Bad eggs? No, Villarequire time to gel
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.
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.
RADAR BLIP: Conor Hourihane will soon get to pick out Jonathan Kodjia’s runs