A fresh-faced, dreadlocked teen has broken into Villa’s first team ahead of the Premier League’s resumption that Dean Smith’s side will kick start this Wednesday. He goes by the name of Mungo Bridge.
Villa’s exclusive, behind the scenes content has been as close as we’ve got to any Villa footage since losing 4-0 at the King Power back in March. Since then, a global pandemic has been but not quite gone, presenting an exciting crop of Villa youth with the chance to make their name at Bodymoor Heath.
“Well done, Mungo!” Called Smith as most Villa fans’ ears perked up, ‘Mungo?’ Introducing the latest talent coming out of Villa’s academy, one no doubt to pin our hopes on for the future. Mitch Clark, Oscar Borg and even Lewis Kinsella – Villa have a tendency to become attached to so-called ‘starlets’ coming out of an academy that has produced very little aside from Jack Grealish in the past decade.
An academy overhaul has been brewing for some years, and Christian Purslow recognises the need to manage and take care of what is the most important asset of a sustainable football club.
Villa have since taken a significant stance on youth operations after the most recent piece of youth silverware in 2018 was swiftly followed by another disbanded squad who ventured into lower leagues. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy, Clarke and Corey Blackett-Taylor who all won the Premier League Cup failed to catch the eye of Villa’s first-team staff.
Speaking at the Villa Supporters Trust’s AGM recently, Aston Villa chief executive Purslow said: “Frankly, I’m going to be brutal, 22-year-olds playing in an under-23 team means your system isn’t working.
“It means your system has failed because 22-year-old footballers at Aston Villa need to be in the first team. The ultimate goal is to populate the under-23 team with 11 outstanding 16, 17 and 18-year-olds, then I will know it’s working.
“And that will take years, not months. We need to be higher in recruiting the best eight-year-old, nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old, 12-year-old, 14, 16, one a year that makes it and gets a professional contract at 16.”
Villa will shortly populate their youth sides with the right profiles Purslow and Harrison desire, with their masterplan already taking effect. Birmingham Live exclusively revealed that Harrison’s staff had resigned from their posts at The Hawthorns, with Villa going all-out to land Steve Hopcroft.
Young defender Mungo Bridge looks set to become one of the first to break into the senior ranks under the new management hierarchy.
Sweeping the ball across the pitch to Matt Targett, holding his own in a competitive training camp – from what we saw in the VillaTV videos, Bridge looks well acquitted and confident amongst a group of fully-fledged professional players seeking to retain their Premier League status come August.
He’s hard to miss, long locks swinging to-and-fro, it’s hardly the desecrate introduction to life at Aston Villa with a set of expectant fans watching your every move in a short highlights reel. Yet here we are.
According to reports that surfaced in 2018, Bridge penned a professional contract with Villa under the watchful eye of AC Milan, with the Italian giants keen to take the English teenager away from the Midlands.
Whilst his immediate future will be played out in the U23s set-up, the long term goal of reaching the Villa first team is certainly on the cards having made an impression on Dean Smith.
The 19-year-old is still a raw talent after being fast-tracked into Smith’s first-team plans through the recommendation of U23 boss Mark Delaney, who gave Bridge the U23 armband in a previous youth game.
Born in Daventry, Northamptonshire, Bridge has played predominantly as a left-sided full-back but is more than adept to playing as a centre-back. Bridge isn’t domineering in height, neither exceptionally quick, but what he lacks in physical prowess at an early age he makes up for with a wise head on young shoulders and a technical ability to shout about.
He stood out amongst popular youngsters like Tyreik Wright and Indiana Vassilev in U23 games against West Brom and other sides keen to test the quality of a young defender who in shades of his games mixes between Tyrone Mings and Axel Tuanzebe for good measure.
His recovery speed, in particular, is a notable asset to his vastly improving game. An assured confidence and belief in his ability on the ball can be both detrimental and beneficial to his attacking game, one clearly developed through playing as an adventurous full-back.
Bridge is clearly a powerful lad, winning most of his aerial duels against Fin Azaz, a West Brom striker he pocketed in the Baggies clash last year, despite not being as tall as most defenders coming through youth ranks at a similar age.
The Premier League has ratified a new substitution law that permits the use of five subs rather than the ordinary three, which has extended the matchday squad allowance to 20 players.
The teen is a viable option to cover for Matt Targett, and should any of Villa’s four senior centre-halves become injured over the hectic Project Restart period, Bridge could well earn his stripes.
A loan move to a lower league side surely awaits for Bridge next season, with a maturing phase required for almost all Premier League youngsters these days, but his promising start to first-team life at Bodymoor Heath has clearly caught the eye of Smith and more importantly John Terry.
What better mentor to oversee your development at such a tender age, where his progress at Villa will be evaluated over the next 12 months or so.