Mat Kendrick and Timothy Abraham (amongst others, I am sure) are reporting that Aston Villa midfielder Barry Bannan has returned to training following his arrest and subsequent suspension for drink driving. Depending on his level of fitness, Bannan may be available for this weekend's match against Norwich City. That's good news for a Villa side that looked far better in their last outing against Sunderland but still lacked the creative spark necessary to manage a truly complete attack. Kendrick also notes:
Unless of course they were drunk.
If I'm guessing, I'd say Bannan makes the squad but not the starting XI. If Villa are trailing (because, let's be honest, if the score is tied McLeish isn't going to make an attack-minded substitution) Bannan probably gets in the game, otherwise he'll make his return against Spurs on the 21st. That's what I'd hope to see, in any case; the possibility exists that Bannan is going to be in the doghouse for quite some time. This is the first look we've had at the way McLeish manages these kinds of situations (and hopefully it's the last) so there's no real precedent.
I understand the need to discipline players for these kinds of transgressions. It sends the right message to the fans, but more importantly it's the morally correct thing to do. At a certain point though, you have to acknowledge that the team is being made worse by not including a player of Bannan's caliber. The devil is in finding the correct balance between appropriate discipline and maximizing your team's chances of winning games. So far, a few minor quibbles aside, I think the club and the manager have handled a very difficult and delicate situation quite admirably.
*Full disclosure: I do not know for a fact that Barry Bannan took public transit to the training ground. The possibility that he walked, rode a bicycle or carpooled with a teammate must also be acknowledged.