Sidwell puts off Achilles surgery

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.”