Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Jores Okore and interim manager Eric Black have had a bust up, and Okore is apparently refusing to play again this season.
Freelance journalist Ben Dinnery Tweeted the following:
Jores Okore will train with the Under-21s for the remainder of the season. Refused to play again in 2015/16. #AVFC— Ben Dinnery (@BenDinnery) April 22, 2016
This all stems from Aston Villa's 2-1 loss against Bournemouth from a couple of weeks ago, before which Okore refused a place on the substitutes bench, with Joleon Lescott and Ciaran Clark starting. Incidentally, this would explain why Kevin Toner found himself on the bench.
Caretaker manager Eric Black has had his say on the issue too. Speaking ahead of tomorrow's game against Southampton, he said:
"Jores trained pretty well ahead of the Bournemouth game. I spoke to him at the start of the week and he responded well.
"Then when I announced he wasn't in the starting XI and wanted to work with them on the Friday he came to me afterwards and told me he didn't want to be on the bench.
"He didn't feel right to be on the bench - I found that strange.
"At that point he wasn't involved in the group - I didn't want him in the group if he didn't want to be involved on the bench.
"I then gave him the weekend to think about it and reflect. I spoke to him again on the Monday to see if he had changed his views on that and he just confirmed that he didn't want to play again and didn't want to be involved again, which I must admit I find very surprising.
"At that point I couldn't dream of bringing him into the group because I only want people there who want to play."
Now, I can see both sides of the argument, and both Black and Okore raise valid points.
If I was Okore, who turned down Chelsea to sign for Villa, with the promise of first team football, I would be LIVID if Joleon Lescott was starting ahead of me. Going from being one of Europe's top prospects to being seen as understudy to West Brom's trash in Lescott.
BUT, his attitude sucks. Okore has spoken out before, and I suspect that he has an agent in his ear feeding him with frustration. He is a professional, and is being paid to do what his manager says, so it's quite disrespectful to both Black, the club and the fans that he has chosen to take this course of action.
Based on Okore's attitude, Eric Black is right to drop him. But, there is no way that it should have come to this. Look at this stat:
#AVFC in 12 matches started by Jores Okore: 2W, 5D, 5L (11 pts)— Alex Carson (@crashcarson15) April 22, 2016
In 22 matches not started by Okore: 1W, 2D, 19 L (5 pts)
This club, man.
Jores Okore brings so much more to the lineup than Lescott, more than Clark too, though those two have previously worked well together and thus, should absolutely be the starting defensive duo. This situation has escalated in the way it has thanks to management failings, from both Black and his predecessors.
Regardless of who is at fault, the fans are the losers here. The club descends further into farce, and it looks like one of our most exciting prospects will be on his way out of Villa Park. And it was totally preventable.