The Big Interview: Davies - I was right to leave West Brom for Villa
Curtis Davies admits frustration is the overriding emotion when he looks back at his claret and blue career - but the chance to move to Villa from West Brom was one he was never going to turn down.
Davies made the switch across the Midlands on a season-long loan initially in August 2007 before joining permanently in a record-breaking £9.5m deal in July 2008.
The classy centre-half was elated to sign, with the "history, infrastructure and ambition" of Villa being key factors behind his switch.
He enjoyed the highs - victories over Arsenal, Liverpool and skippering the side to a win at Slavia Prague in the UEFA Cup.
But the lows late on in his time at the club were tough to take and his eventual departure was inevitable.
"I look back with disappointment at my time with Villa. The way things ended at the club wasn't the best in all honesty.
"I had joined from West Brom expecting good things of myself and the club were clearly expecting good things of me.
"I wanted to do well and I wanted to prove I was a good addition.
"Obviously I had injuries which didn't help but it was that final year which rankles with me.
"I could see the team were doing well and I wasn't going to get into the side, with Richard Dunne and James Collins playing ever so well at the back.
"I couldn't see myself dislodging them. We got to the FA Cup semi and the League Cup final so I couldn't argue. But I wanted to play for Villa long-term.
"My idea was to go on loan, get myself to the level I knew I was capable of and then come back in pre-season and fight for my place again. But ultimately I was denied that opportunity.
"The manager said I was going to be part of it. But I wasn't in the end. I ended up being fifth choice.
"Then Gerard Houllier came in. But nothing changed for me.
"He was a nice guy. I got on well with him. But he didn't want to change the status quo when I was there.
"It was a strange situation. I came on in Gerard's first game - the 3-1 cup win over Blackburn - and did well.
"The next day, Gerard pulled me to one side and said: "I was really happy with your performance. You were very good. You weren't sulking about not being in the side. You were ready. I like this from you. I am going to be keeping you close by the first team.'
"That was on the Thursday. The next day when the squad went up for Wolves that weekend I was shocked to see I wasn't in it.
"I'd been happy to hang around and fight for my place with Gerard. But when that incident happened on top of my wasted season under Martin, that was it for me.
"I thought the best thing was to leave and revitalise my career. I wanted to show people that I was still alive and I still had the ability.
"In football, you see a lot of criticism for players sitting and taking their money and doing nothing for it. I have never been like that.
"When Gerard let me go on loan to Leicester, he rang me and said 'we'll be looking at you' but he didn't come to one game."
Despite the irritation he still feels about the way his B6 career ended, he admits there were plenty of high moments in his three-and-a-half-year spell.
He was thrilled to join and also anxious to start well.
This didn't quite go according to plan, as he flopped against Leicester in the League Cup in September 2007 - calling himself a "pub player" in the process.
But he soon found his feet, scoring in the 2-1 win against Wigan in December 2007 - in the absence of the suspended Zat Knight - and establishing himself as a first-team regular before rupturing his achilles tendon at Arsenal in March 2007.
"It was a massive when I joined. I wanted to play for a team who could challenge at the top and looked beyond relegation.
"I looked at the size, facilities, heritage, history and ambition of Villa and thought 'this is the place I want to be.' It was an easy sell.
"I wanted to take the next step with Villa. I felt I did that early on but then injuries held me back and made it stop-start.
"I got stick from West Brom fans, as everyone knows.They called me greedy. But it was nothing to do with money.
"Just ask the man on the street. If you can go and work for a better company in the office down the road - are you going to go? Of course you are. Money had nothing to do with it!
"That's all I did. I felt justified too because one of my ambitions was being part of the England set-up.
"I got in within eight games of playing for Villa.
"I played 33 games for West Brom in the Premier League and wasn't anywhere near the international set-up - I hadn't got a sniff.
"To get a call-up that quick just showed the difference in the size of the club I was playing for!
"I really felt Villa were on the up too. We had a core of really talented English lads in there - Gabby Agbonlahor, James Milner and Ashley Young for example.
"They were all coming through together. I thought we were only going to get better and more experienced with every passing day, week and month.
"We also had players like Gareth Barry, Brad Friedel and Stan Petrov - really talented professionals at the top of their games. The difference in level was there for all to see.
"It didn't start well against Leicester.
"I am my own harshest critic. I was interviewed by Pat Murphy on BBC Five Live after the game and I was brutally honest.
"What I don't like about footballers is they come out after defeats and say 'we weren't great, we didn't do that.' I always like to address the elephant in the room after losses and talk about my own performance before I go on record about the team.
"I don't like to deflect things on to my mates. I like to take my blame in things. If I was bad, I will say it. That's what I felt about that Leicester performance.
"But Wigan was a big moment for me. It's hard for a centre-half because if you come in for a match - with the regular centre-half suspended - you know you've got to do something really good to stay in the team.
"It's not like a striker where you can go and score a hat-trick. As a centre-half you have to try and stand-out.
"I scored the goal that got us back into the game. That was perfect really. It was brilliant to put my name up there for the gaffer to take notice of.
"But then Arsenal was very frustrating again. I felt was starting to show my quality. It was an innocuous moment. It was so disappointing.
"It set me back but I worked hard, came back strong and started most of the games the next season."
Undoubtedly 2008-09 will go down as the best term for Davies in claret and blue, as Villa chased down a Champions League place and enjoyed great European nights in the UEFA Cup.
"The win in Prague was terrific. My daughter was due on the day we played that game. I flew out to the Czech Republic with my phone on loud, hoping the call didn't come.
"I was captain. It was a massive honour to be skipper for a team like Villa - playing in Europe too - and getting the victory was amazing. It was perfect.
"But the highlight of that season was beating Arsenal at The Emirates 2-0. That's where I had ruptured my achilles the year before.
"That was two weeks after the Prague game. I got into the England squad soon after that and was on the bench for the game against Germany.
"The Champions League chase was great to be involved in all season, obviously.
"We were so close yet so far in the end. It was a combination of our form dipping and Arsenal going on a run, which you expected. And then, at the end, Everton pipped us aswell.
"It was frustrating that we couldn't get into the Champions League places or even get fifth to improve on the previous season. But that's how it goes.
"The Premier League is tough. To finish sixth three seasons on the bounce was still a massive achievement for us all."
Davies returned the following season in good spirits but while the remarkable 3-1 win at Liverpool in the opening weeks suggested big things ahead, it brought down the curtain on his league career with Villa.
Davies was nursing a shoulder injury and went to have that operated on but during that period Dunne and Collins were signed - and the rest is history.
"The atmosphere, as always, was amazing at Anfield and we picked up a fantastic result.
"I scored at the Kop end too. That put us 2-0 up at half-time and we eventually went on to win 3-1.
"But that was my last league game for Villa.
"I am remembered as a failure which is really disappointing but I can point out that my last game was a famous win over Liverpool.
"Overall, I really felt I had more to offer. I was only young when I was there with plenty more to come. But it wasn't meant to be unfortunately."
Davies enjoyed a good loan spell with Leicester when Houllier came in before Birmingham City came calling and signed him on a three-and-a-half year deal.
After upsetting West Brom fans by joining Villa, he ran the gauntlet of hate once again by joining Blues from their rivals.
He doesn't regret the decision.
"Thankfully I had 12 good games at Leicester and then Birmingham put their necks on the line and came in for me.
"What I have always said, I felt worse leaving West Brom for Villa than I did leaving Villa for Blues.
"I could have sat there at Villa. I had a year and a half left on my contract. I could have taken home the money and then left on a free.
"I'd have wasted my time and the club's time. But I wanted to earn my money.
"The fact it was Blues coming up with an offer wasn't anything I even thought about. It wasn't a case of 'they're the rivals, I can't go there.' I wanted to play football.
"At West Brom, I was captain and the fans liked me so it was a harder decision to make.
"But when I was at Villa, I was a nobody. What was I going to do? I didn't feel like a Villa player anymore. I actually felt like a Leicester player."
My Five Star Villans
It's so frustrating for me listening to people going on about 'Why does James Milner play for Man City and England?' They genuinely look surprised. They don't appreciate the job he does for the team.
When he was at Villa, he was invited to be more attacking by the manager - open and free. But at Man City they have asked him to play a different role.
But, if you look at it, he always plays in the big, big games.
Look at the role he plays out wide. He's your attacking player but he won't let an Ashley Cole or a Leighton Baines get forward at will. He will help his full-back out every time. He does that role brilliantly.
He's selfless - a player's player. He rolls up the sleeves and does it every day.
Don't just think of him as a workhorse though - he's an amazing talent.
He had so much experience. He was unreal as a goalkeeper too.
He had spent all that time at Blackburn so he came to Villa with a great reputation and certainly didn't disappoint.
He was just so solid - everything you wanted in a goalkeeper. To play just in front of him was a pleasure. I improved as a defender with him behind me.
From what I heard, it didn't start well for him and when I joined he was on the fringes of the side. He eventually got into the team and then never looked back.
What a great player. And what a superb skipper. He was perfect - firm but fair. If you made a mistake and you knew it, he'd tell you and he wouldn't sugar-coat it for you. He'd say 'you can do better and this is why.'
He commanded so much respect on the football field.
I was very emotional when I found out about his leukaemia.
One of the lads text me to tell he had been diagnosed. You freeze and you feel helpless because you want to help him so bad. But he came through it, thank god.
Look at the amount of people who turned up for his game at Celtic. That just shows how much we all love Stan.
It's not just because he was a great player but he's a top, top man too. He would do anything for anyone and not ask for a thing back. I have so much time for him. What a great guy to be around.
He was just pure class. His ball retention was immaculate. You never felt like he was going to lose the ball.
And he had an aura around the place. He was a pleasure to play with.
To have someone of that ability in your team was superb.
Ashley made us tick as a team. You'd give him the ball and, as a defender, leave him to it. That's all you needed to do.
The manager gave him the licence to thrill, which helped. But we got the results.
He was on absolute fire during my time at the club.
When you played against him in training, he'd be nutmegging you and you'd get frustrated. But then you always knew he'd do it on matchday too. He wasn't just a training ground player.
Villa's Terrible Twosome
Gabby Agbonlahor and Ashley Young were like little schoolkids at Bodymoor Heath. They were so busy around the place.
We'd play a friendly match during the week and they'd be discussing before training who they wanted to wind up that day. They were like little children plotting to make mischief. They used to rope in Wayne Routledge and Isaiah Osbourne.
It was usually Nigel Reo-Coker who they'd target because he used to nibble back at them.
They were like the terrible twosome.
They were flying high with their ability on the pitch and that gave them the confidence to enjoy themselves around the place. It was all good fun!
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