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Mile Jedinak: The key promotion ingredient, avoiding rival results, my Blues comeback and the next generation

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Mile Jedinak: The key promotion ingredient, avoiding rival results, my Blues comeback and the next generation

Mile Jedinak is back in the classroom for the first time in 15 years. Only this time, he's the one sharing the knowledge.

The Australian is at the Streetly Academy in Sutton Coldfield, taking questions and handing out advice to the next generation of aspiring footballers.

A 30-strong group of children have snapped up places at the Aston Villa Foundation's latest Soccer School event and are maximising their Q&A time with the midfielder.

It's not the only place, of course, that Jedinak can be seen leading the way. He does plenty of that in the Aston Villa dressing room, too.

One of only a handful of players in the current squad to have experienced a promotion to the Premier League, and as a captain, he's ideally placed to talk about the most important ingredients of achieving it for the second time in his career.

"I'd say togetherness is the most important thing, which is something I've seen a lot of in this side," he said.

JedinakClassroom

"You only need to look at the scenes at the final whistle against Sheffield Wednesday.

"There's a lot of unity here, and not just among the playing squad. The fans are really buying into this team and there's a real mentality here now that we're one big family – from players and coaches to staff and supporters.

"Things aren't always going to go right and they're not going to be good all of the time. But you've got to persist and get yourself out of those little problems when you do hit them – which we did at the weekend.

"It's natural for things like that to happen, what's important is that you keep believing throughout them and we'll get to where we want to be.

"The togetherness has definitely come on a lot since I joined the club 18 months ago. I've noticed when we do well now that there's a great feeling around the place – which is how it should be.

"We're entering the last stint of the season and you really want to feel that energy from all around the club. We'll feed off that buzz as players in any way we can to get ourselves over the line."

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As for his personal approach to the task in hand, Jedinak does things slightly differently.

While many study rival results and table implications, he chooses not to. He prefers a simpler trail of thought.

"Checking results is one way people look at it, but I don't do it. We've got to control our own destiny.

"We've still got to play a few of the teams in and around us, which gives us a good opportunity. A lot of them at home, too.

"Teams are going to take points off each other. Teams are going to drop points. It's the way it works, especially in this division.

"We need to make sure we're on the right side of the results as often as possible and you do that by putting in strong performances. 

"We've bounced back now and started what hopefully is another winning run. We need to keep doing that until the end of the season."

When you consider where Jedinak has come from and what he's been through in his career, from moving continents to plying his trade in Croatia and Turkey, it comes as little surprise that a recall to the starting XI for one of the club's biggest games of the season after six weeks out injured didn't faze him.

That came just over a fortnight ago, when Steve Bruce threw him into the cauldron that was the Second City Derby at Villa Park.

And in true Jedinak style, he bossed the game, adding a no-nonsense approach to the heart of the midfield and buffering all Birmingham's attempts to implement physicality.

"It was a pretty special occasion – a sold-out Villa Park is certainly a sight to see," he added.

JedinakPreSheffWed

"Our fans were loud and proud, as they should be, and we gave a good account of ourselves that day. 

"We deserved the win and all deserved to enjoy that moment.

"It's right up there with the best atmospheres I've ever played in front of. You always know when you play Birmingham that there's going to be a lot more scrutiny on it and that you need to win, because you know how much it means to everybody.

"Obviously every game means a lot, but there's that little bit extra with that one. It's got more of an edge – and rightly so because of its history. It was pretty special."

Mile is not the only Jedinak present when he discusses all things Villa at the Streetly Academy. His two boys are also in attendance, one sporting our yellow goalkeeping strip and the other in claret and blue, with his surname and father's squad number on the back.

It's fair to say they share his passion for football, and offer a timely reminder of how fortunate he has been to make it in the game.

It's not the first Soccer Camp they've signed up for either, and for Mile, despite the small matter of another promotion bid and a World Cup this summer occupying his everyday thoughts, enjoyment remains the number one priority when it comes to the game he and his family love.

"What they're doing at the Aston Villa Foundation with the Soccer Camps is fantastic. I've got my two boys involved in them and they really enjoy it. 

"It's a full day of football and they're getting to interact with kids of different ages. 

"I enjoy listening to their stories when they get home about what they did and what they learned – it's great for them. 

JedinakAVFCSoccerSchool

"I wish I had access to things like this when I was growing up. It would have been brilliant to have had them available. 

"The work our Foundation do is great and everybody involved should be commended for that.

"At the minute my boys just pick and choose what they want to do. They're really enjoying just playing football at the moment.

"They never want to stop playing. They'll get home, have a bath and before I know it they're out playing again. How they have the energy for it I'm not quite sure!

"But kids will be kids and as long as they're enjoying it and have a smile on their face then I'm happy."

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Dan Connor
By @danconnor 28th February 2018