Just two days after Steve Bruce arrived at Aston Villa, Jed Steer injured his Achilles. It was an injury that would see him miss 31 games, 258 days and the rest of the 2016/17 season.
The following campaign, he suffered a dislocated shoulder. Then, in a bid to get back to full fitness in pre-season, he made a horrendous error against Dynamo Dresden.
With the ball rolling towards him on the edge of the area the striker stole in and nicked the ball from him before scoring.
For Steer, it was yet more disappointment and it may have looked as though he’d never truly realise his potential.
Last summer, Bruce signed Atletico Madrid’s Andre Moreira on loan and then Orjan Nyland. As a result, it appeared Steer’s days at the club were numbered.
A host of injuries and the former Villa manager’s lack of faith in the 26-year-old told the tale. A loan spell with Charlton was to follow as he departed the club on a temporary basis for the sixth time since signing for the club in 2013.
Would Steer ever get a chance? It looked unlikely. Yet, after impressing in League One, Dean Smith recalled him over the winter.
Steer started the first game of the new year but Lovre Kalinic’s arrival meant he was shunted down the pecking order again. For the Villa stopper, it must have felt like an all too familiar feeling.
An injury to the Croat meant Steer found himself back in the fold. From that moment, he didn’t look back.
The ‘keeper’s turnaround since Kalinic’s injury is quite something. Even fans at the time weren’t convinced by his abilities, labelling his competition better. Revealing all on the forum Villa Talk, supporters had the following to say:
In recent months, Steer has proved them wrong. His display in the play-off semi-final against West Brom is all the evidence you need.
He’s gone from making a horrendous mistake in pre-season, to being the star of a penalty shoot-out and on the verge of a call-up to the Scottish national team.
His displays have been outstanding and without him they certainly wouldn’t be in the play-off final.
It may be a stretch to say he’s on target to become as good as Shay Given and Brad Friedel were with the club, but his penalty heroics will certainly ensure he goes down in Villa folklore if they return to the promised land of the Premier League.
In many senses, Steer has been the unlikely hero. Cast aside by Bruce, had Smith not walked through the doors last year it’s incredibly unlikely he would have become Villa’s main man between the sticks.
After coming back from two long term injuries, the former Norwich man has never looked stronger.
The ex-England youth international’s career has taken him to the likes of Yeovil, Doncaster and Huddersfield on loan. It’s been a topsy-turvy last six years for Steer but he now seems settled. As a result, he’s reaping the rewards.
He’s made fans eat their words too, because had Nyland or Kalinic been in goal, Villa would probably not be standing 90 minutes away from the top-flight.
To put things into context, before Steer played against QPR in a 2-2 draw at the beginning of the year, he’d made just one league appearance for the Villans. It really is the unlikeliest of stories from the 2018/19 season.
But football has a habit of throwing out things when you least expect it.
When Bruce decided to send him to the Addicks, it looked like his career was destined to be played out at the same level. However, he’s now on the verge of becoming a Premier League player.
It would be richly deserved too. He entered the season as their third choice keeper but his hard work has now made him one of the first names on the team sheet.
Smith has made some phenomenal calls since arriving in the Midlands but recalling Steer is one of his best.
Against Derby next Monday he’ll be key once again, and if he can produce a performance as he did last time out, it could well be Villa celebrating victory at Wembley.