The Missing ‘X` Factor
Using my own memory of Villa teams of the past, and my own experience in the coaching world, one thing has been continually nagging away at me about my beloved AVFC for a very long time now.
If you assess the purchases that the club has made over the past year or so, we have signed countless individuals who have shown leadership qualities and/or been captains at their previous clubs. Steve Bruce has continued the trend of RDM last summer (Elphick, McCormack, Chester) with his own acquisitions of “tried and trusted leaders” such as Terry, Hourihane, Lansbury and Whelan.
Yet, when you watch the matches, not a soul seems to react in adversity to rally or cajole the troops! When we concede its just hands on hips or heads down and trudge back to the halfway line. Personally I yearn to see the players huddle up and see a senior player having a go at others! When did a Villa player get a booking for up-ending an opponent who was getting too much time on the ball?
Terry, for me, is an interesting case. He said all the right things on his arrival, yet he doesn`t seem to be showing that same passion on the pitch. Three games in and not a solitary tackle of note. No moments of anger as he points at someone who failed in their responsibilities. In fact, between them, I don`t think any of our defenders have had a booking for an overzealous tackle yet! Recent media reports suggested that he was still spending plenty of time back at Chelsea “to aid in his recovery.” I get the fact that he still leaves in/near London, but how can a club captain be spending recovery time away from his club while his teammates are there? I can only assume that he does so with the manager`s blessing. To me that sends a bad message.
This brings me to my main point. How many times have Villa (or any other club for that matter) purchased “leaders” and see them be successful? Our own John Terry developed into a leader at Chelsea, a club that he grew up with and played at for his whole career.
Look back at the great Villa teams of the 70`s and 80`s. Leaders like Mortimer, Evans, Rioch, Ross, Nicholl, McNaught. None of them were ‘bought for leadership.` They were integrated into the club, developed a passion and evolved as leaders. Even going to the 90`s, and 00`s, Townsend, Teale, Staunton, Mellberg, Laursen, Platt, Barry etc. all BECAME leaders as they grew into their AVFC careers. Although I do remember back in the late 70`s when the great Ron Saunders bought Tommy Craig and immediately installed him as captain – he was a disaster! Ron realized quickly that buying a ready-made leader didn`t work!
Leadership has many forms: vocal, physical, by example. Think back to the days when we were competing on an almost level playing field with Man Utd. Andy Townsend would crunch Roy Keane with a tackle early on every single time we played them. He was sending a message, making sure that Keane knew he was in for a game that day. We didn`t always beat them, but we never wilted
So, where do we get those natural leaders in this current team, not just blokes who have done it in the past, but men who truly have a passion for this great club and are willing to put this team on their shoulders and fight? I`m stumped. There`s plenty of talk among the fans about the disruptive ones in the dressing room (Agbonlahor being the glaring example). Those types would never have survived in the times of those I`ve mentioned above, nor ironically would they have lasted ten minutes in John Terry`s Chelsea dressing room
MAKE THE FIRST TACKLE COUNT. LET YOUR OPPOSITE NUMBER KNOW HE`S IN FOR A LONG 90 MINUTES. HOLD YOUR TEAMMATES TO A HIGH STANDARD. PUT YOUR BODY ON THE LINE. STAND UP AND BE COUNTED ASTON VILLA!