Bad eggs? No, Vil­lare­quire time to gel

The Football League Paper - - GUY BRANSTON -

SO SOME­THING’S rot­ten at As­ton Villa? Play­ers on good money with bad at­ti­tudes? Sorry, but I just don’t see any of that. First up, you can’t knock Steve Bruce. He’s got teams out of the Cham­pi­onship many, many times.

Ad­mit­tedly, he’s al­ways had a bud­get that al­lowed him to do that. He’s never been at a Rother­ham or Bur­ton, strug­gling with a £1m trans­fer kitty. But the facts speak for them­selves: if you give Bru­cie the read­ies, he’ll get you up.

His prob­lem – and Villa’s – is the raft of Jan­uary sign­ings.

Bru­cie bought six play­ers in the last win­dow, tak­ing the club’s to­tal spend­ing this sea­son beyond £75m.

They haven’t signed bad play­ers. They haven’t signed in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers. They’ve signed top-qual­ity play­ers who know the Cham­pi­onship and have al­ways per­formed.

Peo­ple like Henri Lans­bury, Scott Ho­gan and my old Ply­mouth team-mate Conor Houri­hane, a top player and a top bloke.

But every­body needs time to set­tle, re­gard­less of how much they cost. Learn­ing to play with each other isn’t a quick process.

Conor is only go­ing to play the ball for­ward if Jonathan Kod­jia makes the run. Oth­er­wise, he’ll keep the ball. At the same time, Kod­jia’s only go­ing to make the run if he thinks Conor will see him. That mu­tual trust and un­der­stand­ing can only come by train­ing, play­ing prac­tice matches, play­ing games. It’s why I get so frus­trated when I hear man­agers say­ing how play­ers need rest. What a load of b ***** ks that is.

You know who calls for rest? For­eign coaches and play­ers who’ve never known the in­ten­sity Bri­tish play­ers are used to.

You ask 95 per cent of lads who played the game if they were tired and they’ll all say no.

They loved play­ing games and they’d rather play three times a week than train. Look how often ten­nis play­ers play dur­ing a Grand Slam – ev­ery two days, four hours at a time.

Smarter

I’ll tell you who needs a rest. The high-end, in­ter­na­tional play­ers. Some of them play 60 games a sea­son and that’s a lot.

But you look what hap­pens to the rest of them dur­ing an in­ter­na­tional break. You’ve got play­ers tak­ing long-haul flights to Dubai, go­ing to par­ties, get­ting steam­ing at clubs. Is that rest­ing?

Too many peo­ple are try­ing to re-in­vent foot­ball. Ev­ery sin­gle year, there’s a new idea. But foot­ball is a sim­ple game. Your lads have got to beat their 11 lads. They’ve got to work harder and play smarter. A bit of tweak­ing, a bit of tac­tics. But that’s it. Too much of sports science is bulls***. It just gives play­ers and man­agers ex­cuses to hide be­hind. The more you play to­gether, the bet­ter you get. I’ve seen a statis­tic that says the av­er­age player now has ten train­ing ses­sions for ev­ery game played. That’s not enough time on the pitch. The only way to sync as a team is more matches, more prac­tice and game-re­lated ex­er­cises. As­ton Villa are a case in point. They’re not a bad team. They’re a very good team who haven’t synched. You see that team-sheet as an op­po­nent and you think ‘Wow, look who we’re up against’. So you go out ap­pre­hen­sive, but within ten min­utes you re­alise Villa have no co­he­sion and say ‘Hang on lads, th­ese aren’t that good’. Un­til they synch, that’s what will hap­pen, no mat­ter how good play­ers are. But when they do get their act to­gether, and re­cent re­sults sug­gest it’s start­ing to hap­pen, Villa will be a for­mi­da­ble force. This time next sea­son, they’ll be up there.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

RADAR BLIP: Conor Houri­hane will soon get to pick out Jonathan Kod­jia’s runs

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