Aston Villa’s Commitment Will Breed Results

BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Aston Villa captain John Terry during the Sky Bet Championship match between Burton Albion and Aston Villa at Pirelli Stadium on September 26, 2017 in Burton-upon-Trent, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Aston Villa captain John Terry during the Sky Bet Championship match between Burton Albion and Aston Villa at Pirelli Stadium on September 26, 2017 in Burton-upon-Trent, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images) /
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It is not unfair to say that Aston Villa clung onto a point at the weekend. Millwall posed a larger challenge than perhaps was expected.  The season is long and naturally, the squad will have off days. In my opinion, Saturday was one of those days. The most important thing is the way that the squad reacts to bad days. That does not necessarily mean the next week but during the actual off-day. At the weekend, the team demonstrated their commitment.

The fact is that the team would have won at the weekend if they truly coped with having an off-day. However, the signs do suggest that the team is moving in the right direction. Frankly, we would have lost that game last season based on our performance. Here is the evidence that this team is improving. We begin by taking a trip with the Ghost of Christmas Past to the 9th January 2016. A trip to Wycombe Wanderers in the Third Round of the FA Cup saw us only manage a 1-1 draw. However, that day was made famous by Villa fans confronting then-skipper Micah Richards.

“Where’s the passion?” the supporter is heard asking. No such lack of passion can be found at the club now.

Here’s the passion…

In fact, the players’ commitment seeps all the way from the top of the squad. I had my reservations about John Terry in the summer. Particularly, the FFP restrictions, which have been so prominently spoken about since the summer, troubled me. I, as well as a number of Villa fans, have been proven wrong.

The video was posted on the skipper’s Instagram account before the game last weekend. Not only does the training demonstrate his willingness to get back to full fitness as soon as possible, but also his presence on matchday despite being unavailable for selection exhibits a commitment to the squad. Fans will remember reports of injured players being spotted shopping in Birmingham in times gone by. Despite his flaws, JT is a born leader and really has planted the seed of this ‘winning-mentality’, or more importantly in my view, a general ‘commitment’ to the club.

On The Field

Two performances particularly highlighted this new attitude amongst the squad at the weekend- those of Sam Johnstone and Jack Grealish. Beginning with our loanee goalkeeper, I doubt anyone will deny that Johnstone ensured we even secured a point. Several times, Millwall tore our defence apart with impressively quick counter-attacking football. Nevertheless, the keeper stood firm and made some equally impressive saves.

Despite some questioning him upon signing for the club, Johnstone performs well frequently and has contributed to nine clean sheets this season. Whoscored ‘s rating of 6.78 perhaps does not do him justice. His consistency highlights one aspect of commitment which is formed through form and a continued endeavour to perform well for his side.

Jack The Lad

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – JULY 29: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa during the pre season friendly match between Aston Villa and Watford at Villa Park on July 29, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – JULY 29: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa during the pre season friendly match between Aston Villa and Watford at Villa Park on July 29, 2017 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images) /

It is the performance of Jack Grealish, nevertheless, which really brought home to me how committed this side is to doing well this year. Since his perfect FA Cup semi-final outing against Liverpool, a lot of questions have been asked about Grealish’s commitment to the club. Namely, a hotel party lasting until the early hours suggested that the former academy player was distracted.

Conversely, his substitute appearance at the weekend showcased a new dynamic to his game. Around the sixtieth minute, Millwall once again broke quickly, attacking the Villa goal. They managed to penetrate our defence and get the ball into the box where none other than Grealish was on hand to make a vital clearance in the six-yard box. The commitment of a player known for his attacking ability to work back and help the defence demonstrates how he has developed and emphasises his willingness to support the rest of the team instead of simply caring for his individual performance.

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The combination of an experienced leader, an improved performer and a maturing youngster stress the dedication of this squad. Where performance can vary from week-to-week, a sense of commitment to the overall cause can give teams an edge which grinds out results even when the quality desserts them. This has finally given Villa an attitude which denotes that even if they do not win, they can often avoid losing.

Over time, this will finally evolve into that fully-fledged ‘winning mentality’.