Jed Steer has the ability to be a Premier League number one – but why are Aston Villa so keen to not let him be one?
Words: Andrew Maddox | @MaddoxJourno
The main focus for Aston Villa over the last week or so has been recruiting a new goalkeeper to initially replace, and then provide competition for Tom Heaton.
Dean Smith and Johan Lange have seemingly found their man with the arrival of Emiliano Martinez from Arsenal. Coming in for £20 million following an FA Cup win with the Gunners means he comes with a great amount of expectation.
However, yet again one man has been frozen out in the cold waiting for his chance. He’s been waiting since 2013, briefly taking the starting berth for two months in 2019, but yet again he is the forgotten man of the Villa goalkeeping department. It is of course Jed Steer.
Steer arrived as a free agent after his release from Norwich in 2013. Paul Lambert gave him Shay Given’s spot behind Brad Guzan on the bench, a step up from third choice at Carrow Road for the then 20-year-old. He played in the cup competitions and looked impressive but was loaned out to first Doncaster and then Yeovil. Tim Sherwood gave him his debut in a final day defeat to Burnley in 2015 following an injury to Guzan and due to Sherwood wanting to protect Given for the impending FA Cup final.
The shot-stopper then spent three consecutive spells on loan at Huddersfield Town following the arrival of Mark Bunn in 2015 before returning to the fold as Steve Bruce’s preferred second choice in 2017. Again, Steer impressed while keeping nets in the cups before requiring an operation on his shoulder after a 3-1 defeat to Peterborough. He returned for the opening match of the 2018/19 season, a 3-1 victory over Hull City, but was again loaned out once Andre Moreira and Ǿrjan Nyland arrived.
He spent the first half of that season on loan at Charlton before an injury to Nyland forced Dean Smith to recall him. New signing Lovre Kalinic couldn’t be registered on time so Smith threw Steer in for a 2-2 draw with QPR. After a poor performance and picking up a concussion against West Brom, Kalinic was then replaced by Steer for his first run in the team at last. He played the last 14 games of the season, plus the three play-off matches as Villa returned to the Premier League.
Steer looked impressive yet again between the sticks but was relegated to the bench again once Tom Heaton was signed. Despite his consistently good performances, Steer has never been afforded the chance of taking the number one shirt for himself at Villa Park. He’s always been a dependable backup and a worthwhile presence to keep around, but never top dog. The reason for this is rather simple, if a little sad. It’s injuries.
One detail omitted from the story at the top is that Steer has had a torrid injury record. His time at Huddersfield was successful and led to the fans still being fond of him today, but this was the longest spell of fitness he has had. His hopes of taking the starting spot once Pierluigi Gollini departed in 2017 were dashed due to an Achilles tear, he damaged his shoulder ligaments in 2018 to rule him out for the season and another Achilles tear in November 2019 forced the club into signing Pepe Reina.
The common pattern here is he rarely picks up small injuries to keep him out for a week or two, they are always major and keep him out for months at a time. If it wasn’t for this, he would be able to step up and be Villa’s number one. As shown during the promotion run-in, Steer is a more than capable goalkeeper and Dean Smith has shown faith in him before. He was given the spot as backup ‘keeper over Nyland and Kalinic this season before his cruel injury seven minutes into his Premier League return against Wolves.
Clearly, it isn’t an issue of manager belief or ability but simply one of Steer being a ticking time bomb. Over the last two seasons, Villa have had three major injuries to three separate goalkeepers meaning there is never a consistent presence between the sticks. Martinez finally gives Smith the ‘keeper without a chronic injury history he has been missing during his time as manager. Sadly, for Steer, he will never be more than a dependable and likeable backup option until his injuries clear up.
It is a sad tale, but Steer will at least always have a home at Villa and a fan base that will always be behind him whenever he plays or picks up another injury.