The takeover has now been concluded, with Dr Tony Xia taking over from Randy Lerner, while the young guns prepare for the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens.
Many feel that over the last few seasons the club’s academy hasn’t been put to very good use. Even in 2015-16, when the senior squad underperformed, there were limited opportunities for the academy players in the first team. This season has been a worrying time for the young players who feel that, no matter how hard they train, they will probably not be given a chance as the board, in its wisdom, has preferred to buy players from abroad instead of using the talent already at the club.
With a new owner, a new board and a new league to play in, things might change.
The Hong Kong Soccer Sevens is a competition, not surprisingly held in Hong Kong, that allows football clubs to use their rising stars. Considering we haven’t used the academy players much at senior level, the Villans have been rather successful in this competition, winning on five previous visits and reaching the final on another two occasions, making Aston Villa the tournament’s most successful side.
The 2016 team will be directed by Ben Petty and Gordan Cowans, a club legend and a true Villan. If anyone can get the best out of players, it’s him.
Representing Aston Villa at the tournament this year are some familiar names: Matija Sarkic, Oscar Borg, Keinan Davis, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Khalid Abdo. These players, especially Hepburn-Murphy, are regarded by some as the stars who can be the future of Aston Villa. It’s a shame that only one player from the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens squad has managed to get a sniff at first team action. Regardless of this, you can see the likes of Oscar Borg, signed from West Ham United, and Matija Sarkic as being Premier League players, hopefully with Aston Villa, in the near future.
Aston Villa Football Club is always one of the main attractions at the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens, having built up a reputation for bringing future Premier League performers to Hong Kong over the years. If this year’s team does well in the tournament and these young Villa players showcase their potential then don’t be surprised if they are called up to the first team by the new manager. Life in the Championship, which brings more games, offers the new man in the hot seat the chance to hand more youngsters a golden opportunity to prove their worth at senior level.
Marcus Rashford, for instance, is a perfect example. He came from nowhere and after half a season’s worth of good performances he has found himself in Roy Hodgson’s initial squad for the Euro 2016 finals. If even a ‘big’ club like Manchester united was prepared to take a risk on a youngster and trust him to score goals then why couldn’t this approach have been taken at Aston Villa in a season in which goals were as rare as snow in midsummer?
Other players, including Mitchell Clark, Jordan Cox, Callum O’Hare, Harry McKirdy and Corey Blackett-Taylor, have also travelled to Hong Kong for the tournament. These young guns, about whom relatively little is known, have a great opportunity to shine. All of them have considerable potential and it’s the job of the new manager, whoever he is, and his staff to recognise the ambition and talent that is on our own back yard.
Good luck to them all. Up the Villa!