Rumours state that club captain James Chester may be departing for the Bet365 Stadium on loan this winter.
Words: Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH
In life, and in fact in football, you have to take care of those who have taken care of you.
This type of respect usually comes when a player has had a mammoth impact on a club, like with James Chester, who deserves to be taken care of in the best of ways by Aston Villa.
Joining Villa from West Bromwich Albion in 2016, in an attempt to bolster a defence following relegation to the second tier, Chester had a huge impact across three Sky Bet Championship seasons and would go on to wear the captain’s armband. His play was often indicative of what it meant to captain such an illustrious club, leading from the back, and at times, front.
Former manager Steve Bruce quite literally ran the Welsh international into the ground during his time at the club, as Chester took it upon himself to play through a pain-barrier and injections whilst nursing a serious knee injury – as gross mismanagement had left James as the only identifiable fully-fit senior centre-back in the squad. He performed well despite the insurmountable and career-altering pain.
James Chester would take an extended period of rehabilitation during the 2018/19 season, and Aston Villa managed to get promoted without his presence – on the pitch at least.
Jack Grealish made a point of bringing Chester with him to lift the Play-Off Final trophy as the game concluded, before giving a post-game interview and waxing lyrical about the Aston Villa club captain:
“I had to bring Chezzy up with me – I think there are a few players in there who don’t get credit because they’ve not been involved in our unbeaten run, but people like Hutts (Alan Hutton) and Chezzy (James Chester) – they’ve played as much a part as I have”
“I said to Chezzy before the game, that if – and it was a big if – if we go up, that he’d be coming up with me”
“He’s the club captain. He deserves this, and Alan Hutton deserves this – just as much as anyone else.”
Some high praise from one of the stand-out Premier League stars this season.
Days after the now infamous Play-Off victory, James Chester spoke openly about his struggles with injury and what his future might hold.
“I have damaged my body indefinitely, and it’s something I’m going to have to manage for the rest of my career”
“Looking at the last three years personally, I’ve been a really big part of what the club has achieved and I’m proud of that”
“It’s been tough and painful at times, but that’s just how I’ve been brought up – I felt it was my duty as such to continue – being the only centre-half.”
Within the past week, Aston Villa manager Dean Smith has been vocal about James Chester, his impact on the squad and what his future may hold, stating:
“James Chester is a great character and captain to have around this football club – he’s well respected within the dressing room and the coaches room as well”
“Without a shadow of a doubt, he has a future here.”
That future, be it as an Aston Villa player or even a coach, may depend on how well the defender performs on a rumoured loan to Sky Bet Championship side Stoke City.
Chester is out of contract in the summer, but if you’ve followed the centre-back during his time at the club, you’ll know that he will do everything in his power to prove himself and gain a renewal with the club that he has sacrificed so much for.
Seeking regular football, Chester also has a young family to consider since the birth of his son Henri in March of 2019. A move to Stoke City would keep him close to his family and friends whilst also providing him with the opportunity of more regular game time ahead of the impending European Championships – in what could be his final major international tournament with Wales.
There is no denying that James Chester played a pivotal role for Aston Villa during a difficult period for the club. The defender wore the captain’s armband with pride, purpose and vigour. He will never be forgotten by those who watched him put his body and wellbeing on the line for the sake of the badge; a sad rarity in the modern game. Chezzy is a unique individual in that aspect, and the diehard supporters of the claret & blue will always be thankful for what he has done in an Aston Villa shirt.
He deserves a loan to prove himself rather than sitting on Aston Villa’s bench.