Sidwell puts off Achilles surgery
Steve Sidwell has postponed an Achilles operation to help Aston Villa through a midfield shortage ahead of Sunday's derby with Birmingham. The former Chelsea player will partner Nigel Reo-Coker in the centre of the park against Alex McLeish's side as Villa look for a seventh successive win against their local rivals. Villa are short of numbers in that department, with skipper Stiliyan Petrov out for up to three months with knee ligament damage and Fabian Delph still recovering from a similar setback. In addition, Marc Albrighton is suspended following his red card against Burnley in the Carling Cup in midweek. Villa boss Gerard Houllier said: "Steve's operation has been delayed because he and Nigel will be playing on a regular basis. "He could have said 'okay, I'm having my operation and we will see after that'. "He hasn't complained. Usually when you play, sometimes injuries disappear. I would say that is one of them. "I know the strength of my squad. I would have preferred some of the players who are injured or suspended to be available - but we can cope." Houllier has an outstanding derby record, for Liverpool against Everton and Lyon at the expense of St. Etienne. He said: "I think I lost my first one at Liverpool. It was a battle. It felt like everyone was sent off! "But after that we had a good record against Everton. The Blues were happy when I left Liverpool! "St Etienne is different because there is so much rivalry between the two clubs. St Etienne was a big club when Lyon was coming up. But we had a good record. "In a derby, I think first of all you need to be really aware that it's a different game in terms of commitment, intensity and the attitude, which is different. "At the same time you have to show some qualities which are absolutely indispensable to win it, on top of your football qualities. "For instance, self-control, composure, character. There are things that happen in derbies sometimes that you have to overcome. "You have to be focused and very concentrated, and you know in that sort of game the will to win is as important as skill." Houllier has plenty of admiration for the success his friend, Alex McLeish, has achieved at Birmingham during the past two years. He said: "Alex has been a friend for a very long time. He's done a tremendous job because he got them back in the Premier League. "I think there was some unfair criticism of him but this is part of our job. Sometimes you're a hero and sometimes you're a zero. "In fact we know we are never a hero or zero, we are just in between. "The job has become more difficult because of expectations of people and because of pressure and all sorts of things." Howard Webb will be in charge of the derby and Houllier has immense respect for the way he officiated the World Cup final between Spain and Holland. He said: "I think he was outstanding in the World Cup final. He wanted to keep the game normal, 11 versus 11. "I know he could have sent off one of the Dutch players (Nigel de Jong), but he didn't and it's credit to him because he had the courage to stand up to it. "It was a difficult game. That's why his refereeing was, to me, spot on." Villa winger Ashley Young is often seen making his feelings known to referees during matches. Houllier is happy with his actions providing he shows the official proper respect. And he has told Young he has to be "strong enough" to overcome any rough treatment that may be handed out to him by defenders. Houllier said: "I am not concerned providing he's respectful to the referee. I know he got a yellow card (against Burnley) but this was the first. "He sometimes gets bad treatment, like all the players that are swift. Ashley has got to be strong enough to overcome that. In a derby you can't complain. "You don't have 90 minutes to express your feelings, you don't want prima donnas for instance, those kind of players that raise their hands saying 'oh my god', because one of their team-mates doesn't pass or misses."
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