James Chester’s return to competitive football will be a welcome addition for Dean Smith.
Words: Harry Trend | @HazaTrand
On Tuesday night James Chester returned to the Aston Villa starting eleven for a competitive game, the first time in just under a calendar year as the Villans dismantled a youthful Liverpool side 5-0.
It was the perfect game for Chester’s return despite it being a Carabao Cup Quarter-Final, as Liverpool’s lack of first-teamers meant the game played out like a glorified exhibition match.
However, to the former Manchester United trainee and Aston Villa club captain, it meant much more.
“It’s been a really long eleven months”
“Ipswich at home was my last game – from the first to last minute I didn’t enjoy it and couldn’t wait to get off the pitch because of the pain that my body was in”
“I thought that would be my lasting memory of playing for Aston Villa, but thankfully I’ve played (in this game) and enjoyed every second.”
With the captain’s armband back on, Chester perhaps needed to shake off a little rust early in the game – with the Welsh international booting the ball out for a throw early on and then mis-controlling Caoimín Kelleher’s goal kick.
But soon enough, Chester relaxed into his usual rhythm, clearing crosses at the front post, playing passes into the midfield and winning aerial duels. 100% of them, to be exact.
Late on in the game, Liverpool’s Tom Hill tried to weave his way through the Aston Villa defence. However in his way was Chester, standing his ground to deny the young Liverpool winger a route into the box.
With 77 minutes on the clock, Smith decided that Chester’s re-integration was complete and replaced him with Kortney Hause. Departing with a smile, the defender left the pitch to a standing ovation and a chorus of ‘there’s only one James Chester’.
That smile didn’t leave him by the time that he’d fulfilled his media duties, either;
“I’d just like to say thank you to the fans,” he said.
“It made the ten or eleven months really worthwhile to receive that reception coming off the pitch”
“It’s something I’ll forever remember.”
From now until the end of January, Aston Villa will play ten or eleven games – dependent on reaching the fourth round of the FA Cup. This will provide a good opportunity for the 30-year-old to get some game time, and possibly even force his way back into the starting eleven.
“Hopefully my performance has planted a seed”
“There’s a lot of games between now and the end of January, and the gaffer’s going to need his full squad”
“I’m confident I can still play a part at this football club – and the next couple of months will be really important for our season”
“I’m confident that we’ve got the squad to deal with that.”
Whatever does happen going forward, James Chester is back in the picture at Aston Villa.