Why Aston Villa must keep Gabriel Agbonlahor involved

Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa during the Pre-Season Friendly between AFC Telford United and Aston Villa at New Bucks Head Stadium on July 12, 2017 in Telford, England.

Aston Villa's long-serving local hero Gabriel Agbonlahor is finally back from injury, but with his contract expiring in the summer should the club feature him at all?

Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa during the Pre-Season Friendly between AFC Telford United and Aston Villa at New Bucks Head Stadium on July 12, 2017 in Telford, England.

Gabriel Agbonlajor joined Aston Villa when he was a child and was lucky and talented enough to progress all the way through the club ranks into the first-team where he's played almost 400 games in over a decade.

Agbonlahor loves Aston Villa, the club runs through his veins and one imagines he would want to keep playing for them as long as he is physically able to walk.

But the club has grander ambitions; chasing promotion to the Premier League. In Agbonlahor's injured absencem, teenager Keinan Davis has taken to the striker's role like a duck to water and looks a genuine find for Steve Bruce's men.

Keinan Davis of Aston Villa and Alan Browne of Preston North End in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Preston North End and Aston Villa at Deepdale on November 1, 2017...

With Davis in control of the shirt and star-signing Jonathan Kodjia due back from injury next season, Aston Villa clearly have other plans for their striker role. They aren't counting on Gabriel Agbonlahor, that's why his contract has been allowed to run down to the point where it expires at the end of the season.

That expiry means Agbonlahor can begin negotiating with other clubs in January to agree a free transfer away in the summer and there's nothing Villa can do about it. That's why their decision on Agbonlahor must be made now.

And that decision shouldn't be to sell Agbonlahor now for a quick profit. No, if Aston Villa want to avoid the mistakes of the past, they will renew Gabriel Agbonlahor's contract as soon as possible and ensure he stays around for the long-term.

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Jack Grealish of Aston Villa speak during the Sky Bet Championship match between Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa at Ewood Park on April 29, 2017 in Blackburn,...

What can he offer Villa on the pitch? At 31, maybe not that much. Probably not as much as Davis and Kodjia can. But off the pitch? That's where Agbonlahor comes into his own.

Aston Villa are a side that's light on Premier League experience in attack, and that's something Agbonlahor has 322 games of. He knows the perils and the pitfalls and if Villa want to survive if they get back to the Premier League, he'll be essential.

Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa celebrates during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Birmingham City at Villa Park on April 23, 2017 in Birmingham, England.

Agbonlahor will be essential in getting there, too. Yes, Keinan Davis is the main man up-front right now (and Albert Adomah is the side's main goalscorer) but Davis is 19 and has no experience of run-ins, no idea how dealing with the pressure of performing in April and May.

Yes, Agbonlahor gets injured a lot. Even with the best of intentions he won't be much use on the pitch. But his presence around the team, around the youngsters as a mentor, his connection to Aston Villa, is not something you can just buy. What Agbonlahor has is what many teams chasing any target would absolutely kill for. It's not something you sell or marginalise.

Aston Villa should keep Gabriel Agbonlahor, and what's more they should renew his contact so he can continue on at the club of his dreams. So he can instil in players like Keinan Davies the love and loyalty we all want football to be built around.

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