Aston Villa’s thriving academy offers future first team hope

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: Callum O'Hare of Aston Villa in action during the Emirates FA Cup third round match between Aston Villa and Peterborough United at Villa Park on January 6, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: Callum O'Hare of Aston Villa in action during the Emirates FA Cup third round match between Aston Villa and Peterborough United at Villa Park on January 6, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) /

Aston Villa’s academy is enjoying a highly-successful season in terms of u-23 results and first team involvement among its members.

Throughout the years, Aston Villa’s academy has produced a number of highly successful players, of which some have gone on to win major titles and competitions. Gareth Barry, Marc Albrighton and Gary Cahill are just a few of the academy graduates who have gone on to win the biggest prize in England, the Premier League.

But which players out of Aston Villa’s current crop are destined to go on to become great players in the game and which could we see in the first team in the not so distant future? I’ll be looking at a number of players who I believe have an exciting future ahead of them in the professional game.

Let’s start with the most obvious player that every fan has wanted to see in and around the first team this season, Callum O’Hare. Now I have seen this lad play on a number of occasions for the u23 side down at the Bank’s Stadium in Walsall and most recently at Villa Park in a 2-0 Premier League Cup win over Blackburn Rovers u23’s. He is blessed with fantastic ability on the ball and really does know where the goal is, scoring on various occasions for the u23 side. Not the biggest built, or the tallest, but he is deceptively quick and uses his agility superbly to dance around oncoming challenges and tackles from opposition players. He should count himself very unlucky that he hasn’t seen more first team action this season, but with Jack Grealish and Joshua Onomah providing stiff competition, it is understandable that Steve Bruce hasn’t felt it necessary to call upon him. Should Villa choose not to go in for Joshua Onomah on a permanent deal, Callum O’Hare is the perfect alternative and will almost definitely have a place in the match day squad on more occasions next season. I expect him to have a big future at Aston Villa.

Next on my list of Villa youngsters chomping at the bit to get a place in the first team is Mitch Clark. The impressive thing about Mitch Clark is that he is extremely versatile, playing anywhere along the backline competently and effectively. His favored position is the right back role, but in his few chances he has had with the first team this season, he has been used predominantly as a left back. He is everything you would expect from your modern day full-back. Excellent going forward and naturally astute on the ball. Not so typical of a modern day full-back is his great ability to defend. Strong in the challenge and ruthless in the air, ensuring that he is always first to the ball. Villa fans will really warm to Mitch once he is given a proper run in the first team and is a player I would happily welcome into the team next season with Alan Hutton potentially on his way out at the end of this season, I really do not see any reason why Mitch Clark cannot step up to the plate and play a big role in the first team squad. His experiences in the Carabao Cup this season will only do him the world of good as part of his development. Certainly one to watch out for.

Another player who Villa fans have seen a little bit from this season is Jake Doyle-Hayes. The Irish midfielder caught the attention of many Villa fans after his impressive display against Wigan in the Carabao cup earlier on in the season and since then hasn’t really been involved. A loan move could really help Jake out and give him a taste of first team action. He is excellent on the ball with a wide range of passing, always closing the opposition down and never allows his opposite number a seconds rest. His tenacity and desire to win the ball back makes him a real pest for his opponents and is a real engine in the heart of midfield. A solid team player who may need a loan move to truly make a name for himself.

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Lastly, a player who some Villa fans may not be too familiar with, Jordan Cox. One of my favourite u23’s matches was the 4-0 win over Southampton at the start of the season where Virgil Van Dijk was made to look silly by Callum O’Hare but also by Jordan Cox. That sort of fearlessness is needed to make a name for yourself at Villa and the tricky winger certainly delivered on that particular occasion. Cox’s direct approach and his pace makes him a nightmare for any opposition. His decision making in the final third is spot on 9 times out of 10 and has proven various times he knows where the goal is. It’s difficult to see him in the first team at the moment with Albert Adomah and Andre Green (when fit) above him in the pecking order. If his performances in the u23’s continue to improve he will most certainly catch the eye of Steve Bruce at some point. A move out on loan would certainly be the right option for him if he was to get the chance. One for the future for sure, but at this current time, it is probably too soon to see him in the match day squad.

There is nothing better in modern day football than having a thriving academy, especially with rocketing player prices. In Villa’s academy there are a lot of potential starts of the future. Along with the aforementioned you have the likes of Jacob Beadeu, Kelsey Mooney, Alex Prosser and Corey Blackett-Taylor all looking like fantastic prospects for the future. I think Steve Round’s “Villa engine” could be starting to come to fruition in the u23 squad as time and time again this season they have produced a number of fantastic wins and convincing displays. Let’s hope we see more of our youngsters in the first team set up, starting with next seasons pre season training camp. If the u23’s are anything to go by, then rest assured Villa fans, the future is extremely bright.