Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark excited to play alongside new skipper Micah Richards

Trinity Road Stand - Aston Villa

The pair look set to be Tim Sherwood's first-choice centre-backs this term after starting together throughout pre-season.

Ciaran Clark has told AVTV of his excitement at the chance to partner Micah Richards in the heart of the Aston Villa defence this season.

Richards, 27, played almost 250 times for boyhood club Manchester City between 2005 and 2014 but spent last term out on loan at Fiorentina after finding his first-team opportunities limited in recent campaigns.

With his contract expiring this summer, the Birmingham-born stopper opted for a fresh start with Villa and has so far earned glowing reviews from both his new teammates and manager Tim Sherwood.

Already made club captain following Fabian Delph’s shock departure to City, Clark lined up alongside the former England star in five of the team’s six pre-season fixtures and, with the pair now expected to start the weekend’s Premier League opener at Bournemouth, he is looking forward to their first competitive minutes together.

“Micah’s come in with a lot of experience,” said Clark. “He’s played at the top level for City and was on loan at Fiorentina so hopefully he can bring a winning mentality to the team.

“It’s obviously very exciting to line up with such a top class defenders so hopefully over the season I’ll get plenty of chances to do that.”

 2014-15 Premier League PositionTeamErrors Lead To GoalTotal TacklesTackles AccuracyTotal ClearancesHeaders WonHeader SuccessInterceptionsPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Ciaran Clark DF Aston Villa 0 39 87% 200 76 64.96% 47 79% 25 1,991

Villa fans should be looking forward to a potential centre-back partnership between the two as well, not just because of Richards’ experience but also Clark’s impressive form last season.

The Republic of Ireland international began the campaign as the club’s fourth choice centre-half but landed a spot in the starting line-up in November due to defensive injuries and went on to start all but two of the following 26 games.

Earning rave reviews in the process, the homegrown defender was being touted as the favourite for Villa’s player of the year award heading into the run-in but then saw a knee injury suffered in April’s 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur cut his season short.

Nevertheless, he has since made a swift return to the pitch and, having also been handed a new deal until 2020 this week to ward off reported interest from Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion [h/t Sky Sports], is determined to pick up where he left off last term.

“The last few weeks of the season were obviously a downer for me so I was really eager to get back in training,” he told AVTV. “When you’re out injured, it can be quite a lonely place so to get back training was a real buzz for me.

“This season I just want to play as much as possible and hopefully start where I left off before I got injured. Obviously everyone wants to be playing and there’s a lot of completion now for places in the side, so it’s going to be down to hard work every day in training to try to make that position my own.”

Certainly, if Richards can play up to his potential and Clark continues his hugely impressive resurgence then, with Jores Okore, Nathan Baker and Philippe Senderos also waiting in the wings, Villa will have few problems at the back.

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