Aston Villa’s youth academy is full of exciting prospects from Carney Chukwuemeka to Louie Barry, Kaine Kesler and Jadon Philogene-Bidace – the Ramsey brothers are also destined for big things at Villa Park.
Born in Great Barr, Jacob and younger brother Aaron have both become key members of the club’s academy setup after both joining Villa as schoolboys.
19-year old playmaker, Jacob – who joined Villa’s academy at the age of six – penned a ‘long-term’ professional contract with the club in 2019. His rise through Villa’s academy ranks doesn’t only serve as inspiration for his two younger brothers but to the many promising youngsters in Mark Delaney and Sean Verity’s youth teams.
Ramsey’s deal was the first to be handed to a youth player following Villa’s restructuring of academy operations over the past year. His former academy manager, Sean Kimberley – who had overseen Ramsey’s rise from schoolboy to a professional player – said: “If he continues to match his undoubted technical ability and eye for a goal with the desire and energy to reach the next level, he will have a bright future in the game.”
As Dean Smith’s senior side prepared for the 2020/21 Premier League campaign, Jacob and younger brother, Aaron both travelled to the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal played host for Villa’s third pre-season friendly before September’s Premier League kick-off.
Jacob scored twice as Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal fell to a 3-2 defeat to a Villa side without captain Jack Grealish, Tyrone Mings, John McGinn and other first-team regulars.
Ramsey’s performances away from the first-team action had caught traction not only at Bodymoor Heath but St. George’s Park too, as national team scouts regularly kept tabs on the 19-year-old making a name for himself in the Premier League 2.
Now a fully-fledged member of Smith first-team squad, Jacob made his Premier League debut at Craven Cottage in what was Villa’s first away game this season, before making another nine appearances to reach his first milestone of ten appearances, despite Villa only playing 24 league games during that time.
Having made two starts in his first appearances – at tough away ties at Molineux and Elland Road this season – there’s a clear indication that Smith thinks very highly of Bodymoor Heath’s latest academy graduate.
While Jacob acclimatises to the rigours and demands of top-flight men’s football, younger brother, Aaron is also turning heads at Bodymoor Heath, and likewise his older brother, England scouts are keeping a watchful eye on his progress.
The Ramsey brotherhood is founded by three brothers, Jacob, who has made his first-team breakthrough: Aaron, 18, who continues to make a big impression at Bodymoor Heath and even captained England Under-17s recently, and Cole, 14, who is developing further down the age groups at Villa.
Three Ramsey’s in one Villa team of the future is quite a thought and they’re already a third of the way there with Jacob turning professional last year. There is some friendly debate over who is the most talented footballer in the family.
Aaron was one of the standout players in Villa’s Under-16s before he made the step up to Under-18s football several seasons ago, and hopes to join Jacob in the professional ranks in the near future. If Aaron makes it, the Ramsey’s could become the second pair of Brummie Brothers to play for Villa after the turn of the millennium – Luke Moore and Stefan Moore both came through the academy around 2005.
England officials at St. George’s Park have also recognised Aaron’s potential and recently handed him the captain’s armband in a 2-0 win for the Under-17s over the Czech Republic in November. He played alongside the likes of Louie Barry, who Villa snapped up from Barcelona, Alex Robertson of Manchester City and Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala.
Aaron joined Villa at the age of eight-years-old and plays in a slightly deeper midfield role for the U18s and U23s than that of Jacob’s. He started out at local team FC Premier before being spotted by Villa at an early age.
Aaron was even named in The Guardian’s Next Generation list last year, which is an annual list of 20 names comprising the best talent from Premier League clubs born between September 1, 2002, and August 31 2003.
The standards set by Jacob Ramsey for his brothers to follow
In academy football, young players need inspiration and that poster boy to follow in their dreams and use another successful player to work against. Take Birmingham City for instance, after going several years without producing much top-flight talent, Nathan Redmond bucked the trend, before Demarai Gray drew inspiration to work towards the levels set by Redmond, a couple of years before making his own breakthrough.
Following Gray’s rise at Birmingham, he’d play a part in Leicester City’s title charge after signing for the club during the January window of 2015/16, before then making the move to German side Bayer Leverkusen this year. Again, his inspiring journey was harnessed by Jude Bellingham who now finds himself playing Champions League football with Borussia Dortmund at 17 years of age.
So while Villa’s academy is littered with exciting talent of its own, the breakthrough of Jacob Ramsey will encourage not only his brothers, Aaron and Cole, to make the grade but also the many other budding youngsters at Bodymoor Heath, keen to replicate or even better his performances and rate of development in the academy set-up.
After the 16 Premier League Under-18 appearances he made in the 2017-18 season, Jacob registered ten goal contributions and scored seven goals. In the following campaign, his game went up another level, scoring eight goals in 13 games, including two braces against Swansea and Reading in the FA Youth Cup.
Ramsey demonstrated his technical prowess, speed and goal-scoring ability to score a wonder-goal against the Royals which went viral on social media. He also found the net twice as he made his debut U23 season in Premier League 2 in 2018.
He continued an impressive run of form by contributing to 11 goals in 12 PL2 games last season, but after Villa went out of the FA Cup in December, Ramsey’s chances of featuring again in the first team during the Premier League run-in were slim. League One side Doncaster Rovers, who are managed by Smith’s friend Darren Moore, offered him not only game-time but a chance to prove himself in senior football as the Donny launched their promotion bid.
Football’s indefinite suspension during the Coronavirus outbreak postponed Ramsey’s progression under Moore. He was making great strides in League One after making the odd cameo for Villa’s first team last season.
Ramsey has excellent footwork as well as a turn of pace and an eye for a pass – he holds all the typical traits of an attack-minded midfielder. His eye for a goal has particularly been the cause for optimism around his quickly developing game.
On his debut for Doncaster last season, Ramsey scored twice against Tranmere before scoring in his seventh and final game for the club against MK Dons in March prior to the league’s suspension amid the global health crisis.
He impressed so much at the Keepmoat and at such a tender age that he even drew comparisons to a former Villa great. The former West Brom defender and current Doncaster manager, Moore had been discussing Ramsey’s impact with the Doncaster Free Press and compared the teen to former Villa star, David Platt.
“He’s a very good player. He added that bit more power to the midfield,” Moore said.
“He’s a goalscoring midfielder. If you’ve got that at this level, it helps a lot. It takes a bit of pressure off the forwards and it gives the opposition something else to worry about.
“He was almost David Platt-esque how he arrived late in the box. It’s an unbelievable skill that he’s got to arrive late.
“He’s got the power to get off the back of people and come in from deep to create overloads.”
Platt spent three years at Villa, scoring 64 goals for the club and winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1989-90 – it’s high praise from the coach Ramsey spent the best part of three months with.
Villa boss Smith has also regularly sung his praises and placed his faith in Ramsey by offering him a spot in the first team this season.
“I keep moving JJ up in training as often as I can to give him that experience. He’s had a bit of a growth spurt as well so we have to be mindful of that too,” Smith said.
Many of Villa’s young hopefuls made the step-up from U18 to U23 football this season as Villa endeavour to fast-track the development of their promising stars. Jacob is physically maturing into a very capable midfielder after his time in the U23s has ended, despite regularly matching up against players up to four years his senior during PL2 games.
Smith was reluctant to accept any loan offers that came Ramsey’s way during the summer and January windows this season, with the youngster firmly fixed in the plans of the Villa gaffer who handed the attacking midfielder his debut and many more opportunities since, to prove his promise under Smith’s watch.
The two brothers, having grown up just a short way away from Villa Park in Great Barr are leading lights amongst Villa’s exciting academy set up – there’s a buzz around Bodymoor Heath, an expectation that Villa can become a hotbed for homegrown talent once more.