Joachim Ultimatum (12 Dec)
Julian Joachim scored his third goal in two games to keep Aston Villa top of the FA Carling
 Premiership but then admitted he will be knocking on John Gregory's door if he fails to hold on to
 the regular place he believes his performances deserve. 

 Joachim has grabbed his chance with both hands in the absence of Stan Collymore, his double
 blast salvaging a point against Nottingham Forest and Saturday's goal earning a share of the spoils
 against Manchester United. 

 The striker was singled out by a relieved Alex Ferguson as Villa's man of the match as United
 were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw. 

 Now Gregory has to decide whether to persevere with a player on whom he has slapped a
 £6million price tag or recall Collymore after suspension for Wednesday's clash with Chelsea. 

 ``It would be hard if I had to move with Villa top of the league. I want to play for this club and I'm
 loving every minute of things at present,'' said Joachim. 

 ``But I've had to sit on the bench for the past few seasons. I've got back into playing and I don't
 want it to stop. I'm at the stage of my career now where it's very important for me to be playing
 week in and week out. 

 ``It's in the back of my head that if we have a bad game then I'm the one who's going to drop out
 because it's happened before. 

 ``I'm an honest lad and if I'm not playing well and deserve to be dropped then I will hold my hand

 ``It's flattering when someone like Alex Ferguson says that you have done well. I think I've done
 enough to keep my place on Wednesday. If I don't I'm going to be very disappointed. 

 ``But then I've been pleased with the way I've played all season and that made it disappointing to
 go out of the side before. 

 ``If I'm not playing week in and week out then I've got to look at my future. If I know I should be
 playing and it doesn't happen then I've got to go and see the manager about the situation.'' 

 Joachim's pace troubled United throughout, although there was an element of luck about his
 55th-minute equaliser which deflected off Denis Irwin's boot over the head of a stranded Peter

 But Villa were full value for the point which keeps them in good heart for Wednesday's trip to
 Stamford Bridge and Sunday's home match with Arsenal. 

 Midfielder Lee Hendrie said: ``Psychologically it was good to compete so well with Manchester
 United at the start of a week like this and great in terms of helping with self belief. 

 ``But the fact that the lads were disappointed in the dressing room about not collecting the three
 points says something about how much we have developed. 

 ``They didn't really cause us any threat and we had loads of space when attacking. The gaffer said
 we gave away a sloppy goal but our overall performance is good and there's no reason why we
 can't stay up there.'' 

 One of the most encouraging aspects for Villa was the performance of Alan Thompson, who had
 his best game for the club since his £4.5million summer move from Bolton. 

 Hendrie said: ``Alan did really well. He's been through a rocky patch but come in and proved on
 Saturday that he should be in the team.'' 

 Skipper Gareth Southgate echoed those sentiments and said: ``He's been out of the side and
 possibly a bit below par but against United he gave a very mature performance.'' 

 It was an unprofitable return to Villa Park for Dwight Yorke, who had only a booking to show for
 his efforts as he failed to test home goalkeeper Michael Oakes even once in the 90 minutes. 

 ``The kind of reception I got from the fans was more or less what I expected. It was very mixed,
 some boos and some cheers,'' said Yorke. 

 ``I wouldn't say I was disappointed with my own performance but Villa intended to make it
 difficult for me. People like (Ugo) Ehiogu were determined that would happen. 

 ``We were pleased to come away with a point. Villa looked very impressive and seemed to be
 getting things right at the moment. They've got a chance of winning the championship. 

 ``I hope that won't happen but if United don't take the title then I hope it goes to Villa Park.'' 

Martin Sivorn © 1999.E-Mail Me