Wright eager to prove Blackburn wrong

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa's Alan Wright aims to celebrate the first anniversary of his move from Blackburn with a win over the champions tonight to push his team a step closer to Europe.

Wright insists he has no regrets about giving up a possible title medal with Rovers to revive his career via a pounds 900,000 switch to Villa a year ago.

Villa were struggling against relegation then but now, with one Wembley date already secured in the Coca-Cola Cup and another one in the FA Cup still on the horizon, they have marched into the top four of the Premiership and few can doubt the wisdom of his decision.

Wright has also made it into the England squad as a candidate for the Euro 96 spot left vacant by injury to left-back Graeme Le Saux, the man he used to understudy at Ewood Park.

Wright is convinced Villa can take their opportunity to move within three points of third-placed Liverpool by winning their game in hand tomorrow night, and said: "Although we are all chuffed to bits to have made it to Wembley, you can never rely on the cup competitions for a place in Europe. I still think our best route to the Uefa Cup is through a high League place.

"It was a tough decision to leave Blackburn for Villa last year because I knew there was always the chance I would squeeze in a few more games to qualify for a championship medal. But in the end I had to go for the sake of my career. I was Kenny Dalglish's first big signing at Blackburn but, after Graeme arrived, I had only 15 games in 20 months - in the reserves. My career was standing still.

"My luck seems to have turned in a big way. If Steve Staunton had not been injured at the start of the season I might still be out of the side, but Brian Little has devised a system that is now accommodating both of us."

While Wright - an ever-present for Villa this term - contemplates his first meeting with the club that rarely gave him a chance in the big-time, so does Blackburn's Graham Fenton. The pounds 1.4m midfielder, signed from Villa in October, looks likely to get the nod to replace injured winger Stuart Ripley after just one full game so far.

With only one away League win to their name, Rovers face a Villa side whose form matches any club in the country. They have lost just twice at home all season - and only once in the last 13 games.

n First Division leaders Derby will welcome back their Croatian sweeper Igor Stimac for tonight's East Midlands showdown at Leicester. The pounds 1.5m signing from Hajduk Split is fit after missing Saturday's 3-2 defeat of Portsmouth with a thigh strain.