Jores Okore 21 Defender Aston Villa Denmark
2013 has been…
It’s been a mixed year for Danish central defender Jores Okore. With FC Nordsjælland he finished second in the 2012/13 Superliga season, allowing them to enter the Champions League in the third qualifying round. He didn’t stay in Denmark long enough to take part in the Wild Tigers’ hiding at the hands of Zenit St Petersburg, having secured a June transfer to the Premier League, where he joined Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa for an estimated fee of £4m.
Okore might have been playing in England half a season earlier but opted to remain in Denmark instead of taking a reported opportunity to join Chelsea in January. It was against the Blues that Okore really made his name in the Champions League last October. Despite a heavy defeat for his side, Okore’s performance at the back was extremely impressive and demonstrated in one game what he’s all about.
His patience was rewarded in the summer and he quickly felt at home at Villa, a club he said believed in him. “This is going to be good,” he predicted soon after his move, and supporters agreed thanks in large part to a heavily circulated highlights reel from the aforementioned Champions League showcase.
Unfortunately we will have to wait for some time to see Okore’s prediction come to fruition. After easing his way into the new Premier League season he went down with a knee injury against Newcastle United and had anterior cruciate ligament surgery that very probably ended his season.
Lambert has already seen enough to know that Okore will be missed in the Villa defence, where Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker are sharing the burden of turning around a poor defensive record, with some degree of success so far. Okore’s best assets are his speed of thought and foot, best exemplified in his excellent recovery pace and his good reading of the game. But he’s also big and strong, as well as being more than willing to get hurt in the line of duty.
The remainder of the 2013/14 season is about recovery and rehabilitation, and it’s said that Okore is progressing well after his autumn surgery. Martin Laursen, another Danish centre back with experience of knee injuries and a claret and blue bent, is confident that the former Nordsjælland man is in good hands with Villa physio Alan Smith.
The summer break should allow Okore to return to action fresh, fit and ready next August and he’ll be keen to make his mark for club and country. He has played seven times for Denmark since making his debut against Sweden in 2011. Simon Kjær and Daniel Agger offer formidable competition for his place and he did not feature at Euro 2012 despite being in the squad.
If he can get close to fulfilling his potential he’s capable of making one of the centre back positions his own regardless of the fact that the two first choice players have plenty of caps left in their legs. For now, the worry is that he won’t return the same player that instantly won over the Villa supporters, and we won’t know the answer to that for some time.
“We fell for Jores quickly. He’s got all the ability to be a dominant figure at the back for Villa and came into the club with a hugely positive attitude and an infectious smile that offered such a contrast to the last few years. He seemed to be the player that symbolised the turning of a corner and we can’t wait for him to be back with us to prove his worth.” – Chris Nee, Aston Villa Review and IBWM
C- A big step up and a big slice of bad luck, but the potential remains