Dean Smith and Kortney Hause celebrate Aston Villa’s win at Manchester United
Aston Villa defender Kortney Hause has made all the headlines for his impressive performances against Chelsea and Manchester United of late, but should it come as any great shock that the former Birmingham City scholar can impress on the biggest stage?
Only five years ago was Hause turning heads at St. George’s Park for his playing his part in England’s 2016 Toulon Tournament triumph alongside the likes of Jack Grealish, Ben Chilwell, James Ward-Prowse and Jordan Pickford.
With Hause a mainstay in Gareth Southgate’s side throughout the Under-23 summer competition, England successfully navigated their way to the final and beat France 2-1, with Hause proving a dominating presence within a strong, youthful, and promising Three Lions team.
Southgate – who has since taken charge of senior national team duties with England – was in attendance at Old Trafford to watch Hause start only his eighth Premier League game for Villa since the beginning of the last season, at the weekend.
Against a United team packed with quality in attacking areas, from the guile of Mason Greenwood to the creativity of Bruno Fernandes, power of Paul Pogba, and the every ounce of quality that Cristiano Ronaldo exudes, Hause didn’t put a foot wrong throughout. Holding his own like a fully fledged international that he promised to become earlier in his career, Hause has seemingly grown in confidence since being handed the opportunity to play with more regularity in Dean Smith’s new look three-at-the-back system.
Netting the winner in the 88th minute against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United was the perfect statement that the centre-back could make as a player who has only seen regular minutes on the pitch hard to come by ever since joining Villa back in January 2019.
Villa’s head coach Smith has since claimed that nobody could be more pleased for the defender’s first XI comeback than his gaffer.
“He’s a really good, honest pro and one who is valued certainly by myself and the coaching staff,” Smith told VillaTV .
“It can be hard for that player to feel that valued, that value from us when he’s not playing.
“It’s been difficult, he played the last few games of the last season and did really well and he’s had injury problems.
“He took his chance against Chelsea in the EFL Cup and led by example in that game and showed why he wanted us to play him.
“He gets into the team and scores at Old Trafford so it couldn’t have gone much better for him and there’s no-one more pleased for him than I am.”
While it’s testament to Smith that he can reintroduce members of his squad to his starting XI as if it were Football Manager save with minimal fuss in keeping his players as hungry and happy as possible, the credit must also fall to Hause for having the determination to get back into the fold and impressing when opportunity knocks.
From Emiliano Martinez to Tyrone Mings, Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey, plenty of Villa’s star names have faced adversity in their professional careers and come through it the other side, and this feels like a similarly pivotal moment for Hause.
Too often has the 26-year-old has been cast aside as good back-up and labelled as an adequate enough substitute to fill out a matchday squad, but after proving himself against Romelu Lukaku and Ronaldo in the space of a week, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers centre-half will be itching to kick-on and force Smith to name him as one of the first names on his team sheet in the coming weeks and months.
Hause has played second-fiddle for the majority of his career at Villa, and it can be easy to forget the part he played in the club’s promotion back in 2019. Just like John McGinn, Mings, and Anwar El Ghazi, Hause has witnessed Villa’s rise from promotion hopefuls to European chancers within the space of three years from the inside.
He might not have played his part on the pitch week in, week out, but for six of the 10 games in which Smith’s side set a new club record winning run back in 2018/19, Hause was the reliable presence that many overlooked in Tuanzebe’s absence, while Mings also continued to draw his own plaudits with every passing 90 minutes in the Championship.
After a shaky debut against Wigan, Hause was reintroduced by Smith for the 1-1 draw against Stoke City in February 2019 which many supporters still view as a catalyst for Villa’s promotion bid, as the second half showing at the Bet365 Stadium ended a rotten run of performances which saw Smith’s side claim only one win in nine previous games.