Leon Bailey has revealed why this pre-season has been so important for him as he battles for a place in the Aston Villa starting line-up this year.
Bailey, 24, was limited to 18 appearances last season due to his injury woes, while he managed to contribute just one goal and two assists as he struggled to secure regular playing time as a result of those fitness issues as well as competition for places.
This year’s pre-season schedule was always going to be vital for him as he looks to reach full fitness and showcase his quality, and he’s done that with three goals this summer while gradually working his way into the starting XI under Steven Gerrard for our clash with Rennes on Saturday.
There will be a big decision for the Villa boss next weekend for our Premier League season opener against Bournemouth as to whether Bailey forms part of our attacking trident, but the Jamaican international is certainly pleased with what he’s managed to do in pre-season and hopes it will be a foundation for him to kick on this year.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to be able to do for the club, I’ll always give 100% anytime I get the chance to do so,” he told VillaTV. “It’s nice to score goals and give assists for the team, but more so pre-season has helped a lot to give me confidence with my body because it was rough due to injury last year. I feel good about this season and I’m looking forward to it.”
Adjusting and adapting to a new environment, squad and league wouldn’t have been easy for Bailey last year, and add the injury issues on top of that, it must have been a difficult year for him.
Having had a solid base to build on in pre-season now though, there are high hopes as to what he can produce this season as with his pace, movement and goal threat, there is no doubt that he adds a crucial different dynamic to Villa’s attack and he will certainly have a role to play under Gerrard.
With Philippe Coutinho, Emiliano Buendia and others battling for a starting place too in the final third, it won’t be easy for Bailey, but whether it’s a starting berth or a role as an impact substitute initially, he’ll be itching to make his mark for Villa this season whenever he gets an opportunity.