The Big Interview: Allback on Chelsea and his return to Villa
It's clear to see that Marcus Allback hasn't changed.
Always a modest, humble, unassuming and friendly guy around Bodymoor Heath during his two-year tenure at Villa, it was more of the same as we caught-up ahead of the Stamford Bridge clash this weekend.
Villa facing Chelsea always evokes memories of a terrific Allback brace from 2003 during a spell in his claret and blue career when he was on fire in front of goal.
His two goals against Claudio Ranieri's side and his winner against Sunderland some weeks later kept Villa in the Barclays Premier League.
But he's quick to downplay his own impact when it's suggested to him.
"You're putting it up a little bit too big now. It wasn't that big," said the 39-year-old. "It was nice to score and it was special.
"It was a great result against Chelsea. It was obviously nice to score two in front of the home fans, especially since I didn't get to play many games in front of them.
"It was great to score two against a big team too, of course. The best thing is to score when you're winning too. It was a great game.
"The last home game against Sunderland made it clear we'd stay up. We were in a relegation fight those last few matches of the season. It was frustrating for everyone at the club.
"It was fantastic to stay up. It's too much of a traditional club to go down. It was nice to be a little part of that.
"I would say the Chelsea and Sunderland games were my top two moments at Villa.
"It really started to click for me when I came on against Arsenal. I remember that 1-1 result. I said at the time it was 'half a goal' for me as I went in with Kolo Toure and he put it in the net. It was nice to be involved in that situation.
"Then during the next few weeks I scored two against Chelsea and then I scored in the last home game against Sunderland to help keep Villa in the Premier League. Those final few games, that time was fantastic.
"I didn't want the season to end. At that time, everything was perfect."
Despite not playing too many games for Villa, Allback always enjoyed a good relationship with the claret and blue faithful.
And it's one Allback remembers very well and very fondly.
"The fans were fantastic. Even though I didn't get to play many games, I felt the crowd's support," said Allback. "That's probably because I warmed up a lot on the side! Every time I stepped out of the dugout, they gave me a big cheer. That was nice!
"That goal against Sunderland I distinctly remember sliding towards the Holte End. That was a fantastic feeling.
"That gives me goosebumps when I think about it now. I was living the dream at that time.
"To score vital goals for the club and the crowd was amazing.
"The ground was always packed. We were struggling, let's be honest and they still came in their numbers. The support was incredible."
Allback accepts that it wasn't all high times for him at Villa but he certainly had big hopes and aspirations when he joined the club from Heerenveen in May 2002.
"It was a dream come true to come to the Barclays Premier League. It's huge in Sweden," added Allback.
"But it was a big bonus that it was Aston Villa, one of the most traditional clubs with a lot of history.
"It is difficult to compare but the club I played with at Sweden, Orgryte, is the oldest club in the country with a lot of history and traditions too. It was extra special to join a club like Villa.
"And it was easy to settle in. It helped that Olof was there. His family helped out. We were friends before and played together in the national team.
"But we became really good friends and still are now. We spend time together when we have the chance.
"He made it easier for me. He was a big player for the club at the time - for all the years he was there, in fact - that was also a bonus. They must have thought 'one Swede has arrived and he's behaved well so hopefully this one will do the same'.
"But it was frustrating on the pitch. It wasn't until the end of the season, for the last few games, that I regularly started playing.
"Obviously it was nice to stay up in the Premier League. But it was a tough season. We finished sixteenth.
"Then David O'Leary came in. He had seen the last four or five games of the previous season. He was happy and told me what he wanted for me. He had confidence with me.
"He played me in pre-season and on the opening day at Portsmouth but then I got injured going away with the national team for a friendly game.
"I know he didn't want me to go because of the risk of injury. I wanted to go and thought he would understand because of his career with his country. I said 'yes' and then I got injured.
"I came back injured and he wasn't happy. Then I got back in and played again and then another national game came up. He told me 'you saw what happened last time'. But I wanted to go and I went and I got injured again!
"He was upset to put it in a nice way. But I didn't mean to get injured.
"More or less that was the end for me. He went for other strikers after that. I recognised that I needed to leave because I wanted to play.
"I was playing a lot for the national team and it doesn't really work if you play for them but not for your club side. You need to regularly play for the club.
"I was gutted though. I felt I had much more to give to the club. I wanted at least another year to prove myself.
"I didn't feel I showed my best. But maybe you can say I wasn't good enough, I don't know?
"I can't sit here and moan that the first manager wasn't good and the second manager wasn't good. It was my qualities that should be considered too.
"Still I always say when I'm asked the question that the Premier League experience was one of my best times. I was living my dream! My family had a good time in Birmingham too.
"I played with some great players also. I have to mention my good friend Olof. He was such a professional.
"He never had a bad game! You had players who were good one week and bad the next. Olof never did that. He was always good.
"I'd pick Gareth Barry too. He was excellent. I remember Paul Merson. He provided the assist for my first goal at Villa. He was a fantastic player!
"I have good memories with Dion Dublin too. I was impressed with his attitude. I always made fun of his age too because he was a little bit older than me. I still give him stick now! I have done so since the first day we met. He was a true professional. It was great to play with him."
It's clear speaking to the likeable Swede that he still has great enthusiasm for Villa, despite it being eight years since his departure.
Despite that passage of time, he still holds a torch for the claret and blues and chats about the club with his young eight-year-old son Rasmus, who he's promised to take to Villa Park in the next few years.
"I always look to see how Villa are doing. All the time!" said Allback. "I try to keep up with all the clubs I played for.
"My son Rasmus loves football. He knows all about the teams I played for. He walks up to me when I'm sitting somewhere in the house and says: "Dad. Aston Villa won today. That's great! Hey Dad, it's been a good day!"
"It's only right that I keep that interest in Villa for him. I have promised him that one day we will go to Villa Park to watch a game so he can see where his Dad enjoyed playing in a few games. That will be nice!"
Indeed it will. And we look forward to welcoming you back!
Make sure you snap up your half season tickets.
Go to full match coverage for Chelsea 8 - 0 Aston Villa (21st December 2012) >
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