Saturday media watch [23.08.14]: Cole focused/Lambert determined
Daily Star: Paul Lambert is confident he's come up with a cure for Aston Villa's three-year bout of chronic homesickness. His side's desperate home form has driven fans nuts and left a succession of managers tearing their hair out. In the last three seasons Villa have managed to win only 15 of their 57 home league games and last campaign lost 10 home games - more than in any other campaign in their 140 year history. Lambert believes thing are on the up and is desperate to turn Villa Park into a fortress again. Newcastle are the visitors tomorrow and he senses a change in the mood at the club. Lambert said: "There's a different feeling about the place. I don't see the home thing being a problem anymore - I certainly hope not."
Birmingham Mail: Paul Lambert says there is a new steel about his Aston Villa squad and they are ready to bury their Villa Park ghosts. Villa are aiming to win their opening two matches of a season for the first time in 15 years when they face Newcastle in front of the TV cameras on Saturday. The club suffered a record ten home defeats last season, conceding a club high 29 goals at Villa Park. But Lambert is convinced there will be no hangover in the new campaign. "There's a different feeling the way the group is," the boss said. "I don't see playing at home being a problem anymore - I certainly hope not. We are definitely a stronger group. Their mentality is stronger and physically they are stronger."
Daily Mirror: Paul Lambert insists Aston Villa finally have the know-how to end the hellish home form of recent seasons. Lambert's young guns struggled at Villa Park in his first two campaigns at the helm - claiming just five and six respective wins out of a possible 19 as Villa narrowly beat the drop. The Scot has changed tact in the transfer market this summer, however, by targeting more experienced players already tried and tested in the top flight. Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson and Aly Cissokho have all arrived with experience of turning out for England's big six on their CVs. And experienced quartet Alan Hutton, Darren Bent, Shay Given and Charles N'Zogbia have also been brought in from the cold. The signs were certainly promising last weekend as Villa dug in for a hard-fought 1-0 win at Stoke - but the acid test comes in Saturday's Villa Park opener against Newcastle. "There's a different feeling about the place," Lambert said. "I don't see the playing at home thing being a problem anymore - I certainly hope not."
Daily Express: Joe Cole could be on a beach now, a big money contract signed, playing out his final years in luxury instead of taking a cut in wages and trying to help wake up Aston Villa. Villa have been sleep walking towards relegation for the last four years while Cole's career has become moribund. But he hopes to take his first steps towards reminding everyone how it was when Cole was king today against Newcastle followed by a full Villa debut on Wednesday in the Capital One Cup tie with Leyton Orient. "I played 75 minutes against Stoke reserves in the week so I'm available," says Cole who only appeared in one pre-season game before injuring his thigh. "We've got three games, two league and one cup, before the international break. I'd like to get some minutes under my belt on Saturday, play against Orient on Wednesday, and then see how I go." A succession of injuries, high profile moves to Liverpool and back to West Ham, neither of which worked out, big medals already in the cupboard from three Premier League wins and two FA Cups, why bother any more, why not take the big money and the beach? Cole, now 32 and a cultured star with West Ham, Chelsea and England, had the choice of beach luxury from Europe, the USA, the Middle East and Asia. "I had offers and interest from all over the world," said Cole. "But as soon as I spoke to the manager and had a look at Villa and what the club was about I fancied the challenge."
Daily Telegraph: Joe Cole could have been earning fortunes this season by simply, in his own words, "lying on a beach". Released by West Ham United in May, the former England international was courted by clubs in Qatar, the United States and several in Europe as he pondered his next move. Should he take the cash or seize one final chance to prove himself at a Premier League club? For the indefatigable Cole, the answer was straightforward. That is why, on a bleak, overcast afternoon last week, he could be found skipping past the tackles of eager Stoke City teenagers in an U21s game, desperate to show manager Paul Lambert he deserves to play against Newcastle United on Saturday. At the age of 32, Aston Villa represent arguably Cole's last chance to erase his unwanted tag as a forgotten man, but it is one that he is desperate to take. "When I left West Ham I had offers and interest from all over Europe and the world," he says. "I had meetings with clubs and they offered me massive contracts but I wasn't ready to go and sit on a beach and pick up big money playing football that wouldn't stimulate me. "I could have made a fortune but I want to challenge myself. As soon as I spoke to the manager and had a look at Villa and what the club was about I fancied it. I've definitely taken a drop in money but it's never been about that for me. Can I still do it at the top level and what can I do?"
Best of the Rest
BBC Sport: Tim Sherwood would have taken the manager's job at Crystal Palace had he been offered it after his interview - but says he is no longer interested. The 45-year-old former Tottenham head coach was interviewed by Palace chairman Steve Parish last Sunday.
Sky Sports: Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has called for patience from fans looking for an instant upturn in fortunes. The Dutchman has also hit out at the critics who he claims have made a 'devil' out of him after just one defeat in charge of the side.
BBC Sport: AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli is set for a medical as talks continue over his proposed £16m move to Liverpool. With a fee agreed, the Reds are set to offer 24-year-old Balotelli nearly £120,000 a week to move to Anfield.
*The extracts on this page are taken from various newspapers and media outlets. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Aston Villa.