Bodymoor Exclusive: Tonev learning English from The Godfather
Welcome to the family! It seems Villa made Aleksandar Tonev an offer he couldn't refuse.
Villa don Paul Lambert signed up Tonev. But Mafia patriarch Vito Corleone is helping him settle.
The lure of Barclays Premier League football was more than enough to persuade the silky-smooth winger to make the move to B6.
Tonev admits he always dreamed of playing in what he views as the very best division in the world. To be able to do so at one of the country's greatest clubs made the transfer even more special.
He saw it as another challenge in his career and he's currently getting help from one of the movie world's greatest films to help the integration go smoothly.
Tonev can speak Bulgarian and Polish but arrived in this country with no ability to speak English.
He often chats to former skipper Stan Petrov in his native tongue and has regular lessons from player liaison chief Lorna McClelland. But he's taken to watching famous films to help him get up to speed with the language.
He's all-action on the pitch, fainting past defenders and showing pace and grace in abundance. And it's this genre of cinema that he uses to improve his skills.
"I watch a lot of action films. That's my favourite type of movie.
"I watch a lot of TV too. They use the Bulgarian subtitles. That helps.
"I have watched the Godfather. That's my favourite. I think it helps me to listen to the films and see the subtitles.
"But I hope I don't sound like I'm in the Mafia!
"I have enjoyed Braveheart and Gladiator too. They are real classics."
There's no question Tonev is making progress in his drive to improve his language skills, now understanding questions freely, although he admits speaking will take a little longer to master.
"I'm finding English not too bad at the moment.
"I understand people when they talk English. But it's hard for me to relax and speak it. I have started using sentences and using individual words is second nature now.
"I feel like I'm really getting there. I am definitely improving. I have regular lessons and they are really helping. I am finding my way.
"At the start I thought everyone talked too quick! I still understand better when they talk slowly. Fabian talks way too quick!
"When I'm out there on the pitch, though, I understand the football language. That's simple. And it's vital."
If talking fast is still difficult for Tonev, moving fast isn't an issue.
He's built up a reputation as a pacey winger, skilful and speedy, a precision player who can deliver assists and goals in abundance.
Those are qualities Lambert identified when he signed the 23-year-old.
Lambert likes his players to be reliable within the team structure but also willing to take risks and baffle opposition defenders too.
Tonev is keen to show these qualities on a regular basis - and wow the crowds in the process.
"I love exciting the fans. I love to see the supporters cheering and being excited by attacking football.
"It's important that the fans are happy. We like to put smiles on their faces. I hope I can bring smiles to the fans - and wins for the team.
"You give it everything on the pitch but when you hear someone cheering and screaming your name it pushes you on even more.
"The fans are very, very important. The players have a good relationship with them already this season and we, as a team, want to make them happy.
"For me too, putting the Villa shirt on each game is such an honour. I won't take it for granted."
Tonev hasn't had too much action thus far but he's confident he will progress under manager Lambert at Bodymoor Heath.
He says he's bonded very quickly with his playing pals and has a real admiration for the training complex, which he says is "geared for improving."
Tonev feels Villa are going-places under Lambert, who wants his young, hungry bucks to focus on football 24-7.
"I really get on with everyone. It's a great group of players. They have made me feel very welcome and it's a good atmosphere every day when we're together.
"They're all good fun. We have a really good time in the dressing room. But obviously when we get out there on the training ground, it's business. We work to our maximum.
"The training ground is great. It's a great place. It's a great environment to work in. It's a unique venue and when you get in every morning, the only thing you need to think about is football.
"The manager is all about football. That's what drives him. He wants us all to improve and progress as players and with facilities like these, it makes it easier to do that.
"The training sessions are great too. They are intense. They are short and snappy. And we're working on the right things. I work very hard every day. I put everything into it. That's my job. I take it very seriously.
"I have been involved this season and it's been great. The Premier League is fantastic. The Premier League, I already knew, was the best in the world. I know for certain now. I have seen it closely. It's also the fastest. I am enjoying it.
"I look forward to the rest of the season very much. I am a professional. I am training hard. And I'm just waiting for my moment to shine like everyone else here."
He may be waiting to show his star qualities but he insists that the fans have already demonstrated theirs in abundance home and away this term.
Tonev had heard about the majesty of Villa Park and the might of the B6 brigade but he admits he was still shocked by the power of the stadium when he made his debut against Malaga.
"Villa Park is incredible. What an amazing venue. We have incredible fans too. They are so supportive. They really get behind you.
"You can feel the history of the place but also the belief for the future too. We will be going for every competition. We want to improve as individuals and as a team. We're on the right track with Paul Lambert. I am excited.
"The home fans are enthusiastic and the away supporters have been just incredible too."
The supporters show their affiliation for the claret and blues by snapping up shirts in abundance at the start of every new season.
That's something that's never been possible for underprivileged kids back home in Bulgaria, until Tonev intervened.
Villa's No.24 regularly sends goodies back home to an orphanage near his hometown of Elin Pelin.
He appreciates what he's got - and tragically, what others haven't.
"I send shirts and boots back to Bulgaria. It's for an orphanage there. I have been doing it now for a few years. It's important to me.
"It's an orphanage that's close to my city. I am going to keep doing it. I give them everything I can.
"It makes the kids really happy. It's great to make them smile.
"They are so appreciative but it's easy for me to do.
"I am a footballer. But I appreciate where I have come from and what I have now.
"These kids want to play the game for fun but they have no boots, no kits so if I can help them do that it's great. To think of them playing and being happy, it's great."
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