The on-loan Manchester United midfielder has managed to turn his fortunes around in recent weeks under new boss Tim Sherwood.
Aston Villa midfielder Tom Cleverley has insisted that he never let the criticism he received for his performances earlier in the season faze him, telling AVTV that it’s “part and parcel of being a footballer”.
Having arrived on a season-long loan from Manchester United, Cleverley had a hard time convincing Villa fans of his worth under the since-departed Paul Lambert, with his old manager even forced to refute suggestions that he was being forced to start him due to a clause in the loan agreement.
The England international hit his lowest moment when he was substituted to boos from the Villa Park crowd in last month’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, before being dropped to the bench for the subsequent defeats to Hull and Stoke.
However, since being restored to the line-up by new boss Tim Sherwood, the United loanee has been thriving in a more attacking setup and has managed to win over a sizeable number of his doubters in the process.
Having come to Villa to revive a career which was flagging at Old Trafford, the ups and down of this campaign have provided a major test for Cleverley’s resolve but he believes it’s all been a valuable and much-needed learning experience.
“It’s why I came. I’ve been in the thick of it,” he said. “I’ve been involved in a cup run, in a relegation battle and now we seem to be resurging so hopefully we can fly up the league again and finish the season in a good way.
“It gives you a thick skin. We try to just brush it off but obviously you’d rather be praised than criticised.
“But it’s part and parcel of being a footballer and I’d always want to be in the firing line rather than on the bench, injured or not be a footballer. You’re there to be looked at so you’ve got to take it.”
Out of contract with United in the summer, Villa failed to exercise their £7.5 million option to make Cleverley’s stint permanent this winter but his comments about life under Sherwood suggests he could still be persuaded to re-join the club on a free transfer.
Asked about how much the former Tottenham Hotspur manager has re-energised the squad, he said: “Massively. We do training that I enjoy. It’s more intense and we play a more attacking brand of football.
“It’s going well at the moment – I’m sure there’ll be hard times – but it’s been a good start under the new gaffer.”