Villa can survive until it is mathematically impossible.
"Of course we still believe we have a chance of surviving," he continued.
"It is a big challenge but we have to do our best to stay in the Premier League.
"We will keep fighting and we will never give up."
While Gana is buoyed by his start to life in English football, he is keen to add goals to his armoury.
He opened his account in the FA Cup third round replay against Wycombe Wanderers with a well-executed drive.
And it left him hungry to increase his personal tally.
"I was very happy to score my first goal for Aston Villa and to score at Villa Park too," said Gana.
"The most important thing, though, was that we won the game and everybody went home happy.
"But I'll carry on trying to get into those positions and hopefully add more goals to my game.
"The fans have given me a lot of strength - they give all of us lots of energy and positive vibes.
"So it was nice to score for them after all the support they have given me since I arrived."
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