Rookie defender Ciaran Clark is working hard to earn a spot in Villa’s central defence, but it’s not easy, he tells Mat Kendrick.
Ciaran Clark admits he has plenty of room for improvement to force his way into Aston Villa’s first choice backline.
Clark has had to play a patient waiting game since making an impressive first-team debut in the August home victory over Fulham.
Since then, the 20-year-old’s opportunities have been limited with Villa signing experienced duo Richard Dunne and James Collins.
Carlos Cuellar is also ahead of him in the pecking order with Curtis Davies closing in on a return from a medium-term injury lay-off.
However, Clark insists the competition for places in Martin O’Neill’s squad has prompted him to work even harder at his game.
The former England under-19 captain is predominantly left-footed and admits he is practising to improve his weaker right foot.
“Luckily my reading of the game is always something that has come quite naturally to me,” he said. “As a young defender you’re always learning, but obviously the more experienced you get and the more you play with and against quality players in the Premier League, then it’s also an area of your game that’s going to improve.
“I’d probably say my right foot is not the best at the moment. That said, having a decent left foot can be a pretty big advantage in the English game.
“There’s a few left-sided defenders about but not too many.
“When you have got a weaker foot you just have to put in the hours to try and improve, so it’s something I’m constantly working on in training, which hopefully shows when I go out on the pitch.”
Clark has made great strides since suffering a six-month lay-off after breaking his leg for Villa’s under-16s several years ago.
Training alongside the club’s senior professionals on a daily basis has demonstrated the level to which he must consistently aspire.
“I played with Stiliyan Petrov in the game against Fulham and train with him every day,” said Clark. “He’s a quality player. His vision and pace have given us a real edge.
“His communication is top drawer as well. He talks to you during the game which can be a real help as a young player.
“John Carew in training is a nightmare. He’s an awkward kind of player. He holds the ball up and brings others into the game.
‘‘He’s got a great touch for such a big player as well. He’s a real handful.”