Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard was full of praise for Leon Bailey after he led our fight back against Man Utd in Perth on Saturday.
Bailey came on at half-time with Villa 2-0 down after a disappointing first-half performance, and he wasted no time in stamping his mark on the game.
The 24-year-old immediately raised the intensity and urgency in our play with his work off the ball, and that helped set the tone for the rest of the half as we started to apply more and more pressure on Man Utd.
His impact was capped off with a brilliant solo goal as his run and finish made it 2-1, while his pace, movement and desire was a key factor in our ability to turn things around and eventually secure a 2-2 draw.
Unsurprisingly, Gerrard was delighted with what he saw from Bailey, and he was complimentary of him in general in terms of how he’s performed since returning for pre-season this summer.
“It was more than an impact,” he told VillaTV. “He changed the game, he showed energy, he showed speed, a hunger to cause problems and he’s come back in pre-season a different player.
“Not just from a technical point of view – his demeanour, his body language. I think he’s trusting his body more, so we need to keep him healthy.
“So far, for Leon, he’s sending me a massive signal that he wants to be in the 11, so he needs a strong two weeks.”
The key thing now is that Gerrard backs those words up and gives Bailey more opportunities to impress and build on this.
It’s all well and good praising players publicly, but if we just return to others who have struggled to produce in pre-season and continue to leave the likes of Bailey, Emiliano Buendia and Cameron Archer on the bench, then it’s questionable as to what message that ultimately sends to the squad.
Bailey has done his part, and importantly he’ll have to continue to do so in the next two weeks as we wrap up our preparations for the new season, but time will tell if the Villa boss is ready to shuffle his deck and give others a chance off the back of pre-season performances or if he’ll stick with those that he perhaps trusts more who have shown it previously over a longer period.