Aston Villa coach Gordon Cowans urges Libor Kozak to keep fighting for first-team place

The Czech striker has netted four goals in four games for Cowans' Under-21 side this season, but a spot in the senior squad continues to elude him.

Aston Villa coach Gordon Cowans has urged Libor Kozak to keep letting his Under-21 performances do the talking as his first-team absence continues.

Cowans was speaking to AVTV after seeing Kozak score either side of half-time to secure his Under-21 team a 2-1 victory over table-toppers Derby County in Monday night’s U21 Premier League Division Two match at Villa Park.

The Czech striker opened the scoring in the 34th-minute with a well-placed header from Adama Traore’s cross, before turning in a Lewis Kinsella ball nine minutes after the break to ensure that Mason Bennett’s finish soon after was nothing more than a consolation goal.

Now fully recovered from a career-threatening leg-break, the 26-year-old has netted four times in four Under-21 games this season, but his performances have still not been enough to earn him more than one senior appearance off the bench in the Capital One Cup.

Fans have been pleading for his inclusion amid the club’s miserable run of form, which sees them sitting bottom of the Premier League with just six points from 15 games, but new manager Remi Garde insisted last week that the little-used forward has to do more to break into his plans.

Nonetheless, Cowans has urged him not to get downhearted and insists that he will soon be back in the first-team picture if he keeps producing performances like the one against the Rams.

“They were two very good goals and I’m pleased for Libor,” Cowans told AVTV. “He’s not getting a chance with the first-team but it’s a chance for him to come out here and get a game.

“He’s gone about his way and worked his socks off. I thought he fully deserved his two goals.

“The only way of getting back into the first-team is by performing and doing what you do out there. It’s all about how well you’re doing out on the pitch at the time.”

Premier League SeasonGoalsGoals MINSTotal Shots MINSShooting AccuracyScoring V Shooting AccuracyAssistsKey PassesPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Libor Kozák 2013-2014 4 195.25 71 64% 36% 0 8 55% 14 781
Rudy Gestede 2015-2016 3 276.33 28.59 24% 10% 0 4 55% 15 829
Jordan Ayew 2015-2016 3 256 40.42 42% 16% 0 4 81% 11 768
Gabriel Agbonlahor 2015-2016 0 0 94.33 67% 0% 2 10 78% 8 566

Kozak first joined Villa from Lazio in September 2013 for €6.5 million [£4.7 million] and made a solid start to life in England, scoring four goals in his first 14 Premier League appearances for the club.

However, he subsequently suffered a broken leg in training in January 2014 and has been battling to revive his career ever since, going 19 months without first-team football following two separate surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation programme.

His return to the senior setup in preseason saw him bag three goals in five friendlies, but despite the departure of Christian Benteke and Villa’s resulting scoring struggles, the fit-again forward earned just 48 minutes of action under former boss Tim Sherwood over the first three months of the campaign.

The arrival of Garde last month offered some hope that he could be given a chance to re-establish himself in the squad, but he has not even made the bench in the Frenchman’s opening four games in charge.

Having recently been denied a loan move to Midlands rivals Birmingham City, the Birmingham Mail reported on Tuesday that Celtic scouted Monday’s two-goal display ahead of the January transfer window, but whether his performance will have convinced Garde that he is worth keeping around instead remains to be seen.

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch