Free-scoring Tom Cleverley repays Tim Sherwood’s loyalty

Aston Villa 1 West Ham 0: Loyalty is a rare commodity in the fickle world of football which makes Tom Cleverley’s apparent desire to repay his rejuvenation at Aston Villa particularly refreshing — especially when more lucrative offers may come his way.

Free-scoring Tom Cleverley repays Tim Sherwood’s loyalty

Cleverley’s contract with Manchester United expires at the end of the campaign which will see him become a free agent shortly after his season-long loan deal at Villa Park concludes.

Everton, Southampton, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have been talked of as future destinations and the 25-year-old’s impressive display in Villa’s win over West Ham United — which saw him net his third goal in as many games — will not have gone unnoticed by his suitors.

Did you know?

Villa have secured back-to-back home victories in the Premier League for the first time in 14 months.

Cleverley did not really catch the eye under the dour approach of ex-Villa manager Paul Lambert, but Tim Sherwood’s ability to coax the best out of him may now have a serious bearing on his future.

“I’ve really got to like playing for this club in the last few months,” Cleverley said. “This manager, you have to give him credit for getting me where I am over the last few weeks.

“I think first and foremost you have to be playing at a club where you fit in. Where you’re playing in the position where you want to play and where you like the manager, the lads. This club ticks those boxes. I’m happy.

“All players have doubts when they’re having a not-so-good patch. I’m no different, but I’ve got my head down and worked hard. With the help of the lads and the new manager I can get back to my best.”

Sherwood joked Cleverley would not feature in the FA Cup final if he did not agree to join Villa on a permanent basis — that he felt comfortable making light of the situation emphasised how at ease the relationship between the pair is.

“We’ll just see what happens,” Cleverley said of talks over a deal with Villa. “First the club have got to offer me something. And then I’ll definitely have a look at it. Those talks haven’t taken place yet.”

Cleverley has been deployed in a more advanced role in recent week and Villa reaped the benefits against the Hammers

Jack Grealish played a key role in the decisive strike just after the half-hour mark when he glided to the byline and cut the ball back for Cleverley to finish from close range.

Another composed defensive display by 18-year-old Reece Burke was the only positive for West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, who saw his side’s struggles in front of goal continue.

“Reece has got in our side because we have two missing, but has taken his chance,” Allardyce said. “When you get your chance in this game you grasp it and for me he’s done a fantastic job.

“We’ve had three games with him and conceded one goal which wasn’t down to him. He’s not made mistakes and has handled things very well.”

ASTON VILLA (4-3-3):

Given 7; Bacuna 6 (Hutton 78), Okore 5, Vlaar 6, Richardson 5; Westwood 6, Cleverley 8, Delph 7; N’Zogbia 5 (Agbonlahor 71, 6), Grealish 8 (Sanchez 90), Benteke 6.

WEST HAM (4-5-1):

Adrian 7; Jenkinson 5, Burke 7, Collins 7, Cresswell 6; Amalfitano 5 (Nene 45, 6), Kouyate 5, Nolan 5 (Song 45, 6), Downing 5, Noble 6 (Cole 78, 6); Valencia 5.

Referee:

Lee Mason

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