"I have always believed in myself" - Robert Snodgrass on getting back to his best at Aston Villa
You can’t change the past, Robert Snodgrass doesn’t need telling that.
You can’t help but wonder, though, just how much his recent history is providing motivation for the present.
It feels a long 12 months since Snodgrass joined West Ham from Hull, in a £10million move. The Scot was hot property, having scored nine goals for the Tigers during the first-half of the Premier League campaign. Yet less than eight months and only seven starts later, he was back in the Championship, on loan at Villa.
“People forget the first part of last season I scored nine goals in the Premier League,” he says.
“Then you get a £10million move, things don’t work out and it is like ‘he can’t do it’.
“But you don’t become a bad player overnight. You just need to keep believing.
“When you start to lose confidence in yourself. That’s when you should start to get worried.
“I have always believed in myself, I’ve score more than 100 goals in my career playing as a midfielder.
“That’s a good record and it is one I pride myself on. I have always chipped in, creating goals for my team-mates.”
Just as opinions can quickly change, so can fortunes.
Snodgrass admits his loan spell at Villa hasn’t always been plain sailing. There is no disputing, however, that in recent weeks he has been among those at the vanguard of the team’s transformation.
Four straight wins have brought Steve Bruce’s men roaring back into the automatic promotion mix and Snodgrass has contributed three goals and two assists during the run, taking his tally for the season in both columns to five and eight respectively.
It all adds to the sense that, a year on, he is back near the form which made him a £10million player in first place.
“It’s been difficult at certain stages. The start of the season was tough,” he said.
“I missed the first eight games or so, never really had much of a pre-season. It’s hard. It does probably take five to ten games to get in the swing of things.
“Then there is moving club as well. I’ve come in and got on well with everyone involved.
“Everyone knows one thing – that I am honest as the day is long. Even when things haven’t gone well you still have to work hard, do it for your team-mates.
“It is the games like Barnsley where it pays off. It’s all about working, organising, try and get things right for your team-mates.”
Getting Snodgrass to talk about himself is no easy task, such is his desire to stress the importance of the team in any successful promotion effort.
His reflex reaction when asked to sum up Villa’s home win over Barnsley is to express delight at Scott Hogan’s two goals.
“Scott’s worked so hard. He’s always willing to run,” he smiles.
It is easy to see why he is so popular in the dressing room and why Bruce, who had Snodgrass in his team when Hull won promotion two seasons ago, was so keen to get his former charge on board last summer.
The Villa boss saw first hand the depths of the winger’s determination and spirit when, after suffering a serious knee injury on his Hull debut in 2014, Snodgrass battled through 16 long months of painstaking recovery, before returning to play a full part in the second half of the 2015-16 campaign.
Ahmed Elmohamady, another member of the Hull team now at Villa, recently described Snodgrass as “the funniest man you will ever meet”.
At a club where the pressure can often feel all-consuming, such characters can be important.
“It’s important you can switch off every now and again, get the boys smiling,” says Snodgrass.
“The lads who hadn’t played with me, now they know what I’m like. I’m always trying to get them right but once I cross the white line, I’m working.
“They know where they are at with me.
“Sometimes it doesn’t come off (on the pitch). But when it does come off, I am here to score goals and create goals.
“You need to work hard for your team. I know I keep going on about it but that is the key to success for me. You want lads who put their bodies on the line, don’t think about themselves but the team.”
There is no question the team has been working fine these past few games. Jack Grealish’s ability to bring others into the game, along with the wing presence of Snodgrass and Albert Adomah means Villa’s starting XI looks more balanced than it has done for several years.
In the Championship, such organisation is enough to give you a shot. To claim second place Villa must still see off a number of rivals, who will fancy their own chances just as much.
Yet a challenge which once looked daunting now appears achievable. For the players, if Snodgrass is to be believed, it has also become enjoyable.
“This is exactly what the game is all about,” he said. “You can see now there are lads on the pitch who enjoy having the ball. Sometimes we don’t like letting it go! That is when you know you have a team with confidence.
“You have to give the manager and his team so much praise. They are the ones who have identified certain things and fixed it.
“They have got us playing with an organisation. You can have the best players in the world but if they are not working hard, what is the point? We’ve got the right characters here.”