By Phil Jennings
IT has been a frustrating season for Villa skipper James Chester.
Out injured since January and struggling to regain his first team place as Villa marched towards the Premier League, the Wales defender could only watch on as Dean Smith’s side sealed promotion.
That did not stop the Villa boss making sure Chester shared in the glory of their Play-Off Final victory over Derby County.
Even then, Chester managed to catch skipper Jack Grealish above the eye as he held the trophy aloft.
But on a serious note, Chester, 30, will have to manage his knee injury for the rest of his career.
Chester came into Villa when they had just been relegated and admitted it was difficult to walk into a fragile and sometimes hostile dressing room.
Those days appear to have gone but Chester is now facing his own personal battle.
And he told BBC Sport Wales that he put his career at risk earlier in the season by playing while in pain – because he was the only fit central defender at Villa Park.
Chester explained: ”It first occurred in the Wales-Denmark game in November. I managed with it for two or three months. I was the only fit centre-half at the club.
“But once January came around the club were able to bring in some really good players in my position. It allowed me to take some time out and hopefully I’ll be ready to go for the start of next season.
“With the injury I’ve had I was pleased just to be back involved before the season was out.
”With the rest I’ve had since the end of January, the injury has improved an awful lot. I’m not dealing with any pain at the moment. That’s a huge bonus but with the type of injury it is it will need monitoring and perhaps I won’t train as much as I always have done, to prolong my career.”
He played in every game at Euro 2016 as Chris Coleman’s team reached the semi-final, where they lost 2-0 against Portugal – and has won 35 caps.
He added: ”Since I made my debut for Wales, I’ve loved every minute of it.
“I’m confident if I can get myself fit without pain, I can continue to play.”
Chester will not be involved in the Euro 2020 qualifiers away against Croatia and Hungary.
He said: ”Being so long after the season finished, and the quality of the opposition, it’s going to be difficult.
”We’ve proved time and time again we’re capable of going to places like Croatia and Hungary and getting results.”