By Graham Hill

WITH Villa’s play-offs hopes on a knife edge as they bid to avoid spending a fourth season in the Championship, it was inevitable that any cracks in the woodwork would widen.

The rumour mill was in full swing last week with suggestions that Villa is a split camp behind the scenes

And that familiar chestnut, ‘toxic dressing room’ was being bandied about once more as the reason for Villa’s new year slump.

You have to day that Villa’s emphatic win over Derby on Saturday put paid to any immediate talk of turmoil away from the match action.

To be fair, things were going pretty well for Dean Smith last Autumn with some notable results under his belt.

December saw the rot set in well and truly though and it is only reasonable for people to ask questions.

The absence of Jack Grealish, Tammy Abraham getting his head turned by Wolves, an unwanted injury list and new goalkeeper taking his time to bed in.

Take your pick – and feel free to add one of your own. Certainly, the return of Grealish could not have been better timed.

But there is a school of though that says the dressing room has been divided.

And how many times have we heard that over the past few seasons?

It’s one of the reasons Villa were relegated three years ago,

I honestly thought things had improved for a while when Steve Bruce was in charge.

But you only have to read between the lines with recent interviews given by on-loan Tyrone Mings and, recalled from his loan, Tommy Elphick.

They all seem to suggest that not every player is giving 100 per cent at Villa Park.

I am tired of hearing this – because there is no way Villa are getting out of the Championship any time soon if bad blood exists off the pitch.

But on the evidence of the Derby result, it seems that maybe one or two unhappy figures are to blame.Could it be that too many players realise they will not be at Villa next season?

We all know who they are and it only takes a few to sow the seeds of discontent.

Whatever you think about Smith’s run of results before the Rams rout, he was the man appointed to turn this mess around and it could take a summer transfer window – at the very least – to do it.

It would be interesting to see where John Terry fits into all of this.

Recent sightings at Chelsea, with the England rugby team and one newspaper report suggesting he would ‘jump at the chance’ to return to Stamford Bridge, do not help matters.

There are plenty of clubs in the Premier League where the players have been flexing their muscles at the manager’s expense in recent weeks,

Villa do not need to add to that list


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