The day after being presented to the media for the first time as Aston Villa manager, Roberto Di Matteo will already find a huge pile of work on his new desk at Bodymoor Heath. His main task will surely be deciding which members of last season’s stumbling squad he wants to keep.
With the players yet to be given a set date on which to return for pre-season training, I expect this to be one of the first things the Italian does as he tries to figure out which of the current squad he feels can rise to the challenge of a gruelling Sky Bet Championship campaign and drive Villa towards promotion back to the Barclays Premier League at the first time of asking.
One player he will not be able to evaluate alongside the rest is Aston Villa’s sole Euro 2016 representative, Ciaran Clark. The Irish defender is currently impressing for the Irish in France, despite scoring an own goal that caused his side to drop two crucial points in their group opener to Sweden on Monday.
Having played 159 times for the club, Clark brings leadership and experience to the side, something which will undoubtedly be needed in what will be a long season.
The centre back played 23 times last season, at times playing second fiddle to the hopeless partnership of Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott.
With Richards and Lescott both expected to leave before the start of the 2016-17 season, Clark will become an increasingly important figure – and one who should have the team built around him.
There have been numerous suggestions on social media sites that Clark should even be made captain of the side, something which would surely only encourage him to take his game to another level and become a mainstay in the side.
It was noticeable even at times last season that when Clark played the team looked stronger and more at ease, with 38 goals conceded with him in the team compared to 45 without him.
Known for his hard-hitting, no nonsense approach, he is also vocal in leading from the back and a character like him is needed to really shake up the dressing room and put the cat among the pigeons.
With rumours of Bournemouth’s club captain, Tommy Elphick, being days away from arriving at Villa Park in a £3 million deal, Clark could face stiff competition for his position and the chance of becoming captain.
Di Matteo may have other thoughts and, with Pulis at West Bromwich Albion rumoured to be trying to prise Clark away from Villa Park, the decision may even be taken out of his hands. What is for certain though is that players of Clark’s ability and leadership are definitely ones the new manager needs to build around if the Villans are to have a realistic chance of promotion.