By Graham Hill
IT has been a year of the unexpected at Villa Park – promotion from nowhere and key players stepping up to the plate.
Jed Steer can include himself in that category – and the Villa keeper has even amazed himself by what has happened to him in a few short months.
Steer was sent out on loan to Charlton in League One last summer.
And for a player who arrived at Villa five years earlier – and gone through as many managers – the writing appeared to be on the wall.
But then a strange set of circumstances happened which led him to become one of Villa’s heroes of the season – with a new four-year contract following.
An injury to Norway keeper Orjan Nyland meant Steer, 26, being recalled by Villa, initially to sit on the bench when he had been getting regular football at Charlton.
But when Lovre Kalinic also got injured, during the home defeat by West Brom, it meant he had leapfrogged into the No1 shirt.
And he did not waste the opportunity. Villa did not lose after that until they had booked their place in the play-offs.
Steer then showed he was fully deserving of his place when he saved two spot-kicks in the penalty shoot-out at West Brom to send Villa to Wembley.
Now Steer has been rewarded for his Villa resurgence with a contract that takes him to 2023.
He is also being tipped for a Scotland call-up and Steer admits this was something he did not see coming.
Jack Butland and Neil Etheridge have both been targeted by Dean Smith and Steer can see the club are moving on.
Ironically, after helping Villa to the Premier League, it may mean he is no longer considered first choice.
But Steer told Villa’s official website: “It’s great to have extended my contract.
“I’ve been here since 2013 and staying here is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m really happy.
“Last season was brilliant – the lead up to the Play-Off Final was fantastic.
“To get promoted and then sign a new deal was the target and I’m thankful to have been able to do it.
“When I got told last August I could go out on loan I thought that was my Villa career probably over.
“Competition for places is massively important.
“To be sitting here now and about to embark on the Premier League with Aston Villa is something I couldn’t have imagined. I’m over the moon.
“You look at all the Premier League sides and there’s always competition. It’s healthy having that competition and it certainly pushes you. That’s part of the game so let’s just see what happens.”