[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t has been a summer of major upheaval for Aston Villa – one that has been forced upon them to a significant extent.
The Villa Park faithful have long cried out for owner Randy Lerner to put his hand in his pocket and fund some major transfer business – this time round it has happened but only after arguably the club’s two best players have been sold for a collective £40 million.
Both Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph had their release clauses met by sides with ambitions of grandeur, leaving Tim Sherwood’s men with the potential for falling into disarray.
Despite the blow of losing their key international duo, Villa have come out swinging and added a number of impressive new signings to their contingent.
The arrivals of the likes of Jordan Veretout, Jordan Ayew and others will have the Birmingham-based outfit’s supporters feeling much more positive, but one man that could well be a shrewd acquisition is Micah Richards.
The powerhouse defender has finally left boyhood club Manchester City after 14 years on the outfit’s books, but in truth most would agree that his departure has been long overdue.
The versatile enforcer was rightly being tipped for stardom shortly after making his City debut, with his combination of power, pace and a natural reading of the game instilling belief in most that he would be a stalwart in the England team.
However, after the exit of Steve McClaren from the Three Lions’ hotseat, Richards got short shift, some would say unfairly, from Fabio Capello and should really have more than the 13 England caps that he current has.
A number of excellent years at City were then offset by a couple where injury and a lack of opportunities took their place, with Richards finding that first-team football in a club with ambitions of winning the Premier League is not easy to come by.
Despite the presence of one of City’s most consistent performers, Pablo Zabaleta, blocking his path, the now 27-year-old still contributed to the Etihad Stadium outfit’s first title success in the Premier League era in 2011-12.
Like so many other English players at the club before him and since, Richards then found himself warming the bench and wasting his time, with a loan move to Fiorentina last term doing little to get a stagnating career back on the right path.
However, after leaving City to become a free agent in the summer, the Englishman has agreed to sign for Villa and will surely thrive in a situation where he will play more often than not.
Staying fit is the first challenge for a player that has had his fair share of back luck in recent years, but if can stay available the uncompromising defender should play an important role in Sherwood’s rearguard.
Being comfortable playing at both centre-half and right-back has been a gift and a curse throughout Richards’ career, but the likelihood is that he can tie down a regular berth at the heart of the Villa defence.
The Villa Park outfit have lost the talismanic Ron Vlaar over the summer and as such Richards will be asked to bring all of his experience and influence to a team with a host of new, foreign players.
Most people will be happy just to see this gifted star just back playing regular football, but the defender himself has a point to prove and will be keen to win plaudits once more.
Although the Villa fans will be most keen to see some of the French players that have arrived at the club this summer once the new season starts, free transfer Richards could well be the bargain signing of the summer for Sherwood’s men.
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