Ron Vlaar is a free agent at the end of the season, and was widely expected to leave Villa Park when his contract expires, with clubs like Manchester United rumored to be interested.
That may not happen now, and it’s all thanks to new manager Tim Sherwood.
One of Aston Villa’s most important pieces for the past few seasons, Vlaar has struggled with injuries this season, but he’s still an important part of the squad. He was one of the Premier League’s highest rated defenders last season, and the Dutchman solidified his presence at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, reportedly earning looks from a number of clubs around England.
“Things have changed for me in the past few months since Sherwood took over,” he said. “It’s been a hard season for me with all the injuries. Now I just want to play and be important for the team. This helps – you can trust me on that. I don’t know about my future but to be part of this feels so good, to feel the joy and relief after the West Brom game. So many people came on the pitch. The impact for the fans, how big this club and what it all means. I called my dad and said ‘This really means something’. It’s great. Everything helps.”
The FA has actually charged Aston Villa for that pitch invasion, but it clearly had an impact on Vlaar’s memory.
Villa has struggled to score this year, that’s no secret, but their defense has been solid for a team threatened by relegation so recently. Of the teams in the bottom half of the table, only 12th placed Everton has conceded fewer goals than Villa. With Vlaar in the lineup, Aston Villa has conceded 17 goals in 15 Premier League matches and kept six clean sheets; without him, they’ve let in 28 in 17 games and managed three clean sheets.
But it’s the turnaround under Sherwood that has caused Vlaar to reconsider staying. In eight games under Sherwood since mid February, the club has won three times and collected 10 points. They had won just five times in 25 matches before his appointment, sitting on 22 points and staring relegation square in its ugly, twisted face. The club has shown energy, passion, and life since he showed up, something that was horribly lacking in the slump before.
For the 30-year-old captain to stay at Villa Park would be the mark of a significant turnaround, not just reflective on the table in points, but in the dressing room where a revitalized atmosphere has clearly made its mark on one of the club’s most significant players.