Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood should be extremely encouraged by the comments of defender Ciaran Clark on the club’s website where he talks about wanting to be one of the first names the boss turns to on a weekly basis.
Sherwood will need key leaders throughout his side once the new campaign gets underway with Fabian Delph, Ron Vlaar and Christian Benteke all likely to leave big holes in his squad in terms of experience and leadership.
Clark feels he did enough last season to transform his status within the squad, before a knee injury in a match against Tottenham which abruptly halted his progress.
“I want to be one of the very first names on Tim Sherwood's team sheet,” Clark told avfc.co.uk.
“The only way to do that is by working hard in training. It's a simple formula with the gaffer. If you do well, you play. There's no better incentive.”
“I feel last season was a breakthrough one for me. I started it as fifth choice centre-back. I had Philippe, Ron, Nathan and Jores ahead of me but by the time my campaign ended with injury, I had got myself into the team on a regular basis.”
Clark ignoring the easy option
It would be very easy for a younger player like Clark to hide away and sit on the luxury of his contract with one of the biggest clubs in the country.
Sherwood was more than likely planning his side for next season around at least having Delph and Benteke available and what he doesn’t need is more players shying away from the responsibility of stepping forward to provide some leadership in key areas.
It helps the manager because it takes a little bit of pressure away from him because it’s one position or area that the manager then doesn’t have to worry about.
Hopefully other players in the squad can follow Clark’s lead with focus on how they can improve their positions within the club, making the team stronger rather than giving the manager another headache.