Villa Ladies preview: Hunt - Gibson the comeback kid
Villa Ladies head into their League Cup quarter-final away at Coventry Ladies this weekend with Natalie Gibson set to lead the line as the central striker.
Yet it was four short months ago that Gibson couldn't get a look-in for Joe Hunt's side.
Gibson wanted to play in midfield, Hunt wanted her to play up front.
Hunt told her she wouldn't play in the centre because of the wealth of young talent at his disposal, the likes of Abbeyleigh Stringer, Sherry McCue and Maddy Cusack.
Hunt subsequently informed her that her fitness levels had dropped too.
Gibson, undeterred, worked her socks off and now finds herself an integral part of the set-up, excelling since Katie Wilkinson's departure to Blues and after her own admission that striker is her most productive position.
Hunt said: "At the beginning of the season when I took the job, I had to build a squad with plenty of cover in all positions.
"I saw Nat as a point striker as she is big, strong and has the ability to link play.
"Nat had played in midfield for the past few seasons so wanted to play there but unfortunately for her I had Stringer and Cusack join the squad as well as Shezza, Mozza and Tash.
"In pre-season I gave her a go in there but felt the others were better suited.
"Early in September Nat and I had a very productive conversation as I felt she had let he fitness slip and was therefore falling behind the others.
"She knuckled down and got fitter and when she got her chance as a striker she took it.
"Wilko got injured and Nat stepped up. She's been brilliant for us.
"Away at Cardiff she was unbelievable, always a threat in front of goal but also got Follis, Shezza, Maddy and Mel on the ball in good areas.
"She is an example for some of the others to follow. Some weeks she wasn't in the 16 but didn't moan, just worked harder.
"Sometimes in football it doesn't always go your way so you have to work harder to make it happen.
"She has done that and now look at her, our main striker with a renewed focus and desire to succeed.
"She is Aston Villa through and through too and I'm pleased with where she is now because she's a great girl."
Hunt leads him team into the cup knockout stages now with a trip on Sunday to Coventry and he says the team are relishing the competition.
He added: "It's a massive game for us. We did well in the group stages where we've already played Coventry.
"In fact, we seem to always seem to draw them in the cup competitions!
"They are under new management after Paul Cudby stepped down. Chris Holloway is a great guy. I've known him for a few years as we've crossed paths in our community jobs when he was at West Brom. I wish him well for his new role but after this Sunday!
"We're doing well at the moment but I said to the girls after the festive break that we need to find another gear to kick on.
"As a club we don't want to stand still. We want to progress. The League Cup is an important competition for us. We'll be taking it very seriously."
Hunt revealed he has no injury worries ahead of the game.
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