At a really exciting time for Aston Villa Football Club, when an array of new signings dominate the headlines, it is easy to forget about some of the unsung heroes at the club.
This week Ashley Westwood followed in the footsteps of Ciaran Clark and signed a new long term deal with the club. I don’t doubt that most fans appreciate the efforts of these two players but this is a good opportunity to really focus on what they have done for us before any exciting new signings distract us again.
Westwood and Clark’s positions at the club have never been in doubt. Higher profile players, Benteke and Delph, have left and those with lower profiles have been sold yet Westwood and Clark, who go about their business quietly but effectively, remain, which is testament to their importance to this team.
So, what do Westwood and Clark offer?
Ashley Westwood signed in 2012 from Crewe Alexandra as a twenty-two-year-old. Not getting into the first team immediately, he eventually made his début, coming on against Swansea City in a 2-0 win and he made his first start in the 1-0 win over Sunderland. Since then, he has featured regularly in the starting XI. Westwood is a tidy midfielder who keeps possession ticking over and he is also not afraid to get stuck in, a trait that has improved in his three years at Aston Villa. He has worn the armband on the odd occasion and has made more key passes for the team than anyone else during his time here. There are those who would prefer Carlos Sánchez, a more archetypal holding midfielder, to play but I am of the opinion that if we lost the metronomic Westwood the Villans’ possession would be very much the worse for it. It is great to have seen him sign a new contract. Towards the end of last season, Westwood, Delph and Cleverley combined effectively in a midfield three. The other two have moved on in less than favourable circumstances so we must appreciate Westwood for his loyalty and effectiveness. He has started the campaign well, providing the assist for Rudy Gestede’s winner against A.F.C. Bournemouth. This could be a big season for the midfielder as he enters his peak years. Let’s hope that with Westwood at the heart of midfield we can really push on this year.
Remember the Schlupp tackle? Need I say any more about Ciaran Clark? Strong and committed, Clark is establishing himself as a real fan favourite at Villa. He showed great character to get through a dodgy patch of form a few seasons ago and has become a crucial part of our defence. One of only three players at Villa to have more than a hundred Premier League apperances, the signing of his new five year deal just before the season’s opener was a sign that he plans to play many more. He has played in midfield and as full back but there is no doubt that his strongest position is at the heart of defence. Another to have captained the side, Clark is one of the team’s natural leaders. He came through the youth academy, which he joined at the age of eleven. There is real passion in his performances and you can tell the club means a lot to him. Having grown up at the club watching the likes of Mellberg and Laursen and playing with Dunne and Collins, Clark has had plenty of players to learn from. Now one of the more experienced players in a new team, his role alongside Micah Richards is crucial this season. Clark had a superb opening game, dominating in the air and getting his body in front of the ball,which is just what you need from a centre back.
Westwood and Clark are a credit to Aston Villa Football Club. Long may they continue to put in good performances and help take the team to the next level. The next challenge is beating Manchester United at home tonight. Come on, lads!