Previous regimes at Aston Villa were all about ‘leadership’, and that hasn’t really changed – but the kind of leader the club is recruiting has.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy)
During the regime headed by Dr. Tony Xia and Steve Bruce – there was a key philosophy that stood out in the kind of transfers that were coming into the club. Leadership.
The likes of John Terry and Christopher Samba, both experienced centre-halves with exceptional leadership qualities were brought into the club on free transfers. Robert Snodgrass, a fearsome warrior on the wing that could be heard bellowing to his team mates. Glenn Whelan, the only member of the above party that still remains at the club in a playing capacity. These players were all considered veterans of the game and it was thought that their experience and other qualities could lead us into the Premier League – and it very nearly did.
It was a step away from the fabled ‘Villa engine’ that had been coined by then Director of Football Steve Round, who had mentioned an identifiable style of play, alongside a process which would see our young talent get more time on the pitch.
Before his sacking towards the autumn of 2018, Steve Bruce made one of his last signings for Aston Villa in the form of John McGinn. The Scottish midfielder has endeared himself to fans – and the players it seems, and he doesn’t seem shy of taking some kind of leadership responsibility. He’ll often be seen barking at a winger or forward.
When Dean Smith took over the reigns, Aston Villa fans knew that this meant a new philosophy at the club – and it has. The style of play and tactical awareness of the players has certainly improved, and there’s talk of actually getting the most out of our academy for once.
But at the same time, there’s still an inkling of the previous regimes’ philosophy, and that’s the leadership qualities. We still have the likes of Mile Jedinak and Glenn Whelan at the club, with one of the two certainly making more of an impact of late, but there are now new leaders on the scene. And there’s one key difference – they’re younger.
We’re not chasing veteran players in the twilights of their career and looking for a final pay day – just because they’ve captained Crystal Palace or something similar. We’re loaning or purchasing hungry young players that are not afraid to say something on the pitch.
Tyrone Mings is a primary example, and has often taken the captain’s armband when Jack Grealish has been taken off. He was seen screaming at Tammy Abraham in the game against Blackburn, and is certainly vocal with the likes of Ahmed Elmohamady and Neil Taylor, who often bomb forward looking for an overlapping run – and this is likely to have had an effect on the improvement we’ve seen from both of these players.
But his defensive partner Kortney Hause is looking like a leader too. He’s often instructing others around him, and when he’s not doing that, he’s showing his bravery by diving into a key block or tackle.
The leadership qualities are there, but there’s no more worry about legs tiring too early or fatigue creeping in when there’s a mid-week game. Dean Smith has already made comments about the qualities this team has in the leadership department.
Another key improvement made by Dean Smith, is handing the armband to Jack Grealish, a boyhood fan of Aston Villa. He’s not only galvanised the supporters, but the player and those around him too. It makes perfect sense, but it also offers something different than the likes of older options in injured Tommy Elphick and others.