Terry pledges to take Villa back to Pre­mier League

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LONDON: John Terry has pledged to lead As­ton Villa back into the Pre­mier League as the Cham­pi­onship sea­son kicks off with a host of big-spend­ing clubs gear­ing up for a fren­zied pro­mo­tion bat­tle.

Af­ter win­ning 15 ma­jor hon­ours in 22 years with Chelsea, Terry had to search for a new club fol­low­ing his re­lease at the end of last sea­son and re­jected in­ter­est from sev­eral Pre­mier League clubs to sign a £60,000 (RM338,000) per-week deal with Villa.

Terry’s pres­ence in the sec­ond tier will keep Villa in the spot­light while Steve Bruce’s side bat­tle to re­turn to the top-flight af­ter a two-year ab­sence.

But the for­mer Eng­land star knows he won’t have an easy ride as he plays his first matches out­side the Pre­mier League since a brief loan spell at Not­ting­ham For­est in 2000.

Given Villa’s ab­ject fail­ures in re­cent years and the cut-throat na­ture of the Cham­pi­onship, the 36-year-old be­lieves win­ning pro­mo­tion at a club that fin­ished 18 points adrift of the play-offs last sea­son would rank among the finest achieve­ments of his glit­ter­ing ca­reer.

“It would be re­ally spe­cial, it would be up there for me. To step out of my com­fort zone was a big de­ci­sion,” Terry said.

“It’s prob­a­bly one of the most un­pre­dictable leagues within world foot­ball. “We have to go up as cham­pi­ons, if not au­to­mat­i­cally.

“Does that bring more pres­sure on you? Prob­a­bly. Do we like that as a group? Yeah. With the his­tory of this club, it de­serves to be back in the Pre­mier League.”

All three teams rel­e­gated from the Pre­mier League have un­der­gone painful changes as they try to bounce back at the first at­tempt.

Garry Monk’s £30 mil­lion in­vest­ment on Jonny How­son, Ash­ley Fletcher and Britt As­som­ba­longa has con­vinced the book­mak­ers Mid­dles­brough are pro­mo­tion favourites in their new man­ager’s first sea­son af­ter leav­ing Leeds.

In con­trast, Sun­der­land are still mired in re­crim­i­na­tions, as Dar­ron Gib­son proved when the for­mer Manch­ester United mid­fielder was filmed in a bar mak­ing a foul-mouthed rant about his team-mates fol­low­ing a friendly thrash­ing against Celtic last week­end.

That blow to squad morale was the last thing new Sun­der­land boss Si­mon Grayson needed ahead of what may be a try­ing year fol­low­ing the de­par­tures of star striker Jer­main De­foe and goal­keeper Jor­dan Pick­ford.

“This is not go­ing to hap­pen overnight with the project we are on. We have to give the sup­port­ers some­thing to cheer about,” Grayson said.

Hull are also un­der new man­age­ment, with Rus­sian Leonid Slut­sky the fas­ci­nat­ing choice to re­place Marco Silva fol­low­ing the Por­tuguese coach’s move to Wat­ford.

Slut­sky has been busy in the trans­fer mar­ket, sign­ing Ola Aina, Fraizer Camp­bell and Michael Hec­tor to off-set the sales of Harry Maguire, Tom Hud­dle­stone and Andy Robert­son.

“We now have a core and that is very im­por­tant,” said Slut­sky, who led CSKA Moscow to the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals in 2010 and also had a spell in charge of Rus­sia.

It is a tes­ta­ment to the Cham­pi­onship’s pulling power that Slut­sky isn’t the only one with Cham­pi­ons League cre­den­tials.

Wolves, whose new boss Nuno Espir­ito Santo won the Cham­pi­ons League un­der Jose Mour­inho at Porto in 2004, have spent a Cham­pi­onship record £15.8 mil­lion on Porto mid­fielder Ruben Neves and also signed Atletico Madrid’s Diogo Jota on a sea­son­long loan.

Harry Red­knapp, who man­aged Tot­ten­ham in Europe’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion, saved Birm­ing­ham from rel­e­ga­tion last term and be­lieves pro­mo­tion is a re­al­is­tic tar­get.

“We’re go­ing to have a go,” he said. “The aim has to be the top six for the sea­son to be a suc­cess.” AFP

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