The news today that fitness coach Robert Duverne is returning to Aston Villa from Metz, judging by his previous time at the club, conjures up an image of the Grim Reaper slowly making his way to Villa Park.
Duverne was Gerard Houllier’s fitness coach and his extreme fitness double-sessions seemed to coincide with Bodymour Heath’s sick bay working over-time. Stiliyan Petrov, Emile Heskey, John Carew, Gabby Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph all had time on the sidelines, and at times Villa’s injury list reached comic proportions.
When Manchester United visited Villa Park in November 2010, Villa were down to such bare bones that a 21-year-old Jonathan Hogg had to make his debut in the midfield alongside a 20-year-old Barry Bannan. The Villa bench, bar Brad Guzan, was entirely made up from the youth team, featuring Lichaj, Lowry, Osbourne, Herd, Johnson and Delfounesco (ironically, the line-up produced one of the best Villa performances of at least the last decade in an epic 2-2 tussle, which Villa should have won by half-time – a 20-year-old Marc Albrighton was immense on the day).
Villa’s seemingly constant injury crisis under Houllier had the press pointing the finger at the French fitness coach’s regime. What was Duverne doing to our team?!
It swiftly became apparent that the players were too keen on the French fitness coach’s methods either. Later in the season, Duverne was at the centre of a flare-up at the club involving Richard Dunne and James Collins, who questioned his techniques in view of Villa’s injury list.
The French fitness coach had previous after being caught up in France’s shambolic 2010 World Cup fallout in South Africa after his bust-up with Patrice Evra.
While not knowing the ins and outs of Duverne’s character, his return does throw up a question mark or two. A lot has been made of the fitness of the new players (especially those from the French league) and their lack of a proper preseason (maybe we should have signed them earlier?). It was made very public that ex-Villa boss Sherwood had them doing double sessions, but while we see the likes of Veretout, Gil and Traore in the club’s pictures playing games in midweek training sessions, they still don’t seem to be deemed fit enough to start matches.
The fitness situation and the impact that Duverne has on his return to the club is certainly an interesting subplot to keep your eyes on.
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