Defender Vlaar: My mind is even stronger than my body!
When you see Ron Vlaar coming up against West Ham's strikers on Saturday you may think his most prized asset is his physical prowess - but he insists that's nothing compared with the strength of his mind.
Vlaar says the devastation of two long injury layoffs during his early years with Feyenoord toughened him up as a player.
The powerful centre-half missed virtually two full seasons with medial ligament damage in his knee.
But despite the horrendous heartache at the time, Vlaar insists the double blow made him a far stronger player.
He feels the spells out and the strength of character needed to overcome them mean he is now ready for anything that's thrown at him on the football field.
He begins his top-flight adventure at West Ham on Saturday.
He said: "The injuries I suffered made me a stronger person and make me appreciate being out on the pitch even more now. The recovery from the injury helped me develop as a person.
"The injuries were not good but from something bad I tried to find the positives and something good.
"Injuries happen a lot so one time is not a problem but when it happened the second time it was really hard for me.
"You immediately think about what happened before you did the injury and know you have to face it all again. It made me go crazy for a while.
"But the surgery gave me a new beginning and I worked every day to come back. I had to keep believing I could come back and reach the same level.
"I am proud of myself with the injuries. It took me two years overall and I came back. That was a good thing for me.
"Now I have made my transfer to the Premier League with Villa. That's just amazing. I am very proud because I have sweated and worked hard for this.
"It makes me strong mentally. I try to improve every day in training. I did that during my injury time too and I do that now also."
Vlaar admits he's absolutely relishing his debut at West Ham.
He continued: "I am really looking forward to the first match.
"Making my debut at West Ham is really something to look forward to - as is my first home match against Everton.
"I will just let it happen and keep my focus.
"I have been practising with the group and I look forward to playing. I will do my best and I will try to be an important player for the club.
"Everybody is sharp. The manager and coaches are very close with the group. There is a very good vibe."
Vlaar has been gearing up for the Hammers test with training at "unbelievable" Bodymoor Heath.
He says the players are in good hands with their fab facilities.
He added: "It's unbelievable. When I first saw it I was amazed. We have everything you want.
"It starts there and ends on the pitch."
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