Snodgrass’s fabled candour doesn’t desert him when reflecting on the calamity that has ensued from his apparently smart, upwardly mobile move in the Premier League last January, a switch that took him to London from Hull City where he had excelled in the opening half of the season. West Ham, and in particular Slaven Bilic, pictured, seemed to pay seven figures for the Scottish international and then set about deriving no value for their investment. So much so that one of the more fanciful rumours to take hold was that West Ham signed Snodgrass to weaken one of the teams with which they were then involved in a relegation scrap.
“There were a lot of broken promises, a lot of dishonesty and I thought this is not what I am about,” he said of the West Ham episode. “I want to wear my heart on my sleeve and be loyal. What you see is what you get. Sometimes, if that is not the other way, then I don’t want to be part of it. I realised from the off that it wasn’t going to happen. I was coming on against Manchester City and he [Bilic] said, ‘Where do you want to play, on the left or right?’ I thought, ‘You’ve just signed me and I’ve played on the right or behind the striker at Hull City all season’. I found it very strange. That was my debut. And every time I played I was on the left. Alarm bells were ringing right away. I don’t know why he did it. I came in as [Dimitri] Payet left and maybe it was a case of ‘you can play there’ but I’d only filled in on the left a couple of times.
“I hate that position. When you’re Scottish, you’re brought up to play anywhere. It’s fine to play for one or two games, but you need to play in your right position, especially on the back of scoring nine goals for Hull City. At that stage nobody had scored more goals for Hull or West Ham. The manager was under a lot of pressure and I later said that, out of respect, I didn’t want to go in and see him during that period. But, when I did speak to him, I said I thought he’d have known I wasn’t a left midfielder and that he must have watched me after signing me for that type of money.
“That was the conversation. His answer was basically that, when people are confident, they can play anywhere. I’ve been at teams like Hull City and Norwich City and, when you’re signed for big money, they need to play you to get value. But West Ham are signing lads on double and treble what I signed for. They’re always looking to try and invest and get the best. But, when you’ve got too many and lads aren’t playing, it’s not a good environment. People can judge my time at West Ham whatever way they want. But I know myself that, when there is a manager who knows how to get the best out of you, then it’s different – and that’s why I chose Villa. I wanted to work with Steve Bruce again.
“At West Ham he [Bilic] wanted me to play cup games to try and impress, but I said I’d done it at international level and Premier League and there was no way on earth I was staying to play cup games. I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone. I’ve scored nearly 100 goals in my career and done it with a smile on my face. West Ham can go about their business and I’ll go about mine, which is playing football, enjoying myself and being a good person every day and that’s why he [Bilic] didn’t want me to leave. He knew I was good about the place and great with all the lads. But I need to play games – it’s as simple as that.”
Loyalty is something Snodgrass has always been given by Gordon Strachan. And it will always be returned. The player’s regard for the Scotland manager meant that, when he sought advice over the wisdom of dropping down a division with Villa, he phoned Strachan. “I said to him, ‘I respect your decision, you’re a good man and you will tell me the truth: Am I making the right decision’. He said: ‘Well you’re not playing games and you can’t be happy not playing games. You need to play games and get back to the level you were showing in the first part of the season in the Premier League’.”
The international break means Snodgrass has had no opportunity to do that yet. His last competitive game was Scotland’s 2-2 draw with England in June.
“Match fitness, you need that, and I have not had any games, just pre-season ones,” he said. “But I am fit, as fit as I’ve ever been because I knew I was coming back, that it was a challenge and I was ready for that challenge. I need to be ready for a new one.”