The announcement came through last week that Micah Richards has signed a four-year deal with midlands club Aston Villa which will come into effect on expiry of his Manchester City contract on 1st July.
Initially this appeared to be an excellent coup for the club, symbolising a good signing from owners still shrouded under a takeover saga. But is he a player that Villa need? Is Aston Villa really a club that can accommodate his lofty ambitions?
This is a player who had clung on desperately to his Manchester City status, turning down several moves in the last two seasons to try and fight to reclaim a first team place. Having won two Premier League titles with Manchester City, it seemed for all the world that the full-back wanted to stay.
He was often hindered by expectations that he was going to develop into a commanding centre back. Much of this was down to his build without taking into account his speed, bustling style and willingness to get into attacking areas. He is in serious danger of always being judged by his ‘failure’ to live up to his early potential.
New manager Tim Sherwood commented that “Richards is at his prime.” If this is truly the case then the 13 capped England man needs to be playing games, knowing that his position is safe with the faith of his manager.
It is this desire to work under Tim Sherwood that reportedly convinced Richards to sign for the Midlands club for a reported £65,000-a-week deal, turning down a proposed £90,000-a-week offer from Sunderland.
Villa have made it clear in recent seasons that they aim to sign young British talent. Micah Richards will bring in experience to a defensive line that appears to be losing current captain Ron Vlaar. Sherwood noted that Richards was brought to Villa because of his “winning mentality,” claiming that “he can put his Manchester City hell behind him and force his way back into the England squad.”
This is exactly the type of belief that Sherwood shows in his players, seeming to want to give second chances to stalling performers. There is no doubt that Richards has the quality and desire to force his way back into an England squad, having made his debut back in 2006 at the age of just 18, making him the youngest ever England defender. Sometimes his mentality seems lacking but he genuinely needs to be loved and trusted.
He made the brave move last season to go on loan to Serie A side Fiorentina. Having made only 20 appearances for the Viola, he was not a regular but proved to be a steady hand when called upon. Sadly he will be remembered by the fans for his poor performance against Sevilla in the Europa League. A bad game does not make a bad player and he will be looking forward to showing the Villains what he can do week in week out back in the Premier league.
I expect more from Richards and whilst Villa are a proud club, I expect him to prove himself and climb back up into a top four club. Villa is a big club with a good history, he will cope fine with expectations there.
He should do well under the care of Sherwood and force his way back into International reckoning. The jury may be still out at Villa Park but more signings like this and maybe Villa can climb their way up the table and bring a trophy or two back to the second city in the coming seasons.