By Ben Cripps
What no Okore?
As the season begins to kick-in in earnest with now no international break to interrupt the flow of the Premier League until March next year, the burning question on every Villa fan’s lips (apart from where’s the next win coming from?) is, “Where is Jores Okore?”
Now, I for one was very excited by the prospect of seeing the Danish international in our starting line-up week-in-week-out when we signed him before the start of last season. So much so that I made the purchase of last season’s away kit with his name on it. I had been expecting to be walking around wearing his name proudly. Instead, when I’m wearing the shirt out and about, I am questioned on his identity!
How has this happened? Yes, he picked up an unfortunate injury at the beginning of last season which left us with the calamity pair Clark and Baker (who has vastly improved this season) for large parts of the season, causing panic and increased worry amongst the Villa faithful that relegation might beckon. But now the fact is, he’s fit. Yet Baker and even Clark are above him in the centre-back pecking order. Okore is now Villa’s fifth choice in the position, after being seen as the potentially the most important signing of last year’s summer window.
He must be fit, he has revealed himself via social media that he has been playing for Denmark U21s, and it is no secret. It’s as if Lambert doesn’t think we’ll notice. So where on earth is he?!
Every week when the team sheet is unveiled, we all hope more than expect, to see his name at the very least on the bench, but this is a rarity in itself. Instead, Ciaran Clark finds himself in his place, who quite frankly is extremely fortunate to still be at a Premier League club.
Perhaps this is another Helenius situation, we can only hope not, and to be honest, it is most unlikely considering Okore’s recent activity outside of Villa on international duty.
Return of the Jack?
Jack Grealish is another matter. This is slightly more understandable, yet at the same time perplexing. The young Irishman (Englishman?) has featured very few times this season, most notably against Hull where he took an almighty battering but thankfully remained in one piece, as did his beautiful hair.
When he has been on the pitch, we have seen some glimpses of his potential and it has left us wanting more. Some may say it is a sensible move on Lambert’s part, easing him onto the big stage. However, look at Raheem Sterling at Liverpool, you can’t justify that he has not succeeded greatly since his introduction onto the scene at Anfield (same with Michael Owen, back in the day). Why not throw in Jack? It’s not as if Villa have anything else is going on.
Yes, Grealish might be a bit lightweight, but the most frustrating thing for Villa fans is to see him so successful in pre-season and also during midweek for the U-21s, but stunted at Villa Park.
The problem is, as we all know too well, Lambert seems afraid to make big decisions. We have seen this ever since he arrived, with the exception of introducing Brad Guzan ahead of Shay Given. Lambert has always refrained from switching tactics, being incredibly stubborn with his ideas, and refusing to be swayed by the views of the fans.
Sticking with his character, Lambert is certainly not going to be making any rash decisions on Grealish, who is perhaps somewhat distracted by his international decision time dilemma at the moment. It would seem we are going to have to sit back and watch as Lambert continues his policy of sticking to his guns.
After Okore’s recent comment this week, where he stated: “I need to play, so I don’t want to exclude anything when it comes to the coming transfer window.” All we can hope is that the Dane gets his place back in the team and doesn’t leave in January .
Personally, I’m desperate to hear something from the club on the situation, but like everything with the club nowadays, it is in hope rather than expectation. UTV
Follow Ben Cripps on Twitter – @BWC_19