Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Harry Trend (@HazaTrand)
The date is the 31st January 2017, and with Villa in 9th five points off the play-offs, Steve Bruce completes the signing of striker Scott Hogan from Brentford.
An in-form striker with 14 league goals in 25 appearances? Just what we need to fire us into the top six with his pace and finishing ability.
Of the transfer, I wrote on my blog; “Hogan will take the pressure off Kodjia for goals. This signing will allow Bruce to play a diamond, furthermore, Hogan isn’t one dimensional like Gestede or Gabby.”
Unfortunately, Hogan failed to impress for Villa in 2016/17, the forward getting a solitary goal against Wigan as Villa laboured to a 13th placed finish.
The former Stocksbridge Park Steels striker just couldn’t play with Kodjia upfront, and more often than not he ended up on the bench. Injuries may have limited Hogan during his first season at Villa Park, but the fact was one goal in 11 games just wasn’t good enough for a nine-million-pound striker.
And so to 2017-18, where Jonathan Kodjia’s injury meant Hogan was afforded a run in the side.
Despite goals in the EFL Cup, Hogan struggled massively to find the net in the league. I remember the Cardiff game in which we lost 3-0, and Villa just weren’t playing to his strengths, turning a blind eye to his runs down the channels, opting to go long or sideways instead.
The moment which best summed up Hogan’s poor start to the 2017/18 campaign happened in a 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough, Connor Hourihane’s goal bound shot coming off the Mancunian who was standing on the line.
Keinan Davis was preferred to Hogan the following week against Barnsley, and scored, prompting Hogan to fall down the pecking order as third choice striker.
During this time, two schools of thought surfaced. Was Hogan just not suited to Aston Villa, or did Villa just need to adapt to play to his strengths?
The striker was limited to mainly substitute appearances after the Barnsley game. Then in our home loss to Sheffield Wednesday in November, Hogan got injured and was side-lined for a month. His return to action had to wait until mid-December.
By this point Hogan was a frustrated man. On setting up Josh Onomah’s goal in a 2-1 defeat to former club Brentford, one tweet, read something like, “Hogan’s so frustrated with his service that he’s become the service” summed it up perfectly.
The striker did manage to find the net in that game, finishing a one-two with Jack Grealish, but he was ruled offside. Frustration the key word yet again.
But as soon as 2018 came around, the tide changed. In a 5-0 win over Bristol City, Hogan got his first league goal of the season; a looping header off Albert Adomah’s cross, thus opening the floodgates.
In 2017 Hogan struggled to score, but in 2018 he’s struggled to miss. The frontman stooping to get a headed winner in an away win against Nottingham Forest, before grabbing a brace in our 3-1 win over Barnsley on Saturday, taking his tally to four goals in three games.
For Bruce, Hogan’s good form has been a confidence thing, “In my experience with strikers is they’re never happy unless they score. They can play well – like a midfield player – and the team wins but a striker, if they’re single-minded like Scotty, wants a goal.”
“If he doesn’t score he doesn’t think he’s contributed. We tried to say, ‘Come on, it’s not just all about you scoring’.”
And while I think confidence has played a major part in Hogan’s upturn in form, I can see our number nine has worked on not only his finishing, but his mentality.
He only had 12 touches against Barnsley, yes 12. To see that little of the ball and still score two goals takes such a cool head.
It’s funny how two players who some Villa fans wrote off are now coming putting in solid performances. Birkir Bjarnason and of course Scott Hogan.
Nevertheless, Hogan needs to carry on his form in front of goal as we get deeper into the Championship season. He might have scored in our last three games, but there are still 18 games left of the season.
However, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, whisper it quietly, but the former non-league journeyman could be leading the line for Aston Villa in the Premier League next year.