Ezri Konsa was forged at the same youth club as Sol Campbell and Ledley King and credits John Terry for his emergence as Aston Villa’s bedrock… surely it is only a matter of time before the young defender get his Three Lions call up
- Ezri Konsa has flourished into Aston Villa’s bedrock at the back this season
- The defender has become undroppable to Dean Smith with strong displays
- With Tyrone Mings, the duo have the third-best defensive record in the league
- Konsa credits John Terry for his rise from £12m outcast to a top centre half
- Dean Smith says Mings and Konsa are England’s future, a call up won’t be far off
Sol Campbell, John Terry and Ledley King would ensure healthy competition for central defensive places if legendary London youth club Senrab ever decided to run a veterans team – and they will soon be facing stiff competition from Ezri Konsa.
The Aston Villa player is rapidly emerging as one of the best young centre-backs in the country and is an outside bet to make a late run into the England squad for Euro 2020.
With Konsa and Tyrone Mings at the heart of their back line, Villa have conceded only 28 goals in the Premier League this term – the third-best record in the division, after Manchester City and Chelsea. To put that into perspective, after 27 games of the 2019-20 campaign, Villa’s defence had been breached 52 times, more than any of their rivals’.
Ezri Konsa has emerged as Dean Smith’s go-to defender at Aston Villa this top flight campaign
Yet Konsa’s rise should be no surprise when his first steps on the football ladder are considered. Senrab, based in east London, is a true talent factory for the top level of English football. Along with Campbell, Terry and King, Ray Wilkins, Jermain Defoe, Lee Bowyer and Bobby Zamora also played there. According to their website, Senrab have helped 18 players achieve full international status.
Before too long, that number will be 19. As long as he stays healthy, it is surely a matter of when, not if, Konsa will step into Gareth Southgate’s squad – and he will have another Senrab old boy to thank when he does so.
Terry is part of Villa boss Dean Smith’s coaching staff and has played a key role in Konsa’s progress, particularly during the spring lockdown when football was paused for three months.
Konsa came through the same legendary youth club as Sol Campbell (L) and Ledley King (R)
The 23-year-old earned a run in the side late last season and helped keep the Villans up
‘John and I have been doing a lot of one-to-one sessions before training, after matchdays, watching my clips,’ the 23-year-old told talkSPORT in April.
‘I’ve been asking him questions on what I need to do to improve, what I need to do to stay at the highest level and maintain a good mentality. After watching my clips with him, his main advice is to train hard, keep your training standards high and it will come back on the pitch.’
Terry followed that advice with regular Zoom calls during football’s suspension, when he and Konsa would study examples of the art of central defending and the former Chelsea and England captain would add his own input.
Those close to Konsa also say he developed a new focus during lockdown. Having failed to gain a regular place in the starting XI since his £12million move from Brentford, Konsa realised he had the chance to become a key man under Dean Smith, who had also signed him at Griffin Park. He redoubled his efforts, working hard on his own fitness to ensure he was in ideal shape whenever football resumed.
Konsa has made himself undroppable, helping Villa keep the third-best defensive record
The Englishman credits coach John Terry for helping him develop during last year’s lockdown
The former Chelsea captain advised Konsa to knuckle down and work hard in training
The results were striking. Konsa was one of Villa’s best players during Project Restart as he produced a series of excellent performances to help Smith’s team avoid relegation by a single point.
He has maintained this form during the current campaign, too. In many ways, Konsa is the prototype of a modern central defender – 6ft tall, athletic, quick and technically sound. He is also working on his leadership qualities and is far more vocal in matches now than during his early days in the top flight.
Smith has been so impressed by both Konsa and Mings that he believes that can continue their understanding in the national side.
‘Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings are a future England pairing, it’s certainly a blossoming relationship,’ said Smith. ‘They have got a great understanding.
Konsa’s form has surely not passed the attention of England manager Gareth Southgate
Mings and Konsa have been labelled England’s defensive future by manager Dean Smith
‘I’ve just seen continual improvement from [Konsa] and a desire to get better. He certainly has the potential to be an England player. Nothing fazes him.
‘Look at the best centre-back this club has ever had, Paul McGrath. He was just very, very good and very effective. The less you see of players like that in a game, the better they’re doing.’
Konsa, who has two years left on his current deal, is part of the group of improving British players who Villa hope will shape their future, and they will be keen to tie him down to a longer contract in the near future. Smith hopes that Konsa, along with Jack Grealish, Mings, John McGinn and Ollie Watkins, can take Villa back into European football.
If they do so, Konsa will have plenty of top-flight experience behind him. Back in April, Konsa admitted he had to ‘pinch himself’ after playing against stars like Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
Before too long, young Premier League strikers may be saying the same about him.
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