The New Spine
Signed in the summer for £5million, then-boss Roberto Di Matteo promised big things, adding that he’d be a “tremendous addition to our squad” for this season and beyond. He was even mooted to be part of the new spine of the team, he been anything but.
It’s obvious that Di Matteo’s assistant at the time, Steve Clarke, put Tshibola’s name forward having previously worked with him.
Current Villa boss Steve Bruce, meanwhile, really doesn’t fancy him.
But why? He’s Paul Pogba-esque in stature, impressed heavily during his breakthrough season for Reading and is still only 21 – a good age to really kick on.
Plus, given Villa’s fairly lightweight midfield, you’d think he’d be bossing it at B6.
Tish, though, has made just four starts this season, the last of which was the one-all draw with Wolves in Bruce’s opening game in charge.
His best display was arguably two games prior to that against Newcastle at Villa Park in September, coming off the bench to bag and rescue a point. The midfielder changed the game that day and supporters have been left puzzled ever since as to why he’s not featuring.
In recent weeks, and despite being fit, Tshibola hasn’t even been named in Bruce’s match day squad. He can’t get nowhere near the likes of Ashley Westwood and Gary Gardner and, given how short Villa are in midfield, this is incredibly worrying.
During this wretched spell away from first-team duties, Tish has been getting his minutes for the Under-23 side which is arguably why Bruce can’t really trust him in the heart of Villa’s midfield just yet.
MOMS has scrutinised the former Reading man in the Under-23 fixtures against Celtic and Norwich. In both games Villa’s £5million man was so nondescript that you wouldn’t have known he was a so-called ‘first-teamer’ playing among youth players.
It was alarming how poor he was and, to make matters worse, Steve Bruce was in attendance casting his candid eye over the two games.
Another reason as to why Tish and Villa haven’t hit it off yet could be down to attitude. The 21-year-old has been the pin-up boy at both Hartlepool and Reading, gaining rave reviews from supporters and managers alike.
So, given he’d arrived for a decent fee and lengthy contract, Tish would arguably be expecting to be in amongst the first team and not having to drop down to play youth team football. How has he taken it? Well, only the player himself and those at Bodymoor Heath will know that.
Ten games have passed since Tshibola’s last appearance, which is possibly why his agent has been flouting him around like a pimp would a prostitute in the last few weeks, in a bid to force through a loan move when the window re-opens next month.
Bruce, meanwhile, was asked about the possibility of Tish leaving in January, telling reporters: “Tshibola is supposed to be going here there and everywhere according to his agent.
“He has rang around the clubs saying he’s available for loan, so when the managers ring me and say he’s available I said ‘No’.”
Bruce did, however, admit that his 6ft 3in midfielder has been improving in recent weeks and that he’d been applying himself well in training.
Since arriving in the summer Tish has been a favourite among his teammates in the dressing room, constantly appearing on players’ social media accounts acting and joking around which no doubt boosts morale.
But is he too much of a joker for a hardnosed manager like Bruce, who demands 100 per cent in absolutely everything he does?
Or is this a case of is Tish the real deal? He was in and out of the Reading side last year – making eight starts – before having to undergo a serious hamstring operation in January, thus keeping him out for the remainder of the season.
But has he done enough to warrant a midfield berth for Aston Villa? According to Reading FC supporter blog Hob Nob Anyone?, editor Graham Loader thinks he’s more than up to the challenge, adding that Royals supporters would have him back in a heartbeat.
Speaking to MOMS, Graham said: “I’d definitely have him back. He was real team player and I never saw any issues with attitude.
“I’d expect him to have his best years ahead of him too, which is why the £5million was probably a fair price, still one for the future for me.
“I’m surprised he’s not had more football with you guys. Bruce is getting it wrong. He’s a real Reading product, so perhaps he’d have been better staying put with us.
“The Hartlepool fans raved about him when he went up there on loan though, so I’d be surprised if he was unsettled.
“Solid, decent passer of the ball and rarely made any mistakes.
“Perhaps not the fastest player on the pitch – or so it seemed, but perhaps that’s his style – but he’s creative and knows what’s going on. There’s not much to dislike about him really!”
Maybe there was something for Bruce to dislike about Tish when he first arrived, whether that was attitude or appliance.
But now, and based on comments ahead of the Boxing Day clash with Burton Albion, it all seems to be water under the bridge and that Bruce is maybe willing to give Tshibola a fair crack of the whip going into 2017.
Follow Ash on Twitter – @Ashley_Preece
And thanks to @