A highly-paid professional footballer nicknamed ‘Insomnia’, of all people, shouldn’t have required a wake-up call.
Yet that is precisely what Charles N’Zogbia has been given by Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish in a bid to finally raise his dormant claret and blue career from its slumber.
N’Zogbia was unceremoniously dumped out of McLeish’s matchday squad for Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to champions Manchester United and fined for breaching club discipline.
The punishment came after N’Zogbia failed to turn up for a pre-arranged appointment for treatment at Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training complex last week.
It is not the first time N’Zogbia has gone missing for Villa this season. Some critics would argue that the summer signing has been AWOL ever since his £9.5 million arrival from Wigan Athletic in July.
Whether his manager’s hard-line approach will have any effect on his attitude and his performances remains to be seen. N’Zogbia has spoken about burying the hatchet and making amends, but the Villa Park faithful would much rather him bury shots and make chances. His assists and scoring rates in over a dozen games for his new club both remain blank.
“My mind is focussed on preparing for the game on Saturday at Bolton and I will train hard, as normal,” vowed N’Zogbia, who will be in contention for a recall at the Reebok.
“I have spoken to the manager, he has dealt with it and we have no problem. We are in this together, so we just move on. I will work hard to get back in the team.
“I want to show the fans of Aston Villa what I can do for them and for the team and that will be my objective on Saturday.”
Fine sentiments, but the claret and blue brigade will remember similar broken promises when the 25-year-old joined in the close season and their judgment will be reserved until N’Zogbia makes a noticeable contribution on the field during a difficult period for Villa.
There have been suggestions the winger, mischievously dubbed ‘Charles Insomnia’ by one of his former managers, Joe Kinnear, preferred the sleepy backwater of Wigan to the demands of Newcastle United and now Wigan.
With the possible exception of supposedly born-again Stephen Ireland, N’Zogbia has arguably been the biggest let-down for McLeish so far this season.
Purchased to help plug the creativity void left by the departures of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, the French wideman has flattered to deceive on all but a couple of occasions.
With accusations of negative football ringing in the manager’s ears, it is no wonder McLeish is prepared to forgive and forget in the hope of eventually coaxing some much-needed flair from his biggest signing to date.
“Listen, I’ve tried to encourage him at every turn,” explained McLeish. “I’m not a tyrant. It’s not me against Charles or any of my players.
“I try to give them total respect and show them things privately. We don’t disable them in front of the rest of the group. I hope he takes it on the chin. The players know we have club rules and will adhere to them.
“No grudges. I just want to see that boy go to another level, even improve on what he has done before. Charles has to be receptive and realise I want to help him and every player at this club. We need all the help we can get.”
He’s right. Unless ‘Insomnia’ wakes up soon, it will be his under-pressure manager whose sleepless nights continue.