It was one of the stranger moves of last summer. Brad Guzan, the American goalkeeper, was released by Aston Villa at the end of his contract. Yet after a heart-to-heart with Paul Lambert, the new Villa manager, Guzan re-signed for the club. And not, this time, to play second fiddle to Shay Given. Guzan displaced Given and has gone on to become one of the league's most prolific shot-stoppers.
Guzan was in inspired form in Villa's 2-1 win on Saturday, a stunning save from an Adam Le Fondre header denying Reading an early lead. The American could do little to prevent Nathan Baker's sliced own goal but first-half replies from Christian Benteke, his 16th goal of the season, and Gabby Agbonlahor soothed Villa's nerves and Guzan remained a reassuring last line of defence in the hectic closing stages.
"Brad has been exceptional this season," Lambert said. "He's been colossal for us."