Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark reflects on his 'up-and-down' season

The Republic of Ireland defender started the campaign as the club's fourth choice centre-back but ended up proving one of their star performers.

After seeing knee ligament damage cut his 2014-15 season short, Aston Villa centre-back Ciaran Clark has told AVTV that he is determined not to let himself slip out of first-team contention again.

Clark, 25, made 28 total appearances for Villa during the 2013-14 campaign but his inconsistent form prompted former manager Paul Lambert to seek out reinforcements in the transfer market.

With the summer signing of Philippe Senderos, the Republic of Ireland international dropped below the ex-Arsenal defender, Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker in the pecking order heading into last term and was even linked with a loan move elsewhere [h/t Birmingham Mail].

Injuries to all three in November saw him brought back into the starting XI alongside Jores Okore for the 1-1 home draw with Southampton, however, as the former trainee would build on an impressive performance to start all but two of the next 26 games.

Earning rave reviews in the process, the resurgence stopper was being touted as the club’s player of the season going into the final two months of the campaign but, after getting injured in April’s 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur, was forced to watch the rest of the run-in from the sidelines.

He still managed to pick up 18 per cent of the votes to finish in third place for the award behind Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke but was nevertheless left disappointed after missing out on the chance to both help the club to a better league finish and feature in the FA Cup final.

Speaking on his season, he said: “It was an up-and-down season [for me]. At the start of the season I knew that I was fourth or fifth choice centre-half but then, to get my chance when I did and end up playing so many games, I’m obviously very pleased with that.

“I was trying my hardest to avoid the yellow cards leading up to Wembley but obviously got injured and that was another downer.

 2014-15 Premier League PositionTeamErrors Lead To GoalTotal Tackles GAMETackles AccuracyTotal Clearances GAMEHeaders Won GAMEAerial Duel SuccessInterceptions GAMEPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Jores Okore DF Aston Villa 0 2.22 75% 6.48 2.09 56.47% 2.83 86% 23 2,009
Ciaran Clark DF Aston Villa 0 1.56 87% 8 3.04 64.96% 1.88 79% 25 1,991
Nathan Baker DF Aston Villa 0 1.27 71% 9.27 3.36 58.73% 1.64 77% 11 763
Philippe Senderos DF Aston Villa 0 0.88 43% 6 0.75 46.15% 1.13 82% 8 632
Ron Vlaar DF Aston Villa 1 0.85 65% 5.75 1.2 52.17% 2.05 82% 20 1,646

“There’s nothing worse than when you’re injured and can’t be involved," he continued. "You wish all the lads well before the game and that’s it – you’ve then just got to pray that we win or get the right result.

“Thankfully, over the last few weeks we managed to pick up a load of points and I think myself and everyone else are just buzzing that we’ll be in the Premier League next season.”

Now rehabbing his knee, Clark is hoping to be fit to reclaim his place in the line-up come the start of next season but it remains to be seen what competition he will face.

While soon-to-be free agent Vlaar’s Villa future remains up in the air, Okore, Baker and the fit-again Senderos all impressed when on the pitch last term, while Sherwood could well bring in other options.

However, he believes that he made enough of an impression following the new manager’s arrival to ensure that he remains in the starting equation ahead of the 2015-16 campaign.

“I was playing in the team at the right time when the new manager came in,” added Clark. “You always need to be playing so they can see what you’ve got, but it was also about training well and showing them your personality.

“I feel I’ve done that and hopefully, if I can get myself fit for the start of next season, next season will be just as good for me.”

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