If only we had asked the right question at the beginning of the interview. That question: “Eric, are you a fan of interviews?”
Because, the conclusion of our conversation with Aston Villa defender Eric Lichaj went something like this, “Anything we missed Eric? Any questions we should have asked?”
“Nothing really. I don’t really do a lot of interviews. I’m not a big fan of them.”
Lichaj’s roommate with the 88’s at the Bradentown Academy in Florida where the Aston Villa rightback spent time in his teens, Preston Zimmerman, confirmed it with us, “You might as well consider the interview a success if you were able to get anything out of him at all…haha.”
So that explains Eric’s direct, curbed, but still accommodating responses.
TSG spoke with Eric via a speakerphone in the media office at Villa the day after last week’s Sunderland game and after an early morning workout at “The Barn,” the name of the Villa training complex.
We meandered through a whole host of questions with Eric during the exchange, trying at multiple points to crowbar out just a little more detail.
Eric, for his part, seemed slightly bemused by the interview and called it himself at the end when he said, “Look, I’m just a regular guy.”
In fact that’s the just impression we got in speaking with him. A regular, fuss-less, quietly confident guy, who is solely focused on moving forward in a very black-and-white way…see goal, attain goal.
For American fans, Lichaj’s no-nonsence demanor seems like a perfect component to Bob Bradley’s squad. All the better for the American fullback in Birmingham who looks to have a leg up on the rightback role in Rio De Janiero in a little less than four years.
Now, we launch into our Eric Lichaj conversation. And a huge thanks to the media team at Aston Villa for working us in.
TSG: Bit of a tough stretch for Villa here, what’s the mood around the team?
Eric: Well, it lifted a little when we got a good result against Chelsea. But yesterday, we lost 1-nil versus Sunderland.
Our hopes are still high though and we think we’re going to start getting some points.
TSG: You recently began starting…what was it like getting out there with the first unit for the first time against West Brom?
Eric: I had already played a couple of games with the League Cup so it wasn’t anything big. I just looked at as I have to do my job because we were in a bad spot [Luke Young out injured].
TSG: Is it easier subbing in for you or easier when you’re with the starting team?
Eric: Pretty sure every player would say it’s easier starting than coming on as a sub.
Because you come on in the 2nd half you have to get used to the pace of the game pretty quickly. You have to warm-up on the sideline and that’s not really a proper-warm.
TSG: Now you knew we were going to ask you about going up against Gareth Bale. You did a more than admirable job in defense of him. How’d you prepare for Bale and that game?
Eric: I didn’t really prepare any specific way. Before the game I had some of the guys who played against him before give me advice. Obviously Carlos [Cuellar] was covering me whenever I slipped up and that was good.
It was good to shut him down and I did a decent job, but we still lost the game. So not really that sweet I guess.
TSG: Right. What was some of the advice you received about defending Bale?
Eric: The guys were just telling me about how quick he is. I always ask what for what foot they use and what moves he does where.
Also some stuff on “when he does this, he likes to go down the line.”
I think I handled it pretty well.
TSG: Agreed. However, the follow-up game against Manchester City was more challenging.
You played a different type of winger going up against Silva, Johnson and even against the striker Balotelli a few times. Was that difficult?
Eric: I really wasn’t use to playing a full game. Two games in a few days on short rest was tough. I’m not using that as an excuse though; I just had a bad game.
TSG: How do you rebound from a game like that. Do you go talk to the coach? Do you prepare any differently?
Eric: Oh no. It’s just keep working hard and putting it behind me. Everyone makes mistakes.
I made a mistake in the beginning of the game. I just have to keep working hard and keep doing what I do.
TSG: Do you prepare differently for each type of forward you encounter during the season?
Eric: I don’t prepare any differently. Usually I find out which is their dominant foot, how quick they are and whether they like to cut inside or not.
Just little things like that and I take it from there.
TSG: What were your goals heading into this year and how’s the progress in attaining them? Are they within your reach?