Emile Heskey was forced off the pitch after just over 15 minutes of play in Aston Villa's match against Everton on Saturday, having pulled his hamstring. Now, saying I "rejoiced" is probably too strong a word, but let's face it, I wasn't too dismayed to see Ivanhoe coming off and Barry Bannan taking his place.
In general, injuries to Villans are considered bad. The squad is thin already, so losing players even for a couple weeks could very well mean dropping points. If multiple players are injured, that could be a reflection on the training methods used at Bodymoor, and could be a long-term worry over the course of the season. But every once in awhile, there's an injury that actually strengthens the play of the squad.I like Emile Heskey, I really do. But I swear that man has some sort of blackmail on every coach he plays under. How else to explain Emile on the wing, or playing central attacking midfield? It's just wedging him on to the pitch, with no consideration of what Heskey can actually do -- namely, hold up play and be great off the ball.
And the thing is, we have a central attacking midfielder who fits perfectly in the hole behind Darren Bent. But Barry Bannan never sees the pitch until Heskey is pulled off. Why? He was Man of the Match in Scotland's Euro qualifying victory over Lithuania. He's been excellent each time he's come off the bench. But yet little guy can't get a start.
I realize I've sung the praises of Bannan so many times that people probably think it doesn't matter what he does -- he could pull Petrov-style shots all match or spend his time passing backwards or miss a penalty kick and I'd still put him on a pedestal. But even if Bannan isn't a great footballer, he's certainly a very good one, and one that should be starting. His composure and his intelligence make him a vital component of a team that very often forgets things like how the offside rule operates.
Heskey being injured isn't what I want for this team. I'd like him on the bench, or used in certain matches, when we need a 4-4-2. But if Heskey's injury is what it takes to actually put Bannan in the starting XI, well, I'm not going to cry about it.