Aston Villa teammates backing Libor Kozak for big season

The Czech striker marked his first senior run-out in 19 months with a goal as Villa began their pre-season with a 3-1 defeat to Fulham in Portugal.

After scoring on his first senior appearance in 19 months, Libor Kozak’s Aston Villa teammates are backing him for a big 2015-16 campaign.

The 26-year-old striker came on as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s pre-season opener against Fulham and took just 12 minutes to find the back of the net, connecting with Joe Cole’s pinpoint pass to deliver a fine finish.

It was the Czech Republic international’s first goal since his effort against Stoke in December 2013, having suffered a severe leg break during training the following month, and the likes of Ashley Westwood are hoping that it marks the end of his injury hell.

Speaking following the 3-1 defeat in Albufeira, Portugal, Westwood told AVTV: “He’s been out around 18 months with a broken leg and it was a bad one.

“He’s been in on his own over the summer and shown great dedication, so I’m really pleased that he’s got his goal.

“He wants to get fit and hopefully he gets a chance now. Today, he’s taken his first one and I think he can really progress now.”

 2013-14 Premier League PositionTeamGoalsGoals MINSTotal ShotsShooting AccuracyAssistsTotal Key PassesHeaders WonHeader SuccessAppearancesMins Played
Libor Kozák FW Aston Villa 4 195.25 11 64% 0 8 44 34% 14 781

Kozak had been expected to return to the pitch during the first half of last season alongside fellow forward Christian Benteke, before complications in the healing process forced him to go under the knife for a second time in October.

Then-manager Paul Lambert declared the situation a "nightmare” at the time, while the towering front man later revealed that he even feared his career was over.

He would go on to make considerable progress in his rehabilitation during the following months, however, moving up from non-contact work to full training, before featuring for the Under-21s in April’s 1-0 win at Wolves.

A back problem would prevent him from making his first-team comeback during the run-in but, after putting in some additional work over the summer, Nathan Baker believes his fit-again teammate is set to produce a goal-laden season.

“He’s definitely capable [of having a big season],” Baker told the Daily Mail. “He showed that he can score goals. He’s a big frame so I don’t see why not.

“It’s been a struggle for him because he’s been off with a broken leg but to come back and score is good for him.

“I’ve had some injuries to deal with last season so I was with him in the treatment room at times but it’s a place we don’t really want to be at.”

Signed from Lazio in September 2013 for €6.5 million [£4.7 million], Kozak netted four times in his first 15 games for Villa before being sidelined, showing sure signs of becoming a solid Premier League target man.

With manager Tim Sherwood still to bring in another goalscorer ahead of the new season and serious doubts remaining over Christian Benteke’s future, the eight-time capped Czech could well end up filling a far more important role at Villa Park than expected this coming term.

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