It has been a painful few days for Villa fans as Fabian Delph – “Captain, Leader, Liar” – departed for Manchester City and with Christian Benteke on the cusp of a move to Liverpool, having reportedly already passed his medical. Two key players have effectively gone and there is relatively little time to replace them before the 2015-16 season begins. Benteke’s departure was to be expected and we have been compensated accordingly. The Delph soap opera was not anticipated. The money we received is better than seeing him leaving on a free transfer, however much the lies rankle.

To add insult to injury, our former manager Paul Lambert decided to pipe up on Monday, just as we were all beginning to forget about the last few years. To give him his due, he purchased Benteke and enabled Delph to find the consistency he had previously lacked. However, the Scot’s words were hardly designed to endear him to the Villa faithful. He backed Benteke’s move, which is fair enough. The big Belgian deserves it. Lambert then spoke of Delph as “having done great by Aston Villa” and glossed over the backstabbing and the fact that Delph had broken his word.

This, along with our depleted squad, got me thinking: in Lambert’s maiden season our club’s youth side won the NextGen trophy, the youth equivalent of the Champions League. That was in 2013 so some of those players should have been brought through during Lambert’s tenure.

We have had famous academy sides in the past and Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker remain from the class of 2009. Barry Bannan, Marc Albrighton, Eric Lichaj, Nathan Delfouneso, Chris Herd and Andi Weimann have all since departed after making impacts of varying degrees on the first team. However, the class of 2013 pulled off a magnificent feat and looked like a supremely talented bunch.

While Lambert wasted money on the likes of Luna, Tonev, Bowery and the rest, most of whom were not good enough, shouldn’t he have been promoting members of that NextGen side? They showed that they could have been good enough and, collectively, actually had a winning mentality.

Although those players Lambert purchased did not cost extravagant sums, they still cost money and profit wasn’t really made when they departed. Essentially, they were a waste of time. Would Carruthers have been worse than Tonev or the second season Sylla? Could Kinsella have made more of a hash of playing at left back than Luna did? Lambert was a manager who couldn’t talk up his lack of budget enough so you’d think he would have wanted to make every penny count. He didn’t do that because he failed to promote the young talent already at the club.

Lambert seemed to ignore the youth players completely so while he is patting himself on the back for developing Benteke and Delph’s careers for them to go onto “bigger” things, he should think of the potential generation of stars he mis-managed, players we could do with having ready for first team action now.

Jack Grealish made his debut under Lambert last season but even young Jack was becoming disillusioned because he felt he was not being given a fair crack of the whip and he was desperate to “enjoy his football again”. Luckily, Sherwood came in and gave him a fair chance. Grealish was evidently going to stall under Lambert’s tuition. Lambert seemed reluctant to throw Grealish into the pressure cooker of a relegation battle, tricking some, including me, into believing that the lifelong Villa fan was not ready. He was.

A member of the NextGen squad, injured at the time of the final, Jordan Graham was sold to Wolves. He was expected to be a star like Grealish yet he never even made the first team bench. We witnessed a number of bad runs in Lambert’s last season and a half yet the same old names were starting every game. Andi Weimann toiled on the wing, despite it not being his position.

The aforementioned Carruthers looked a prospect, having captained the NextGen-winning side. He was never given a sniff, sold to MK Dons, and is undoubtedly behind in his development due to a lack of exposure to first team games.

Callum Robinson was mistreated last season. Called back from a loan spell at Preston North End when he was doing well, he was then an unused substitute for a side lacking imagination and that couldn’t buy a goal. After months without football, he ended up back at Preston North End. The mind boggles. Hopefully Sherwood can get him firing in claret and blue.

Now that we are seeing a massive rebuild, we need incoming players. We have a set of players, those Lambert didn’t let go, who are not first team ready and who are behind in their development. Riccardo Calder looked fairly handy against Braga but we haven’t seen anything of him in the first team. El Ahmadi and Sylla were preferred in the middle of the park, just to be sold and deemed not good enough by the person who persistently played them ahead of emerging talent. An on-loan left back even operated in central midfield for us the season before last during one injury crisis.

We definitely have the right manager in charge now, one who can recognise that the academy players can be very useful for the first team. If Sherwood had been in charge two years ago then the NextGen side may well not have been dismantled and there could have been more of them than just “Super Jack” showcasing their talents in the Aston Villa first team.

That trophy should have been the starting point on a journey to the first team for some of that young team. Instead, it became another missed chance for Aston Villa Football Club. The management wasted the opportunity to exhibit what football is all about: young, local talent progressing to the first team.

Some of that squad may well still make the grade at Aston Villa Football Club under the current manager but it’ll be later than it should have been and our current squad troubles would probably not be as grave as they have been.

2 COMMENTS

  1. lambert was a utter disaster for the youth,, and its down to his personality,, he is just to cautious and to be honest dull,,,,,,,

    and you just know if lambert and sherwood were to go on holiday, lambert would go on a canal boat around stourbridge while sherwood would go to some exotic climbs and go diving with sharks wearing a mankini covered in his own blood holding only a sharpened spoon,,,

    no kid has the right to play but its in everyones interest that the kids do filter through
    not only is it financially beneficial but when the likes of grealish comes through it gives us all a sense of pride
    and hope for the future

    and although we lost some real prospects lambert at least gave gardiner a 2 year deal

    i love how sherwood puts time into the kids,,, i just hope we can replace benteke and strengthen other areas of need

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