Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood issues challenge to Nathan Baker after handing him new deal

Trinity Road Stand - Aston Villa

Sherwood says the 24-year-old defender has all the attributes to become "a top player" but wants him to improve his durability moving forward.

Aston Villa manager Tim Sherwood has told AVTV that he has challenged Nathan Baker to improve his durability after handing the defender a new four-year deal this week.

Baker, 24, has featured 88 times for Villa since rising up the ranks to make his first-team debut in 2011 but injuries have continued to his disrupt his progress over the past few seasons.

The centre-back began last term on the bench after a difficult 2013-14 campaign but found himself deputising for the ailing Ron Vlaar in September’s 1-0 win at Liverpool, when he put in stellar performance alongside new signing Philippe Senderos.

He went on to impress while starting four of the following seven matches but then began suffering recurring knee problems from November onwards which resulted in him making just four further appearances over the rest of the season.

 2014-15 Premier League Errors Lead To GoalTotal Tackles MINSTackle AccuracyTotal Clearances MINSHeaders Won MINSHeader SuccessInterceptions MINSPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Nathan Baker 0 54.5 71% 7.48 20.62 59% 42.39 77% 11 763

With his manager now revamping the Villa squad in his first transfer window in charge, the academy graduate was said to have been the subject of a £2 million bid from Burnley earlier this week [h/t Daily Mail], having entered the final 12 months of his contact.

Sherwood, though, did not want him leaving on a permanent basis after witnessing clear signs of his potential but, having now secured his future to a new long-term deal, stresses that the former England Under-21 international must improve his fitness record if he is wants to become a top Premier League defender.

“We’re delighted for him to re-sign,” Sherwood told AVTV. “I spoke to Nathan and told him I think he’s got all the attributes to be a top player. He need to find some durability in his game because I think the maximum he’s ever started in a season is 18 games, which isn’t enough and he knows that.

“We’re looking to increase that number, get that durability box ticked and then I think he’s got a big future at this football club.

“I think it’s about him mentally realising that his body is capable of playing 35 or 36 games a season and once he gets over that he’ll be fine. He’s still a prospect but, at his age, he probably should be a little but more than that.

“I’ve had a chat with him and he knows he’s been a bit of a slow developer in the mental side of the game. He’s looking to put that right and I’m going to help him with that.

“He loves the football club and we’re not ready to let him go on a permanent basis.”

Nevertheless, Baker still faces a battle to unseat either new arrival Micah Richards or Ciaran Clark from the starting line-up, while the injured Jores Okore is expected to be above him in the pecking order once he returns to full fitness in September.

With Philippe Senderos also at Sherwood’s disposal, it is not out of the question that the former trainee gets loaned out at some stage this season in order to gain regular minutes but, for now, it looks like he will begin the campaign at Villa Park.

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch