Opinion

Johnny v Tommy: Has Elphick Earned his Place?

Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)

“A man must admit when he is wrong to solidify the claim that he is truly a man of his word.”

When John Terry went down to injury on November 4th against Sheffield Wednesday, I hoped for the best just like the rest of you. And when the diagnosis was long term, many like myself expelled a heavy sigh and most likely thought, “What in the hell are Villa going to do now?”

After a few minutes of contemplation rightly so after a shot of whiskey, I started thinking about who was going to replace John Terry in the starting eleven for Aston Villa for the distant future. At the time, Terry was absolutely brilliant. The man is a legend of the game. Those who say otherwise are most likely just miffed that he had such a great career for a club that they didn’t favour. I don’t blame them. Any club in the entire world would do practically anything to have a player like John Terry. That’s not an opinion. That is about as factual as you can get when talking about defenders in football. When the signing of John Terry at Aston Villa happened, it seemed Villa supporters were a little split:

Is he too old?

Does he still have ‘it’?

Why would he put his body on the line for Aston Villa after a career long pledge to Chelsea?

The questions asked were met with answers. The answers came in the form of a 37 year old defender that clearly still felt he had something to prove to himself. Could you imagine? With all of the accolades and all of the trophies and all of the decorations a person could ever want in a football career, John Terry decided that he wanted to help Aston Villa return to the Premier League.

Just think about that for a second.

The answers to the bountiful questions from the lips, minds, and fingertips of avid Aston Villa supporters came fast and heavy. John Terry is still a damn fine defender. I know, I know… it may ‘just’ be the Championship. It may ‘just’ be Aston Villa. But before his injury, Terry slotted into a role of leadership that Aston Villa have not had for a quite a while. Although Terry was a bit clammed up at first for his new club in terms of being vocal on the pitch, he quickly shook it off and was seen screaming with his heart and soul at his teammates in a show of real solidarity. It seemed Terry wanted every single one of his teammates to know that not only was he with them, but they were with him as well.

But, who was going to replace Terry after his long-term injury? Surely not Chris Samba, right? I mean, no disrespect to Big Chris… but comparing the tactical awareness and physique of Samba and John Terry is a lot like comparing a Bugatti to a Mini-Van. One is a well oiled machine that will basically drive itself, while the other will get you to your destination, but you can bet on some questions coming from the backseat. Was Steve Bruce going to try and put Mile Jedinak at the heart of defence once again? Hell, it kind of worked before. It wasn’t pretty last season when Mile had to fill-in, but he did a decent enough job that not a lot of Villans seemed to mind. We all know how it panned out this year with the Aussie filling in, but at the time of John Terry’s injury, it was an option that just had to be considered.

Was Tommy Elphick going to get a sniff of first team action? “Not a chance in hell, Bruce does not fancy Tommy. And he has had some odd errors the games I have seen him play.” That’s a quote from me, by the way. I remember saying this to a friend of mine in a pub watching the very next Villa game after it was confirmed that Terry was out of action for the next six-to-eight weeks. Although Villa won 2-1 over QPR through an Albert Adomah brace with Chris Samba and James Chester as centre-backs. Samba did do a job for Villa and continued to for an extended run. It wasn’t the most attractive job the world has ever seen at the spine of a defence, but Samba did well enough when his number was called.

I am admitting it to the world that I was wrong about Tommy Elphick.
I know what you’re thinking. Tommy Elphick can’t possibly keep John Terry out of the Aston Villa lineup. Steve Bruce himself was asked about the possibility of John Terry not cracking the starting eleven once fully fit. Bruce hit back at the question with, “I’ve been asked some stupid questions in my time, but I’ve never heard anything like that. I was going to swear, but there are ladies in the room.”

Can you blame the manager for having that reaction? Although Tommy Elphick has played his absolute heart and soul for Villa over the past few games with Chris Samba sidelined on top of Terry, where does Elphick fit in to Aston Villa this season? James Chester has been a mainstay, and quite honestly has been underappreciated by a lot of the Villa faithful. Chester goes about his business in a professional way, he always seems to be in position. When he isn’t in position, he runs his socks off in a desperate attempt to seal off whatever the opposition is attempting to do. Chester plays the style of defending that Aston Villa supporters love. Smart, rugged, aware and passionate. You don’t find defenders like that every day and we should all be a little bit more appreciative of the fact that he wears Claret & Blue.

I believe that Tommy Elphick still has a part to play at Aston Villa this season. It may not be in the starting eleven every single game, but he is a very viable option in case something should happen to either Terry or Chester moving forward. You can sense the passion in Elphicks’ game now that he is seeing playing time again. When Bournemouth decided to sell the centre-back to Aston Villa, Cherries fans were devastated. You will still find Bournemouth supporters wishing Elphick nothing but the best and wishing he was still at the club while they sharpen their iron in the Premier League. Elphick may not have the physical stamina of Terry. Elphick might also lack the vision and smarts of Chester. But one thing that Tommy Elphick does have is the best interest of Aston Villa at heart. That is abundantly clear to anyone who has witnessed his transformation of form as of late. It is quite admirable to see a person that was not given a proper chance flourish under certain circumstances. I think Villa would gain a lot more than they would lose by finding ways to include Elphick more than exclude him when John Terry comes back into the Villa fold.

He has earned that right in my eyes.

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One comment

  1. I agree one hundred percent and word for word, that man has put his bodyu on the line for us, no wonder Cherries Fans were gutted, I have watched Tommy play for Bouremouth and he always gives 100%, I hope he gets as many 1st team games as possible we would be in safe hands.

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