Fabian Delph has revealed the secret inspiration behind the best form of his career – his baby daughter Sofia.
Delph, Villa’s most consistent and impressive performer in a patchy start to the campaign, admits fatherhood has “affected me massively” as he sets his eyes on fulfilling the potential that had Premier League clubs scrambling to sign him after less than 50 appearances for Leeds in their days at League One level.
And it’s looking good for Delph, who has caught the eye with a series of high-energy and upbeat performances which have made him the pick of Villa’s midfield.
Indeed, one of the more intriguing stats from the early weeks of the campaign sees Delph identified as the most fouled player (28) in the Premier League, which might well confirm just how busy he has become about the pitch.
This all follows the birth of his daughter earlier this year – and the demands of wife Natalie to share the duties that come with a new-born in the house.
Revealing a new maturity and desire to leave behind a footballing legacy that will make little Sofia proud of her ‘old man’ Delph reveals: “I’m very hands on.
Natalie goes a bit mad because I think most boys get home early after training, but with the work I’m putting in I’ll probably get home about half past three.
“So as soon as I get home she’s stood at the door and says ‘There you go’. So I’ve got her for three or four hours before she goes to bed.
“I bath her, change her nappies, I’m pretty hands- on and I love it.
“I think everybody will tell you once you have children you naturally have to grow up – well, I’m not sure if a lot do!
“But I personally feel like I’ve grown up and everything you do is based around your child.
“It’s been massive for me. I’m the happiest man in the world and every time I go out there, she’s at the back of my mind.”
Villa will be in London tonight so there will be no need for Delph to head off to the spare room to make sure he gets enough sleep the night before a game.
But he increasingly feels more at home in and around his adopted city, too.
Adds Delph: “It’s affected me massively. I’m the happiest man in the world now – until Sofia starts crying. She’s five-and-a-bit months.
“I’m getting in the spare bedroom before games to get a good night’s kip. It’s great. My whole mindset has changed now.
“I want my daughter to be proud of me, as I do with my missus. I want to do well for them. It’s just a bit more motivation.
“I think I lacked a bit. With the injuries, I think it knocked me back a bit. I’m more settled now, we’ve got a house down here now.
“I was a bit of a Leeds man when I first came, but I’m half-Brummie now.”
Although Delph is increasingly comfortable in his surrounds, the same cannot be said about Villa who once again head off on their travels seeking to repair the damage of their wretched home form – just three points from 15 this season and only six wins at Villa Park under manager Paul Lambert.
In contrast, Lambert’s team cannot argue the counter-attacking game away from home suits their design with Arsenal and Norwich beaten – and Villa still grievous about the result at Chelsea.
Lambert resists the notion that his team are a one-trick pony but in West Ham adversary Sam Allardyce he clashes with another manager trying to live down what he claims are misconceptions about his team’s style.
Allardyce has been shoring up the Hammers with his controversial ‘4-6-0’ formation of late but is expected to change for the visit of Villa – with old-boy Carlton Cole back in the frame on a short-term contract.
But the man Villa will really be keeping an eye on is Ravel Morrison, the reformed “bad boy” of English football who now finds himself tipped as an outside bet for England’s World Cup squad.