Weimann Exclusive: Forward striving to build on rapid progress
Whatever the future may hold, Andreas Weimann will always recall the past nine months as the time when his career really started to take off.
Until last December the 23-year-old Austrian striker had been very much on the periphery; a player of immense potential reflected by his goal of the season against Stoke City in 2011-12 and a brace against Manchester United.
Since then, though, his highlights have been far more frequent. Not only has he established himself in the team, he was also one of three players - along with Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor - to finish last season with a double-figure goal haul. And he started the current campaign wearing the prestigious No 10 shirt after being "promoted" from his previous number of 26.
"Last season was a turning point for me," he acknowledges. "At first I was in and out of the team but from December I was involved far more. I've felt a big part of the team and that's been really nice.
"When you come through the academy and see the first team players, you know that's where you want to be. To be there now is just brilliant."
While new boy Benteke marked his debut campaign with 23 in all competitions, Weimann and Agbonlahor both contributed 12 - with Gabby becoming Villa's highest Premier League scorer in the process.
"I want to score as many goals as I can but I have a long way to go to beat Gabby's total," says Andi. "I'm not setting any targets. I just want to score as many as possible. Everyone would like to hold a record but I'm not thinking about that at the moment.
"Gabby has been in the team for more than six years now and the way Christian has come in and scored so many has been unbelievable. Gabby and I are determined to continue helping Christian, so that he's not the only one expected to score."
For much of the 2012-13, Weimann operated mainly in a three-man line behind the Belgium international but in more recent times he has formed a forward trio with his fellow marksmen.
"Towards the end of last season we started playing a 4-4-3 system and it worked so we started off the same again this season. I'm enjoying it because I feel I'm a striker and I like playing in a more advanced role. My strength is attacking and scoring goals.
"I'd never played on the wing before, but the coaches like us to come inside and make runs behind Christian. I like to think I'm an intelligent footballer; I know where to run and how to find space.
"Coming off the wing helps my game. If an attack breaks down and I'm on the left, I might stay there for a few minutes and Gabby will be on the right. That works well because it can confuse defenders."
The former Rapid Vienna youngster is aware of course, that he needs to maintain a high standard, particularly with summer signings Nicklas Helenius and Libor Kozak pushing hard for places in the starting line-up.
"You are always under pressure," he admits."If you don't perform I guess you are not going to play. But it's good for the team that we have players coming in that can deliver competition. Every time I play, I just try to do my best to keep my place in the team."
Weimann now boasts a total of 16 Villa goals, including 10 in the Barclays Premier League, and he rates his stunning strike in the recent Capital One Cup-tie against Rotherham United as good as any of them.
"I hit that one really well," he says. "The one against Stoke that won goal of the season was also special, but I really don't mind how I score."
He also believes his increased involvement in the team has helped to make him a more mature player. In last November's match against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, he was furious after wrongly being adjudged to have handled inside the penalty area - a phantom offence which resulted in a spot-kick from which Paul Lambert's men never recovered
"At the time I was pretty angry because I knew that I didn't touch the ball at all, never mind with my hand," he recalls. "But that's gone now. Things like that are bound to make you angry but I try to be calmer on the pitch these days."
Andi's Villa performances have also enhanced his international prospects and he played in Austria's last two World Cup qualifiers against Germany and a Republic of Ireland side that included his club colleague Ciaran Clark. Now he is hoping for greater things on the international stage.
"If we beat Sweden in our next match we will be second in our group, and if we draw that one, we will need Germany to beat Sweden," he says.
"So we still have a decent chance of going to the play-offs, which would be amazing for a country like Austria.
"Playing in the World Cup finals next summer is a dream but that's a long way off. Just getting to the play-offs would be a great achievement.
"In the meantime I'm concentrating on doing well for Villa. We feel we should have more points than we do. The games we have lost have only been by one goal but we need to start getting something out of games. That's what we intend to do."
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