From the Archives: Mellberg says 'NO' to Blues in Claret & Blue
Claret & Blue magazine was proving popular ten years ago this week.
After a break of two years, the new-look printed product returned on a quarterly basis in 2002-03 and one of the most interesting features within the pages was the special Q&A with first team players.
One star name went under the spotlight every issue with supporters posing the questions.
After Darius Vassell and Gareth Barry engaged with fans in Issues 2 and 3, it was the turn of Olof Mellberg for Issue 3 - which came out in March 2003.
Mellberg's thoughts are interesting to look back at now a decade on.
Some certainly resonated with supporters as he discussed a host of topics, including the rivalry with Birmingham City.
Check out his answers in full below:
Q&A with Olof Mellberg
Q] Why did you decide to move to Aston Villa?
I decided to move because I really wanted to play in the Premier League. I knew Aston Villa were interested in me and I knew they had been monitoring my progress for quite a while. John Gregory, who was manager then, met me several times so I knew the interest was very serious. I also knew Villa were a top Premier League club so that's how I decided.
Q] How did it feel to score your first goal against Man Utd at Old Trafford?
It was a great feeling, fantastic, but I must admit I was surprised to score. After that I hoped I would start scoring more but it hasn't happened. It was my first Premier League goal and the 1-1 was an important result. It was a good game. We had been on a bad run before then and we managed to turn things around, although not completely. It was a good performance from the team.
Q] Who was your idol growing up?
I didn't have any in football. I played tennis when I was younger and, if I had to pick a hero, I would say Pete Sampras. He is a great player with a terrific attitude.
Q] How do you feel when fans say you are the best defender at the club since Paul McGrath?
That's fantastic. I know of Paul McGrath and what he's done for not only Villa but also the Republic of Ireland. From what I have heard he is one of the best players to have put on the claret and blue shirt so it's an honour to be mentioned with him.
Q] Do you make many trips home and does the family visit you?
My family visit me quite a lot and I try to go back to Sweden to see them when I can but it's not that often. The main reason is because we play so many games per season. It's difficult but whenever I can, I do.
Q] Is it true on your first visit to the Belfry to play golf you beat all the other Villa players with ease?
No, that's not true. I do play the game off a handicap of seven. I started playing when I was 16-years-old and managed to get loads of rounds in as a youngster. Now I don't play that much because I don't get the chance.
Q] What is the best thing about playing for Villa?
Everything! The fans have been great with me and I have had the confidence of the managers I have worked under and I love the area. It is a big and well organised club and I love playing for Villa.
Q] Would you ever consider leaving Villa for Birmingham City?
That's an easy one with a simple answer - NO, never.
Q] How did it feel the first time you walked out to captain Villa?
It was fantastic. It still feels great, particularly when we win. But on the flip side of that, I feel it more when we lose too. I feel more responsible for the losses and take it harder. But you do enjoy it more when you play well and the team wins.
Q] What do you make of the Villa fans?
They are great. Sweden is a small country, in terms of interest in football and when I was at Racing Santander we only got about 15,000 at each game. But it's different here with much more interest and bigger crowds. One thing is for certain - the fans have been great with me.
Q] How did it feel to be recognised on a national scale as the PFA fans player of the month?
That was fantastic although I think there were people who did better than me at that particular period in time. We did well as a team and, as I was the captain for that run, the fans possibly gave me more credit than I deserved. That's what happens when you're skipper, you get more praise when the team are doing well and vice-versa.
Q] Who is the player who has caused you the most problems?
Me! I think I am the player who causes myself the most problems. When I have a bad day people can cause me problems but when I am playing well and on my toes I don't think I have that many worries.
Q] Who, in your opinion, is the best defender in the Premier League?
You recognise the big names, like Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and Marcel Desailly but I haven't seen enough of other defenders to say one individual is the best.
Q] Who is the biggest character in the dressing room?
Dion Dublin. He is always in a good mood and is the life and soul of the dressing room.
Issue 3 also contained a special 'Team of the Decade' feature as claret and blue supporters gave their verdict on the best player in each position since the advent of the Premier League.
It read as: Nigel Spink, Mark Delaney, Alan Wright, Gareth Southgate, Paul McGrath, Ray Houghton, Paul Merson, Ian Taylor, Tony Daley, Dean Saunders and Dwight Yorke.
We also visited Ian Taylor in an 'At Home' article, where the midfielder told us all about his foot fetish.
He said: "My main love is trainers. I'm quite extravagant when it comes to them. My mates come around my house and make a habit of counting how many pairs I have got. I'd say on estimate I've got 50 pairs."
There was also a 'Stars in their Eyes' flashback, with players telling us about their heroes.
Darius Vassell picked Dwight Yorke, Liam Ridgewell chose Rio Ferdinand, Stefan Postma picked Hans Van Breukelen, Mark Delaney went for Ian Rush while Joe Gudjonssen picked Roy Keane.
Make sure you snap up tickets for Villa v Liverpool.