Nigel Pearson reveals what Zak Vyner did to persuade him to keep him at Bristol City

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Zak Vyner looked set for a departure from Ashton Gate - now he’s a centurion at Bristol City

Not many associated with Bristol City would have anticipated the role that Zak Vyner has had this season, including Nigel Pearson. The Robins academy graduate has been ever present in the Championship this season, playing in two differing roles alongside differing players.

At the start of Pearson's tenure, Vyner was a regular figure in the side, playing 14 matches, missing only two in the first few months. Vyner then struggled to get into the match-day squad and had to wait two months before a league experience.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Consecutive games followed but the arrival of Timm Klose saw the 25-year-old settle for a place on the bench. A 3-1 defeat to Swansea City in February was a moment which saw Vyner's lose his place in the side. A 45-minute cameo against Peterborough United in early April was the only pitch time he got from February 13 to the end of the 2021/22 season which ended on May 7.

Pearson's desire in the summer was to recruit a centre-back and he managed to persuade Kal Naismith to leave play-off semi-finalists Luton Town. It was a department that needed change given how their leaky defence costed them a chance of being a top-half team.

In a summer in which the likes of Callum O'Dowda, Kasey Palmer and Robbie Cundy departed, it was assumed by some that Vyner may follow suit. He responded brilliantly however and after an injury to Klose, Vyner took his position and has not looked back since.

"More reliability and he’s matured," responded Pearson when asked what Vyner has done to change his game and persuade him to keep hold of him. “I think he’s had to fight for his place.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“There were doubts whether he was going to stay here or not. It’s a good response from him and I’m very pleased for him. When I or we make decisions on potential departures of the football club and then it changes because the player is able to change how we view the situation, it is good.”

Versatility has been listed as something which may have held back his development, despite Pearson having a preference on players who can adapt. Vyner's predominant position is as a centre-back, but he has also been deployed as a right-back, as well as a defensive midfielder.

Football is a team game but at some point, players must make the selfish decision to decide which position they want to develop their game at. At 25-years-old which is at the mid-range of age, there is still time for him to learn, which he is getting at Bristol City.

“Zak is a good player," Pearson admitted. “He’s come through our academy and probably suffered from being versatile. He’s played in various positions. He’s gained experience and developed through the players he’s played alongside.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Those things together are all part of player’s development. Even players in their thirties can improve and develop if they have got an open mind.”

For a large part of the current campaign, Vyner has been played as a right-sided defender with Naismith in the centre and Rob Atkinson on the left. An injury crisis coupled with a bout of flu that reeked havoc through the squad last week saw a major rejig to the team.

Atkinson and Klose were out, as was Tomas Kalas who had only returned recently. A decision was made 50 minutes from kick-off to move Vyner into the centre of the back three and play George Tanner to the right of him and Cameron Pring to the left. Neither Pring or Tanner are natural centre-backs and are instead more attack-minded players more suited to the wings. In 1-1 draw against Swansea City last week however, there was an element of Vyner’s game that he was impressed by. Vyner took on a leadership role and was seen organising his makeshift defence and pulling them in to position, nulifying Swansea’s attack.

Pearson said: “Zak has stepped up in that regard,” when asked about slotting in to that position that requires maximum leadership. “I thought he was really good against Swansea and he was very visible.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Leadership is more than organisation, leadership is a presence and having some sort of aurora as well. People only follow you if they trust you, they won’t follow you just because you’re in authority doesn’t mean that people will follow them it just means they’re in authority.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.