Feature: Dawkins - I have total faith in Villa future
Simon Dawkins is convinced Villa will be playing Barclays Premier League football again next season - and he would like nothing more than to be part of it.
After just a month in claret and blue, the attacking midfielder has seen enough to know he would happily exchange his temporary spell at Villa Park for a longer-term arrangement.
The 25-year-old attacking midfielder joined us on loan from Tottenham Hotspur on transfer deadline day and has so far been restricted to just 47 minutes of match action.
But he finds the prospect of a permanent move highly appealing.
"I would definitely like to stay here beyond the end of the season," he says.
"Villa have given me this opportunity. They came calling and wanted to sign me. They have given me my chance in the Premier League. Now I want to show my loyalty and give everything I can.
"The most important thing is to help the team avoid relegation because this team doesn't belong anywhere but the Premier League. Whatever I can do to help will be good and that's what I'm striving towards."
Dawkins has already played his part in aiding the Villa cause, albeit in a modest manner so far.
He had no idea what his future held when he returned to Tottenham in December following a successful two-year loan period with MLS club San Jose Earthquakes.
Just over six weeks later, though, he was on his way to Villa Park and after being an unused substitute at Everton, he has subsequently gone on against West Ham, Arsenal and Man City.
"I was surprised that I was involved straight away," he says, "It was a great experience just to be on the bench just a couple of days after signing.
"It was an opportunity to get to know the lads and the coaches and see how they do things on matchdays.
"Then going on against West Ham was a dream because it was my first appearance in the Premier League.
"It was great for me, my family and everybody around me who knew what I had been through during the hard times. That one moment when I went on made it all worthwhile. It was amazing. My family weren't at the game that day but they saw it because it was live on TV.
"And to make it even better we went on to win. It was a good moment for me personally and Aston Villa as a club. That day was very special to me.
"Charles N'Zogbia's goal was brilliant. There are so many great players here - game-changing players - and Charles is just one of them. You saw that day what he can do.
"This is a big, big club with big players and we shouldn't be where we are. We have to stick together and get out of it.
"It was good to get to play against Arsenal, as well, because it's not far from where I grew up. It was a shame we didn't get the result because the guys worked so hard and I thought we deserved a point.
"Unfortunately we didn't get it and we lost to Man City but now we have to move on to the next game."
Born in Edgware, Dawkins supported Arsenal as a boy - his all-time favourite player is Ian Wright - but he jumped at the opportunity of joining Tottenham's academy at the age of 13.
As his career developed, unfortunately, he was dogged by a succession of injuries, even when he went out on loan to Leyton Orient.
"It's been a long road but I'm just happy to get my career back on track. I've been through a lot but that has made me mentally stronger. I appreciate everything I have right now and I'm very privileged to have this opportunity and I intend to take it."
He also intends to put his name on the Villa scoresheet, having scored 14 goals for the Earthquakes.
"The manager gave there me the opportunity to get on the ball and do my stuff and I managed to score some really good goals which I'm proud of," he says.
"I surprised myself last season because I scored some left-foot goals and some with my head. I'm still learning and I want to make as much impact as possible with Villa.
"When I came back from America I didn't know what would happen, whether I might get a game for Spurs or maybe go back to America.
"All I knew was that I had to keep myself in good condition for when the January transfer window came along. I had a lot of faith, particularly in God. He got me through my difficult spell of injuries and that has definitely helped me to get where I am today.
"I go to church occasionally but it's hard because of football schedules. But my faith is always there and I think that's the main thing.
"I suppose I'm a late starter. You see a lot of kids coming through at 20 in the Premier League but I missed that due to injuries earlier in my career, and being out for nearly two-and-half years.
"But I got myself back. I got myself right mentally and carried on learning even though I wasn't playing. That was vital for me. It's never too late!
"I hope I can be an example to other young players who suffer injuries. You should never give up."
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