Zat Knight - Aston Villa  - Biography of Aston Villa career.

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 08 December 2007

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      Central Defender
      Friday, 02 May 1980
      Solihull, England.
  • Aston Villa
    • Club Career Dates
    • League Debut
      Sunday, 2nd September 2007 scoring in a 2-0 win at home to Chelsea (Aged: 27)
    • Club Career
  • Bolton Wanderers
    • Club Career Dates
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 15th August 2009 in a 1-0 defeat at home to Sunderland (Aged: 29)
    • Club Career
  • Fulham FC
    • Club Career Dates
    • League Debut
      Saturday, 22nd September 2001 in a 0-0 draw at Leicester City (Aged: 21)
    • Club Career Prostate cancer charity 150 x 150 Image

Zat KNIGHT - Aston Villa - Biography of Aston Villa career.


Aston Villa fan Zat Knight finally achieved his goal of playing for his boyhood heroes when he signed for the midlands outfit in the autumn of 2007.

The 26 year-old central defender was bought to form the foundations of a newly revamped Villa side, as manager Martin O'Neill looked to stamp his personality on the team in only his second season in charge. O'Neill was persuaded to part with around £3.5 million for the Solihull born defender, whose stock was certainly rising in the football world having represented England on two occasions during the 2005 tour to the United States. Knight was already a crowd favourite at Villa Park even before he had donned the famous claret & blue, as the then Fulham defender scored an own goal in the Cottagers' 2-1 defeat to the Villains, in what turned out to be Zat's last game for the Londoners. Despite that own goal, Knight's previous performances clearly left O'Neill in no doubt that the 6'5" stopper was the towering presence that Villa needed.



Zat's stock was to rise once more as he scored on his Villa debut in the home win over title-chasing Chelsea. With crowd favourite Olof Mellberg seemingly relegated to right-back to make way for the new signing, Knight and the ever improving Martin Laursen were able to nullify Chelsea's potent attack as Villa marched to a resounding 2-0 victory.

The Knight/Laursen centre-back partnership progressed well as the season rolled on, although a difficult December led many to question Zat's ability to perform consistently at the top level. His lack of concentration at crucial times and apparent clumsiness left many of the Villa faithful unconvinced by the quality of their new signing. Knight was sent off for the first time in his Villa career in a fiery encounter against Chelsea on Boxing Day, conceding the penalty which Andrei Shevchenko converted on the stroke of half-time in a dramatic and highly entertaining 4-4 draw.



By the time Knight had served his suspension, manager Martin O'Neill had drafted in West Brom's up-and-coming centre back Curtis Davies in an effort to shore up what was becoming an increasingly porous back line. As a result, Zat was relegated to a watching brief as the Davies/Laursen partnership moved from strength to strength. The unfortunate Davies, however, was to tear his achilles tendon during a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on 1st March, thus opening the door for Knight to play the remaining two months of the campaign in a bid to prove his worth as a starter. Successive thrashings in March of Bolton, Derby and arch-rivals Birmingham City, propelled Villa to a 6th place finish and a place in Europe. While Villa had scored 71 league goals, the third bestÊrecord behind champions Manchester United and free-scoring Arsenal, it was the defence that was a constant headache; the Villains claiming theÊsecond worst defensive record in the top half with a total of 51 goals shipped. The beginning of the 2008-2009 season saw Curtis Davies make his move from West Brom permanent, whilst Spanish centre-back Carlos Cueller was bought in from Rangers and right-back Luke Young from Middlesbrough as manager O'Neill looked to reinforce a shaky defensive unit. Knight once again faced the prospect of warming the Villa Park bench for a substantial part of the season.



Zat made his European debut in the Intertoto Cup away at Danish side Odense, a 2-2 draw in Denmark, followed by a 1-0 win at Villa Park a week later, seeing Villa through to the UEFA Cup proper. With Davies now back to full fitness and forging a quality partnership with Laursen, Knight was once again finding it difficult to break into the first team and he failed to feature in the Premiership campaign until Boxing Day, when scoring a dramatic 90th minute equaliser in 2-2 draw against title chasing Arsenal at Villa Park. Although finding Premiership appearances few and far between, Zat did appear as a regular in Villa's FA Cup and UEFA Cup campaigns, playing in the now infamous defeat at CSKA in the UEFA Cup. With the tie delicately poised at 1-1 from the 1st leg at Villa Park, manager O'Neill took the unprecedented step of playing an under strength side in an effort to aid Villa's quest for a Champions League spot. Villa were soundly beaten 2-0 in a side made up of reserve and youth team players.


With Villa out of Europe, Knight made only seven more appearances for the club, replacing the increasingly injury prone Laursen at regular intervals during the last three months of the campaign. A 2-2 draw at home to Stoke City in March essentially ended any lingering hopes of a top 4 spot as Villa were forced to settle for a 6th place Premiership finish for the second year running. Zat's last appearance in the claret & blue came in the disappointing 3-1 defeat away at former club Fulham on 9th May. In the summer he was sold to Bolton for around £4 million, with manager O'Neill looking to raise funds to bring in another trio of defenders during the close season transfer window. (James Brazier)