Captain Oh Captain: An Ode To James Chester

Footballers sign for clubs, agree long contracts, sometimes they earn themselves an improved contract and then potentially earn themselves moves to other clubs – whilst others fulfil their contract and unfortunately aren’t rewarded for their hard work…  That’s football. James Chester has been a fantastic servant to Aston Villa Football Club and has unfortunately departed the club after an eventful four years at the club and has signed for Stoke City on a free transfer.

James Chester signed for the club during what can only be described as a chaotic period of time at Villa, in their first season in the Championship, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Chester signed from West Brom – in a window in which Villa signed players such as Ross McCormack, Jonathan Kodjia, Mile Jedinak and many more. Signing for roughly £8m, it’s safe to say he will go down as one of the best pieces of business Villa have done this decade.

After dealing with a merry-go-round of managers and centre-half pairings – from Bruce to Baker, Smith to Terry, one thing always remained constant, that was James Chester.

Chester was a truly old-fashioned defender, who would put his body on the line for the club, a dying breed of defender. He amassed 119 appearances in the Championship for Villa – even playing through injury, twice a week when Steve Bruce ran our defenders into the ground. Taking injections before every game to numb the pain, James Chester truly risked it all for our great club. In a world where we see players like Neymar mysteriously get injured before important birthdays, you can’t help but appreciate what Chester did for the club. When it mattered most, he stepped up.

Some players lead, Chester lead by example. His attitude and performances not only saw him gain respect from his fellow teammates, but millions of adoring Villa fans around the world. From epic goal-line clearances to scoring headers from set plays, Chester was the full package.

Footballers are often held in such high esteem, earning hundreds of thousands and living lavish lifestyles, with the limited interactions I’ve personally had with James, I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the man.

Back in summer of 2018, during pre-season Villa played Burton Albion ahead of what would be their final season in the Championship before promotion to the Premier League. After the players finished up their warm-up, Chester came across to the Villa fans and signed a shirt of a fan. Whilst he was doing this, a young girl ran from the terrace to the barrier Chester was sitting on and threw herself at the centre-back.

James had all the time in the world for this adoring fan, he spoke with her and even signed her shirt. Whilst the other players were already in the dressing room preparing for the game, James made a young fans day. For that, I’ve got nothing but respect for the man. It was a truly heart-warming moment to witness.

Villa are a club steeped in truly great defenders, from Paul McGrath to Martin Laursen, Olef Melberg to Allan Evans, James Chester is a man who has most defiantly earned his place among the club’s iconic defenders. I wish Chester nothing but the best as he faces a new challenge with Stoke City. No matter what, I’ve got nothing but admiration for his service to our great club.

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