James Chester recently left Aston Villa for Stoke City on loan, which could spell the end of his Villa career.
Although, before that happens, it would be remiss not to pay tribute to a man who sacrificed his own career to play through the pain to ensure Villa could compete to make it back into the Premier League from the Championship.
I say the word ‘compete’ because at times through the 1st half of last season, Chester was the only fit senior centre back at the club, which placed enormous pressure on him to perform every week for a team expected to be winning most games.
During this period, Chester picked up an injury, but such was the need for his involvement, he played through the pain for a number of weeks until Tyrone Mings and Kortney Hause were brought in to supplement the defence in late January. Chester then could be taken out of the team and he didn’t play for the rest of the season.
James Chester maintained a strong standard
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His standards rarely slipped while playing through his injury, still leading by example through heart and determination to keep the ball out of the net, illustrated perfectly by his acrobatic clearance from just under the crossbar against Bolton when a goal seemed certain.
He also showed his class when speaking out about having to play for so long while injured, as he didn’t criticize Steve Bruce for leaving Villa short of the required centre back cover needed over a season, despite his presumably inner annoyance at the whole fiasco.
Chester deflated the entire Villa fan base when he revealed that he’s damaged his body indefinitely beyond repair and will need to manage himself very carefully for the rest of his playing days.
The move to Stoke should allow Chester to get some concrete playing time, as he only featured for Villa this season in the cup competitions.
His contract at Villa expires in the summer, but the club has the option of extending for a further year. The answer to the question of whether that option will be taken up will depend on how he performs for Stoke. Can his body tolerate regular games anymore?
It’s rare that news of a bit-part player leaving on loan is greeted with the sort of sadness and emotion that this news brought among the Aston Villa fans, but James Chester is a rare player who’ll be nearly impossible to replace.
Thank you, James Chester.