Wednesday 13 December 2017

Villa's hot prospect Weimann out to foil Irish friends

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

ANDREAS Weimann supported the Republic of Ireland in Euro 2012, but tomorrow night he will be hoping he can help put a major dent in the Irish World Cup hopes at Lansdowne Road.

Weimann has a soft spot for the Irish via his Aston Villa club links with Ciaran Clark, Shay Given, and Richard Dunne.

The Austrian (below) tweeted his support prior to the start of the Republic's opening Euro 2012 match against Croatia, saying "come on the bhoys in green."

Tomorrow, friendship and club camaraderie will be forgotten as he looks to shatter the dreams of the 'bhoys' wearing the green shirts.

And if that means lording it over his big pal Clark, then so be it.

Weimann is the bright spark of Austrian football and also one of the mainstays in Villa's hopes of avoiding relegation from the Premier League.

The 21-year-old striker entered the international break with words of praise from manager Paul Lambert ringing in his ears.

Villa had not strung together two consecutive wins in the Premier League for over two years but Weimann's goal in a 3-2 dogfight with fellow strugglers QPR last Saturday week was priceless.

Lambert said: "Andi must have another lung somewhere because he has a phenomenal work-rate.

"That will serve him well for his whole career. If he keeps that enthusiasm and hunger and desire to play football he will have a big, big career.

"He is a phenomenal player to work with. He is a great lad and his enthusiasm for the game is huge. If he can keep that throughout his career, he will have one big career for sure.

"He is playing exceptionally well. I know his natural position is through the middle. But whether he plays off the line or through the middle he seems to score.

"The biggest compliment I can give him is that he's a brilliant guy and gives you everything he's got. If he keeps that mentality he will go a long way.

"The team's overall enthusiasm is exceptional, but Andi showed that with his work for the third goal against QPR.

"He never gave it up. That's Andi all over. That's his character. And the goal he scored himself was brilliant. It was a fantastic finish."

Weimann is not the finished article yet, but he's already the subject of transfer speculation, with Inter Milan mentioned as contenders last week.

His agent coyly worked to 'dampen the speculation' but, with Weimann's Villa contract due to finish in 2014, a link with the Italians giants won't hurt the negotiating process.

The player says he's happy with Villa, the club he joined shortly before his 16th birthday from Rapid Vienna.

His journey through the ranks at Villa Park was overseen by coach Kevin MacDonald, former assistant to Steve Staunton when Stan was in charge of the Republic of Ireland.

MacDonald, recently appointed boss of League One side Swindon Town in succession to Paolo Di Canio, was caretaker manager at Villa when he gave Weimann his first-team debut as a late substitute against West Ham at the start of season 2010/11.

The young Austrian has since spent two spells on loan at Watford but is now a firm favourite with the Villa fans – and also with his team-mates.

Darren Bent was unstinting with his praise following Weimann's showing against QPR, which included setting up the winner for Christian Benteke as well as scoring himself.

Bent called the Austrian "one of the best natural finishers I have seen for a long, long time."

So far this season Weimann has scored 11 goals in all competitions, and Paul Lambert will hope he maintains his fine form in the closing stages of the season.

Meanwhile, should the Irish be concerned about him?

Well, he's still making his way at senior international level with four caps to date, but, if he plays in Dublin, then Weimann will require careful attention from the home defenders and midfielders.

Irish Independent

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