Bradley Young has scored 20 goals this season in games for Aston Villa’s Academy sides, with many of his strikes coming in the Under-18 Premier League.
With 13 goals in 16 starts for Villa’s U18s in the league this term, Young has scored over a quarter of Sean Verity’s side’s goals this term and has since made the step-up to Under-23s football.
Deserving of his opportunity to play amongst the likes of Louie Barry and Carney Chukwuemeka in Villa’s promising U23 side, Young has scored two goals in four starts, in Premier League 2 fixtures against Newcastle and Sunderland.
Since his goal at Sunderland helped Villa climb the Premier League 2 table, Young has scored eight goals in all competitions since the start of March, with four of them coming in a single game.
In Villa’s U18 win over West Brom in April, Young scored four times as Verity’s side beat the Baggies youngsters 6-4 at Bodymoor Heath.
While Young has demonstrated a prolific goal-scoring touch in league duties this term, he’s also been a mainstay in Villa’s U18 side that has impressed throughout an FA Youth Cup run which Villa have made the final.
Strikes from Carney Chukwuemeka, Louie Barry and Brad Young as well as an own goal secured a semi-final win over rivals West Brom, as Villa entered the final for the first time since 2010.
The visitors toiled as they fought to get back into the game from a two-goal deficit, but after Jovan Malcolm sent a tired effort just wide 20 minutes from time, Young finally got his much-deserved goal after more neat work by Barry on the left.
After watching his team make it through to the final, Verity said: “That’s what special players can do and we’ve got one or two!
“Louie’s spot for the second goal is a fantastic finish. He tried to do that again. There’s some good footballers at this level. Carney did well with his goal as well. I’ve known this group for a long time. It’s a huge relief to get through. Liverpool in the final will be a very good watch.”
First-team head coach, Dean Smith has also outlined the pathway programmes that many of Villa’s exciting youngsters are currently on.
“Age-teamed football is obviously very different to open-age football. The FA Youth Cup, we’ve got a great young crop,” Smith highlighted.
“We’re doing well and our academy is thriving again which is what we wanted and Louie Barry’s one of a few with Carney and Aaron Ramsey (Ramsey). We’ve got JJ (Jacob Ramsey) in our team at the moment; Kaine Kesler.
“We’ve got a lot of players who are progressing but the Premier League is a massive jump and they have to be showing that when they’re training with our first-team group as well.”
Smith added: “We’ve got an elite group that have been training with us that have been doing well in their age group.
“But what they have to do is to make sure that when they come with the first team that they’re at the top of their game because that’s where they will get picked to be in the squad and be involved in our squad… when they’ve shown that they can compete at first-team level as well.”
While Young might not be getting as much exposure to the first-team environment as some of Villa’s current England youth internationals, he’s making a name for himself in an academy keen to maximise the potentials of their youngsters.
Aston Villa academy plans set to maximise player potentials
Chief executive Christian Purslow, who runs the club on a day-to-day basis on behalf of Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, said in a Villa TV interview it’s an all-hands-to-the-pump effort to “make this club great again.”
He’s seen, first-hand, the level of investment Villa’s ambitious owners have pumped into the club. At Bodymoor Heath, a brand new £14million academy site was completed last year, with a 500-seater stand, match pitch and other facilities also built to mimic matchday at Villa Park.
Up to £6million has also been spent on extending the first-team’s headquarters with a state-of-the-art performance centre perhaps the most eye-catching of NSWE’s investments.
A brand new multi-purpose gym is now home to Villa’s incredible sports science team who will endeavour to maximise player potential with all the tools and modern technologies available.
Dean Smith, John Terry and Villa’s ever-growing performance team were said to have been impressed on their summer visit to the Minnesota Vikings’ NFL training facility. Edens previously discussed in a Q&A last year that football as a sport has “got a long way to go in terms of analytics data,” compared to the standards seen in the NBA and other American sports.
Plans to build a brand new inner-city football academy near Villa Park are also underway. The Premier League club has lodged an application with the city council to develop the state-of-the-art complex on land off Tame Road, close to the stadium and Witton train station.
With Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training ground around 13 miles away from Villa Park, the facility will cater for youngsters in the surrounding catchment areas. The site is currently being used as a car park for match-day staff, but the proposal put forward to Birmingham City Council includes a full-size indoor 3G pitch, an outdoor floodlit 3G pitch, plus a purpose-built two-storey building that will house six changing rooms.
As well as being used by the club’s youth academy teams, it would also be available to the local community and for the club’s foundation work.
“I’m aware of it and it’s something the football club needed to do,” Villa’s first-team head coach, Smith commented. “We’ve got a fantastic training facility here at Bodymoor Heath but it is nearer to Tamworth than Birmingham and, to have somewhere in Birmingham, would be ideal for us.”
Warwickshire-based HB Architects have been chosen to lead the city academy build, having recently renovated the Holte Suite at a cost of £8.5million.
In its design statement, a spokesman for HB Architects said: “The club’s focus through the city academy will have two primary aims; to assist Aston Villa in identifying talented local young players (male and female), and to provide access for the local community through the Aston Villa Foundation and partnership working with local junior football clubs.
“The location of the city academy will ensure that young people in the city can access these new facilities easily within the urban area, with direct links available locally via public transport.
“By providing the facility in the shadow of the main stadium, and also in an urban location that is easily accessible on foot, cycle and by public transport, there is a greater opportunity for those young people who may not have access or the support to travel the 12km to the Bodymoor Heath training ground facility.”
Villa’s owners are also thought to have exciting plans to completely overhaul the North Stand once normality resumes, with initial plans including a hotel, museum and a new superstore to replace the one-time ‘Villa Village’ building.
With strategies in place to invent exciting Villa’s future, it’s the likes of Brad Young and Co. who’ll be making full use of the club’s investment in youth operations and earn their first-team breakthroughs.