Jed Steer stays humble after completing journey from forgotten man to Aston Villa hero
It says plenty about the attitude which helped Jed Steer make the jump from Villa’s forgotten man to hero that, even now, he is not taking his place at Wembley for granted.
The 26-year-old will surely be one of the first names on the team sheet, after his penalty shootout heroics helped Dean Smith’s team overcome Albion and book their place in the Championship play-off final for the second year running.
Steer saved from Mason Holgate and Ahmed Hegazi as Villa moved within 90 minutes of a return to the Premier League, keeping alive a season which less than three months ago looked entirely lost.
It has been a transformation perhaps only exceeded in magnitude by that of Steer himself, who spent the first half of the season on loan in League One at Charlton and who had made only two league appearances for Villa in five years, prior to stepping into the team at half-time of the 2-0 defeat to Albion on February 16, when Lovre Kalinic suffered a concussion.
Since then, neither Steer, or Villa, have looked back.
“Football is a funny old game, isn’t it?” he said. “I’ve loved the season I’ve had – it’s been great.
“I enjoyed my time at Charlton. I came back to Villa and sat on the bench for a few games but during that time I thought: ‘It’s time to improve’.
“I was sitting on the bench for a reason so I worked hard. I did extras with the goalkeeper coach, worked in the gym and waited for the opportunity and thankfully it came.
“Then I just tried to stay in the team and win as many games as possible. Thankfully that’s happened and, fingers crossed, I can stay in the team for one more game and be involved at Wembley. That would be great.”
Steer, only recalled when Orjan Nyland suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in late December, could end up with two promotion medals following his exploits with Charlton earlier in the campaign.
Tomorrow night he will watch the Addicks attempt to reach Wembley themselves when they take on Doncaster in the second leg of their League One play-off semi-final. Yet his focus is purely on Villa after a night when all his hard work and dedication paid dividends.
Saving penalties will always require an element of luck. Villa may have shortened those odds, however, thanks to a scientific approach which even extended to Steer handing the ball to their own penalty takers.
Steer and Villa's goalkeeping coach, Neil Cutler, had also studied footage of Newport County's shootout win over Mansfield on Sunday night to get a bid to learn more about a taker's body language.
“Apparently, there’s a study that shows that if the goalkeeper passes the ball to their own player that he has more chance of scoring!” explained Steer. “So that was part of the routine. We’ve done a bit of practicing in training in the last couple of weeks. We knew there was always a chance that the tie could be decided by penalties.
“Of course, it’s not the same because you don’t have loads of people screaming at you, which puts you under that extra bit of pressure. But it gives you a routine and that obviously helped.”
Steer was seen staring at Holgate as the pair walked to the spot before the shootout but claims he did not speak to any of Albion’s takers.
“I just went off body language really,” he said. “At the end of the day, the odds are on them to score so as a goalkeeper you’ve got to try and do all you can to try and put them off a little bit, but there were no words.
“I think at one point I didn’t think the ball was on the spot so I said to the ref ‘I’m not sure that’s on the spot’ but other than that I didn’t say anything to them.”
Steer’s heroics mean Villa once more stand just one game from promotion.
“Through the run we have been on we’ve found a way of winning even when we didn’t play very well,” he said. “We lost technically on Wednesday night yet we still came through the tie as winners.
“We’re really looking forward to Wembley. We had the heartbreak of last year so we want to make sure we go one step better this time.”