Aston Villa’s new promising under-18 forward

Aston Villa’s overhaul of youth operations and player recruitment shows no signs of letting up after the club announced the signing of highly-rated youngster Ruben Shakpoke.

The promising teenage forward joins Villa having represented England at Under-15 level and is also eligible to represent Nigeria in the future.

Shakpoke’s signing is Villa’s sixth major academy capture of the summer window which started with Ben Chrisene from Exeter City, followed by Sil Swinkels of Vitesse Arnhem before Aaron O’Reilly, Lamare Bogarde and Oliwier Zych have all since bolstered Villa’s exciting academy.

Academy manager Mark Harrison said: “We’re delighted to announce Ruben’s signing and welcome him to the club.

“He has joined us after a lot of hard work was put in during our recruitment process and I thank everyone for their efforts.

“We’re looking forward to working with Ruben and developing his talents.”

Sporting Director Johan Lange and academy manager Harrison are looking to recruit Europe’s most promising youngsters, and identifying the next wave of British talent is a good start.

Villa even beat Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven to the Shakpoke’s signature, according to reports. The striker also had a number of suitors on these shores too, but such is Villa’s pull with an ambitious project to break into the upper echelons of English football in the coming years, academy prospects want in.

Harrison's latest signing is Shakpoke

Shakpoke’s taste of club and country

Shakpoke made his debut for Norwich’s under-18s side in November in a defeat at Everton before rejecting the chance to sign a scholarship with the recently relegated Premier League club. The forward has been tipped to move on since the start of last season.

Before making his U18 debut as a schoolboy, in a game for Norwich’s under-15s side, the forward scored an impressive 11 goals in a single game against Watford in 2018. In that same year, Shakpoke was invited to England’s under-15 training camp, later featuring in a game against Belgium in February 2019 alongside fellow new Villa recruit Chrisene.

Shakpoke, like Chrisene will link up with Villa’s under-18s side headed by Richard Beale who joined the club as under-18’s Head Coach following 13 years at Birmingham City as the club’s Senior Professional Development Coach.

Villa have been populating their youth sides with the player profiles CEO, Christian Purslow and Academy Manager, Mark Harrison desire.

Speaking at the Villa Supporters Trust’s AGM in January, 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.”

Beale’s under-18 side have won all three of their opening U18 Premier League games against Leicester, Norwich and Reading. Sitting pretty at the top of the league having scored a handsome five goals, Shakpoke’s arrival will only improve Villa’s academy performances this season and beyond.


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