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El Ahmadi exclusive: I firmly believe we will climb the table
Rob Bishop chats to Karim El Ahmadi.
13th Feb 2013
El Ahmadi exclusive: I firmly believe we will climb the table


Bishop

Paul Lambert has signed nine players since his appointment as manager and no doubt there will be many more to come.

But Karim El Ahmadi is proud of the fact he was the first player to be brought to Villa Park by the current boss.

Now the Morocco international intends to repay that faith by helping Villa to climb away from the Barclays Premier League danger zone.

Having missed the whole of January because of African Cup of Nations duty with his country, the Dutch-born midfielder returned to the fold in the 3-3 draw at Everton and is looking to impose himself on Villa's middle ground over the remainder of the season.

"It was a good feeling to be the manager's first signing," he says.

"I was very happy about that. It's nice to think the manager thinks a lot of you. And I'm delighted to be here because it was always my dream to play in the Premier League.

"It was hard to be away last month because Villa had some very big games coming up and I wanted to play in them. If your country calls you, though, you cannot say no. I was fit and I was ready to play for Morocco.

"But I watched the highlights of every Villa game while I was there. It was really disappointing that we didn't get to Wembley in the Capital One Cup because being involved in the final would have been a great prize for me in my first season here.

"But now we have to focus on the league. I believe we can climb the table because we have so many good players. The way we created the goals at Everton showed what we are capable of.

"Now we have to win more games."

El Ahmadi is also keen to add another goal to his single strike against Everton in the first home game of the season.

While he has never been a prolific marksman, he hit three league goals for his hometown club Twente Enschede and another four for Feyenoord, as well as one for Morocco.

"I'll be trying my best to get another one for Villa," he said. "But the most important thing is to get three points. If that happens, it doesn't matter who scores."

Having just turned 28, El Ahmadi is one of the more senior members of the Villa squad, along with two other players who joined the club from Dutch sides last year.

And he believes the presence of his former Feyenoord team-mate Ron Vlaar and ex-Alkmaar midfielder Brett Holman has helped his transition from the Eredivisie to English football's top flight.

"I played alongside Ron for Holland U18s so we have known each other a long time.

"We also played against each other quite a lot, then I signed for Feyenoord and we played together there for three-and-a-half years. We have a good relationship so it was good that he came here.

"I played a lot against Brett, too. He's also an excellent player and the fact that he hasn't been in the starting line-up in the last few games shows what a good squad we have.

"The younger players are very professional and they work hard. The future of Villa is going to be good with players like that.

"I can give them some advice because I've played a lot of games throughout my career, even though the game is different here from football in Holland.

"The speed of Premier League football is much higher and it's much more physical, but I'm getting used to that."

From a very young age, Karim's ambition was to be a professional footballer and he spent all his free time practising.

Even when his pals went home for lunch, he stayed at school to play football - and even took his ball to bed.

If his devotion to the beautiful game in unquestionable, however, it wasn't until he was 21 that he committed his international future to Morocco, having played for Holland at youth level.

Since then he has represented his parents' homeland with pride, and was bitterly disappointed when Morocco failed to qualify beyond the group stages at the African Cup of Nations.

Although they drew all three games, against Angola, the Cape Verde Islands and hosts South Africa, Morocco missed out when Cape Verde scored a late winner in their final match to clinch a quarter-final place.

If that was a major setback to Karim and his international team-mates, though, at least there was a silver lining from a claret and blue perspective.

Morocco's exit meant he could head back to England and play his part in helping Villa to collect Barclays Premier League points.

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