Blog: McCann the driving force for rookie Herd
1st Nov 2011
That's an apt description of Chris Herd, who has really come to the fore this season with some all-action performances in claret and blue.
But it's also a valid depiction of the man who Herd admired in his formative years at the club.
Making his way through the youth and reserve sides, the Aussie teenager was in need of a role model in the senior set-up to inspire him to better things.
It came in the form of Gavin McCann, the tenacious, pugnacious central ace who sweat buckets for Villa.
McCann cost just £2m when he became David O'Leary's first signing in July 2003 from relegated Sunderland.
And what a great bit of business it proved to be, with the unassuming star providing solidity in the middle of the park as an anchor man.
Herd said: "Someone who helped me a lot when I was a young lad - and who is a player fans will remember - was Gavin McCann.
"He really was a role model when I was a kid here. He was great with me.
"He was always happy to stop and talk to me, offer me advice and that's great when you're a young player at a football club. That meant a lot.
"I was only 15 or 16. He was a good lad but also a top professional too."
Herd is certainly following in his footsteps, with biting challenge after biting challenge flying in from the high-tempo hero.
McCann played the protective role for attacking ace Gareth Barry. Now Herd is doing the same job for Stiliyan Petrov.
McCann also did his talking on the pitch, famously shunning most interviews due to an intense shyness when meeting the media.
When quizzed once by programme editor Rob Bishop about 'what he made of his own form', McCann replied: "What do you want to know that for?"
While Herd is happy to answers questions in press circles, he is somewhat reticent to overdo it - and clearly wants to follow in McCann's footsteps by concentrating on football matters.
McCann gained the respect of the Holte End because of his never-say-die attitude and Herd is definitively in that mould.
Just as McCann's bloodied face at Portsmouth demonstrated his commitment, Herd's starry-eyed expression after he banged his head into the post against Wolves showed his steadfastness in the present day.
Herd, however, didn't arrive at Villa like McCann, moving from one top-flight team to another.
The Aussie came over to Villa six years ago on a two-week trial with good mate Shane Lowry.
Playing for Bayswater City at the time, he arrived in Birmingham attempting to impress claret and blue coaches and he did just that in early 2005 as a maturing 15-year-old.
Herd attributes his progression through the ranks to the wise counsel offered to him from coaches such as Tony McAndrew, Bryan Jones and Kevin MacDonald.
"I was a young boy when I arrived," Herd said. "People would say I'm still young now but I really feel like I've developed as a person and a human too through these years.
"You grow up and you find out who you are. You become more mature and you become more professional - with the way you go about your profession.
"You look after yourself away from the game, you work hard in training and give it your all. It makes you realise you have to live right and you have to live for football.
"Obviously you have to look after your body and the coaches taught us that from an early age in the academy. That helps you a lot."
While he credits the academy with his rise to prominence, they thank him for "raising the bar" for them because of his desire to improve and his hunger to win.
McAndrew said: "When Chris and Shane came over to us, they raised the level of performance for our academy.
"Their attitude to training, their desire to win, everything about them - it just raised the bar. I am delighted for Chris.
"He is a fantastic lad, a fantastic footballer and I hope he goes on to great things."
Who knows, when he's hung up his boots on an impressive top-flight career, he might end up coaching young, up-and-coming recruits - just like his hero McCann is at Bolton.
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