Crippling News for Aston Villa With Return of Familiar Face?

The news today that fitness coach Robert Duverne is returning to Aston Villa from Metz, judging by his previous time at the club, conjures up an image of the Grim Reaper slowly making his way to Villa Park.

Duverne was Gerard Houllier’s fitness coach and his extreme fitness double-sessions seemed to coincide with Bodymour Heath’s sick bay working over-time. Stiliyan Petrov, Emile Heskey, John Carew, Gabby Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph all had time on the sidelines, and at times Villa’s injury list reached comic proportions.

When Manchester United visited Villa Park in November 2010, Villa were down to such bare bones that a 21-year-old Jonathan Hogg had to make his debut in the midfield alongside a 20-year-old Barry Bannan. The Villa bench, bar Brad Guzan, was entirely made up from the youth team, featuring Lichaj, Lowry, Osbourne, Herd, Johnson and Delfounesco (ironically, the line-up produced one of the best Villa performances of at least the last decade in an epic 2-2 tussle, which Villa should have won by half-time – a 20-year-old Marc Albrighton was immense on the day).

Villa’s seemingly constant injury crisis under Houllier had the press pointing the finger at the French fitness coach’s regime. What was Duverne doing to our team?!

It swiftly became apparent that the players were too keen on the French fitness coach’s methods either. Later in the season, Duverne was at the centre of a flare-up at the club involving Richard Dunne and James Collins, who questioned his techniques in view of Villa’s injury list.

The French fitness coach had previous after being caught up in France’s shambolic 2010 World Cup fallout in South Africa after his bust-up with Patrice Evra.

While not knowing the ins and outs of Duverne’s character, his return does throw up a question mark or two. A lot has been made of the fitness of the new players (especially those from the French league) and their lack of a proper preseason (maybe we should have signed them earlier?). It was made very public that ex-Villa boss Sherwood had them doing double sessions, but while we see the likes of Veretout, Gil and Traore in the club’s pictures playing games in midweek training sessions, they still don’t seem to be deemed fit enough to start matches.

The fitness situation and the impact that Duverne has on his return to the club is certainly an interesting subplot to keep your eyes on.


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  1. Being a life long villa fan and a season ticket holder over three decades till i retired and became a expat i live in the sun and i watch every villa match live. we could not wait to get rid of Deadly but he loved our club and kept us ticking along.The one thing i noticed time after time while watching the matches that Sherwood and his right hand man sat as far away from each other on the bench as possible on match days if fact the only time i saw Wilkins speak at all was to have a joke with the Chelsea bench when we played Chelsea that confirmed to me we had no management team. Good luck to new set up i say you cant do much worse than the last three managers.

  2. I welcome Duverne, He only broke the weak it could be said. Either in mind or body. Not a bad thing. Also it has been a long time since I have seen Villa play football like they did under Gerard.. Vive la France.

  3. Health and fitness is important but different players need different levels of training , & “God” would never have played at Villa if subjected to the sort of training it is suggested Duverne expects players to perform . There has to be a balance between too much & too little training but also a lot of fans don’t understand the term “horses for courses” and how it can apply to footie players . Of course you need grafters in a team but you also need players of skill , and for a team to be successful the balance needs to be correct
    As for what players Villa has I suspect many fans would select the team on who the favourite players are rather than who will perform best as part of a Villa team . Westwood get’s a lot of stick from fans , and I agree he is a wimp but contrary the view of many he would perform a lot better in a better team as he has the skill if not the strength to perform well .
    But the reverse could be said of Dunne who as mentioned was one who fell out with Duverne durring his previous time at Villa . Yes Dunne had his fans but I was not one of them as I saw him as one who contributed little to the overall team effort yet did just enough to earn fans praise whilest allowing his fellow defenders to earn criticism
    As for players being on the treatment tables a lot during Duverne’s last time at Villa was that because of his training methods or because his training methods highlighted injury/fitness issues that needed sorting ? Hopefully it was the later and perhaps we can get players with niggling injuries sorted and performing 110%

  4. But then again, does that mean Garde won’t pick Gil, as it was presumed from Sherwood’s reason for omitting him from the team, was because of the way he trained (implying lack of effort I suppose?). I thought that the only reason that Gabby and N’Zogbia got picked last season was because they ‘trained well’. Duverne certainly caused morale problems with the French national team in 2010, and that was with a bunch of talented players whom I assume were picked for their good performances throughout the season, and then Duverne trains them too hard!!

    No point it training talented players to exhaustion, whilst donkeys who can put up with the extra workload then get picked to play.

    • Never got the training well thing, is that politalk for licks managers rear? Picking a team on how well they play now that seems more logical. And somehow NDog doesn’t quite tick that box. Paul McGrath, Legend. on the other hand didn’t train at all unless it was in gutter lining and he drank that box and pee’d gold.

  5. It’s been a very long time since a Villa team could compete for 90 minutes. If we the fans know this, the opposition’s well aware. Teams know to give us a grilling in the last 10 to 15 minutes, we always break down.

    Don’t know about the efforts of this coach previously, but seriously how can things get worse if the teams fitter.

  6. Well its mostly not the same players now anyway but you seem to be confusing his work methods with his, er, man-management skills which created the same effect with the French team, which bodes ill, No good being fit if they;re on strike, eh ? With Evra being a Scum player presumably no fitness questions there (although, frankly, Evra was a right little slag. There is no n-word in Castellano. Although there is in Portuguese –

    Meanwhile KMac explained the absence of Gana and Adama at Spuds as due to them being “tired”. Well that’s either because the club over-trained them or didn’t train them enough for the last TWO months.

  7. Well said you lot, brains finally being shown by some supporters! And not a hint of ‘if championship manager has shown me anything it’s’ type uselessness. We do indeed need to rid ourselves of this soft touch we show every opposition, it can’t just be the villa fans that have noticed

  8. Absolutely right the players were running through treacle in the last ten minutes of the Spurs match. New hope eh gents.

  9. I agree with Son Lyme. The club is a soft touch and no one can have missed the fact we concede goals in the last 10 minutes. If Matches lasted 60 minutes we would be laughing.

    This is part of the French revolution Lerner started with Houllier and then went wrong. Its time that we at least competed in terms of fitness. The players should be running as hard after 95 minutes as after 5. Ferguson ;s teams always did.

    trevor fisher

    • I agree with the both of you. These players need some discipline and a kick up the backside to have any chance of getting Villa to safety this season.

  10. The fat, the slow, and the lazy will no doubt begin to grumble, but that Garde has appointed him, and Houllier rated him, shows that the problem may not lie so much with Duverne, as with Villa players attitude and professionalism.

    For me, for too long Villa have been paying top money to players who simply wouldn’t cut it in terms of effort or talent at any other top club. Root the shy shift squad out and get some real grafters in – same in every company – some do the graft while others duck and grumble.

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