After last week’s superb acquisition of Mile Jedinak, Roberto Di Matteo has finally completed the spine of his new-look Aston Villa team. Tommy Elphick and Ross McCormack complete Villa’s formidable spine and it is most definitely a welcome sight. Last season, our spine was porous. With individuals too worried about their own egos and pay cheques, we had no structure. Joleon Lescott and Gabby Agbonlahor helped make up that spine and it looks like we have finally seen the back of them.
Here, I look at the characteristics our brand new spine boasts.
Last season, Elphick, Jedinak and McCormack were all captains of their previous clubs. They are seasoned professionals and will pick the team up during the lows (which I hope we will keep at a minimum this season).
In previous campaigns, we have had no figure to look up to and no-one to help Villa’s upcoming stars through the tough times. I certainly hope that this unwanted trend will stop now.
After the opening four games of the season, Elphick has helped transform the defence. His leadership qualities keep us organised and prevent us from being exposed thus helping us to have the joint best defence in the Championship so far – quite a turnaround on last year’s diabolical defence.
Moreover, McCormack’s authority at the other end of the pitch is evident. He has communicated well with Jack Grealish and Jordan Ayew. He has also linked up well with Villa’s man mountain, Rudy Gestede, and I certainly hope that a partnership between the two will blossom throughout the season. In 2015-16, he had a massive role to play in Moussa Dembélé’s rise to stardom and I therefore hope he can mentor the likes of Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Keinan Davis, helping them to announce themselves as the next big stars, just like Dembélé did.
We are yet to see Mile Jedinak in a Villa shirt but he has anchored Crystal Palace from floating around in the Championship into a respectable Premier League outfit. His leadership is something which he has received considerable praise for. I cannot wait for him to put on the famous claret and blue jersey.
The presence of these additions commands respect. Their imposing nature instantly makes people look up to them. The respect they received on social media from their previous teams’ fans when they left was astounding. No fan was bitter; they just wished them further success with Aston Villa Football Club. Compare this with the reception last season’s captains, Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards, would get if they were to leave. The stark contrast proves the positive direction Aston Villa is moving in with Elphick, McCormack and Jedinak acting as the spine of the team.
Not only do these players gain the respect from their peers and fans alike: they also respect the badge they play for. Despite proclaiming to be Villa fans, Agbonlahor and Richards really did not seem to care about the way their “boyhood” club plummeted out of the top flight. In contrast, Elphick and McCormack seem to have won the hearts of the Villa faithful already and I am sure Jedinak will too. The fact that they appreciate what it means to play for a club like Aston Villa already makes them improvements on last season’s shocking spine.
We may have only played four games in the league this season but I can see dedication to the cause. I am yet to see Elphick back out of a challenge. Also, I am yet to see McCormack drop his head. I expect nothing less from Jedinak. The commitment from Villa’s new core will undoubtedly provide inspiration to those around them. Full-blooded challenges should become the norm at B6 this season.
It has been interesting, and refreshing, to see Di Matteo constructing Villa’s core this summer. We finally have a set of players who are capable of leading the team to glory. They are people the fans can trust and players Roberto Di Matteo can build the team around. Together, they will hopefully help get Aston Villa Football Club back where it belongs – the Premier League.