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Orjan Nyland hoping patience has paid off as he looks to grasp chance to emerge from the shadows at Aston Villa

For Orjan Nyland, the past year has been a lesson in the art of patience.

Orjan Nyland catches the ball during Aston Villa's win at Burnley.
Orjan Nyland catches the ball during Aston Villa's win at Burnley.

Now an opportunity has finally arrived, he is in no mood to let it slip by.

After 12 months spent largely out of the picture, the Norway international is very much back centre stage at Villa, after another twist of fortune in the club’s goalkeeping department.

A sequence of events which began with Nyland rupturing his Achilles tendon in the final days of 2018 has come full circle, as he finds himself once again installed as No.1, following the season-ending knee injury suffered by Tom Heaton in last week’s win at Burnley.

“I am gutted for Tom,” says Nyland, as he sits down at the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground. “You never want to see another player get injured.

“But it is part of the game. It happened to me last year. Now I have a chance again and it is just about making sure I do well, every opportunity I get.”

There is perhaps no other group of players in the country who know just how quickly fortunes can turn like Villa’s goalkeepers.

Heaton’s injury has come at a time when Jed Steer, the hero of last season’s play-off charge, is also sidelined with a calf problem. Meanwhile Lovre Kalinic, a £7million signing 12 months ago, has not made a first-team appearance since suffering a concussion in a derby defeat to Albion last February.

For Nyland the next few matches, starting with Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Leicester, offer the chance to both firmly re-establish himself and maybe even convince boss Dean Smith there is no need to go scouring the January market for another keeper.

The 29-year-old, who began the season as third-choice keeper behind Heaton and Steer, believes he is now a better player than the one signed by Steve Bruce in a £1million deal from FC Ingolstadt 16 months ago.

Perhaps more importantly, Nyland also claims to be a stronger character, having used the gruelling six-month recovery from injury and subsequent time spent watching from the stands as a period for reflection.

“I learned a lot about myself during my time out,” he says. “It was my first long-term injury and you realise how much you love the game, how much you miss it when you are on the outside.

“When you are injured you are in training at different times to everyone else. You are not taking part in things.

“It’s tough but in some respects it was also a great experience which has taught me to enjoy every day and not take anything for granted. It has given me a greater appreciation of everything.”

Though he does not believe he has anything to prove, Nyland acknowledges Villa supporters have not yet seen the best of him.

Immediately installed as No.1 by Bruce upon his arrival, his early months at the club were marred by some high-profile mistakes, with injury then ending his campaign just at the point when he appeared to be finding his feet.

Improving his command of the area has been a key focus of what Nyland describes as his time working “behind the curtains” after admitting the physicality of the English game initially came as something of a culture shock.

“That was the biggest learning curve for sure but I feel I am getting better,” he says. “There is a lot of pressure on you in the box and goalkeepers are not as well protected as you might be in other leagues.

“I’ve learned it is just about being brave and coming for the ball if you see the opportunity.

“If you get it wrong, you are probably going to get smashed, so you have to come out with force yourself. You’ve got to be patient but when you go for the ball, go for it hard.

“I feel like I have taken some steps and people have seen that in games so far.

“In terms of my development, where I ended from the last game I played last season to where I am now, there is a difference and I can see that myself.

“I think there have been glimpses of what I can do. Now is the time to show it in full. It is not that I feel I have anything to prove but I am more than up for the challenge and looking forward to it.”

Nyland insists he never once considered the prospect of leaving Villa despite finding himself down the pecking order upon his return to fitness.

Instead he has concentrated on working hard and stayed positive throughout, even during the opening months of the season when he was travelling to every match, taking part in the warm-up but then having to watch the action from the stands.

It is not just a desire to show what he can do in the Premier League which is proving a source of motivation.

Nyland also has an eye on the international picture, in the knowledge a good run of form could see him claim the Norwegian No.1 jersey for March’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Serbia.

Norway are aiming to reach a major tournament for the first time in two decades.

“The first goal is to be in that squad in March, I’ve been in the last couple,” he says. “It has been a while since we qualified for a major tournament.

“I’m hoping we can get there but at the moment I am just taking things one game at a time.”

The next game is at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday, before the prospect of a full Premier League debut when Villa host champions Manchester City on Sunday.

Their position in the table, just one point above the relegation zone, remains precarious, though Nyland claims victory at Burnley has helped to restore some confidence.

“The Burnley game was the minimum requirement of what we have to do for every game,” he said.

“That is our goal for the future. There is always a hunger to develop and get better.

“It is going to be tough but we have the quality to it. We all know what we have to do to win football games and we have set the standard with the last game against Burnley.

“I feel like I am in a good place. I have trained well for many months now and it is about doing all I can to help us win matches.”

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