The hunter becomes the hunted...
When even Aston Villa’s longest-serving predator Gabby Agbonlahor feels threatened, it just goes to show that in Paul Lambert’s Premier League pack nobody is safe.
As veteran goalkeeper Shay Given’s discovered when he was replaced by Brad Guzan at Newcastle United in the previous match, it is survival of the fittest under Lambert at Villa these days, regardless of reputation.
At the other end of the pitch, too, competition for places is fierce. Agbonlahor returns fully recovered from injury to find increasing competition for a frontline starting berth against Swansea City at Villa Park this weekend.
Indeed, the claret and blues’ strikeforce is as well-stocked as it has been for some time in terms of quantity – with Christian Benteke and Jordan Bowery charged with the task of bringing more quality to a department also boasting Darren Bent, Andi Weimann, Graham Burke and Agbonlahor, after Nathan Delfouneso joined Blackpool on a season-long loan.
It is now six-and-a-half years since Agbonlahor made his Premier League debut for Villa.
Yet he can recognise the breath on his neck from emerging young rivals like Benteke and Bowery, having crept up on senior strikers such as Kevin Phillips, Milan Baros and Juan Pablo Angel back in March 2006.
“I think this season it’s going to be interesting because there’s a lot of the young strikers doing really well in training,” explains Agbonlahor.
“It’s going to be hard for everyone. No one in the squad is guaranteed a starting place. They’re going to be coming after my place and that’s the same when I was younger coming through, I was going for other players’ places.
“It keeps the older lads, not just myself, but in every position, on their toes and gives us all competition. The gaffer said he was going to try and bring in a few more faces to help the squad so it’s going to be good competition.