Charles N’Zogbia has the hunger to succeed off the pitch as well as on it.
In the modern game every aspect of a footballer’s health is looked into at Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training ground to find the recipe for success.
The ‘steak and Guinness’ diets prescribed by managers of yesteryear have long since disappeared, with the engines of these finely-tuned athletes now firmly dictated by sports science.
And, although N’Zogbia has yet to find a French restaurant to his liking in the West Midlands, his fridge at home is packed full of the right foodstuffs to ensure his performances are not half-baked.
“Some managers will say before the game you can only eat pasta and chicken but don’t eat anything like chips because you will be heavy before the game,” said N’Zogbia.
“They will check us maybe every two months to measure the body fat – but it shouldn’t really change. Maybe after holidays when you are away for a month and a half you can put weight on but during the season your body weight should be constant because you are active every day.
“I wouldn’t say they recommend a diet. We are all professionals; we know when we are in good shape or when we’re not.
“We don’t need to be told that because we are professionals. Of course, if you eat a big pizza before a game you will feel it in your stomach so you just have to be sensible.
“When I know I don’t play for a while and I am out with my friends I will have a pizza, but normally I make just regular stuff like vegetables or rice, pasta and chicken and fish.
“I’ve not found any French restaurants here, but I have found one Italian. You ask them what you can eat and they make it for you, so it is good.”
N’Zogbia was speaking at an event to promote healthy eating for children, and although his daily intake is closely monitored these days he was a little more candid on whether he partook in sweets and snacks as a kid growing up on a tough estate on the outskirts of Le Havre.
“Did I eat my greens as a kid? I was doing sport all the time, football was a big part of my life so I was eating everything! But I knew that as long as I played football I would be all right,” said N’Zogbia.
“However, I think it’s really important for the kids to eat healthy and to be active because if you eat the wrong things and you don’t do any sport then you can get obese and get diseases.
“It is good that the kids learn from the start what they should be doing to stay in good shape. I remember 10 or 15 years ago there wasn’t any mobile phones or Ipads or computers for the kids to play on so what you would do is take your football outside and play with your friends.
“Now the kids have all the new electronic stuff like PlayStation or Xbox and it is really easy for them to be inactive. That is why this scheme is so important to make sure they play and do sport as well as use their computers.
“They need to remember it’s virtual, it’s not real! It’s easy to play on Fifa but when you actually play yourself it is a bit harder. Charles N’Zogbia on Fifa can score 10 goals in a game, but on the pitch it is more difficult.”
N’Zogbia will come up against former Wigan team-mate Hugo Rodallega and acknowledged the Fulham forward will represent a danger at Craven Cottage.
“They are a strong team. It will be a hard game, 50/50,” he said. “Hugo was one of my best at Wigan. We used to hang around together. He has already started scoring goals for them and will be a danger.”
* Charles N’Zogbia was speaking to the Express & Star to promote Villa Vitality – a Premier League-funded children’s obesity prevention programme launched in association with NHS Birmingham.
The scheme, which was launched in 2005, has been so successful in teaching children the necessary skills in how to improve diet and physical activity through links with football that it has been given renewed Premier League funding for three years.