Villa offer Agathe a career lifeline

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The former Celtic utility player Didier Agathe has signed a short-term deal at Aston Villa. The Frenchman has a chance to extend the contract which runs until January and will have a run-out for the reserves at Portsmouth tonight.

The Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, who worked with the player at Celtic said: "He's not just here to make up the numbers. He's here because I think he has the talent and the hunger to get into our side and do a good job for us.

"He played brilliantly for a number of years at Celtic, but for whatever reason found himself out of favour. That happens sometimes but Didier still feels he has plenty to offer. He has the determination to succeed and still feels he can play at the very highest level. If he can get into the side, he'll be given every chance."

The 31-year-old Agathe can play in a number of roles and O'Neill added: "He can play wide right, right wing-back and did even play at full-back for Celtic in certain games. He's naturally fit and he's very quick. When his confidence is up, then he can run past most people.

"This is a big chance and a big challenge for Didier. I've seen the desire to meet that challenge, so he's got the deal now with the chance to earn something longer term."

Agathe's new colleague, the defender Martin Laursen, is aiming to build on his first start in the Premiership for more than a year. The 29-year-old Dane came through the draw against West Ham United unscathed after a long-term knee problem.

He was told only an hour before kick-off at Upton Park that he would be replacing the injured Aaron Hughes. Laursen partnered Liam Ridgewell in central defence with Olof Mellberg switching to right-back.

Laursen said: "I did not feel I had any problems with the knee. My form was good and so is my physical condition, so I am happy.

"It was the end of a long year for me. I felt ready and I was pleased to get the chance to start a game again. The important thing is that I am fit and can play for 90 minutes. If I have to do some different things in training during the week, that is OK. The manager is very understanding about my situation, so that's great."

Villa have made an unbeaten start to the season and Laursen was happy to play his part at the weekend, with the Midlanders disappointed not to come away from Upton Park with a victory. Ridgewell opened the scoring only for Bobby Zamora to get the equaliser for the Hammers.

"I came back for a good game because West Ham have a lot of dangerous players," Laursen said. "You are always up against good strikers in the Premiership and to face [the debutant Carlos] Tevez was challenging," the Dane added.