With the European Championships coming to a conclusion, the Villa hierarchy will have one eye on next season. There is plenty going on behind the scenes at Bodymoor Heath with a number of players reporting back for pre-season training on Monday, July 5th. The club’s recruitment drive, spearheaded by Sporting Director Johan Lange, is still very much in motion with several positions still requiring additions to ensure Villa kick on next season.

But what about Villa’s young lions? Will any of these players have a big part to play within the club moving forward? Well, if the recent news of 13 academy players penning new deals with the club isn’t sufficient enough evidence, then I don’t know what is! This shows how highly regarded many of Villa’s young prospects are and it is clear to see that many will have key roles to play in the not-too-distant future and not just for Villa.

The Next Generation

Villa’s conveyor belt of up-and-coming talented youth is available for all to see. The club has rewarded a whole host of young players with longer, more lucrative contracts with the likes of Louie Barry, Brad Young, Arjan Raikhy and Kaine Kesler Hayden being among those who have put pen to paper on new deals with the club. Hayden, in particular, has been given a massive vote of confidence by the club after being presented with a new 5-year deal, becoming the youngest player in Villa history to sign such a contract.

It is easy to see why Kesler is rated so highly by the Villa hierarchy as he played a pivotal role during Villa’s FA Youth Cup charge making 8 appearances and even scoring a goal from right-back in the 4th round tie against Brighton and Hove Albion. He, and his teammates, also did themselves and their club incredibly proud against a Liverpool side with bags of experience in the FA Cup. Despite succumbing to a 4-1 defeat, the young Villans secured their name in Villa folklore as the team looked to put on a show in the absence of their COVID-struck, first-team counterparts.

It should be expected that several of the young Villans will look to leave on loan next season for more first-team opportunities. This can only be seen as a positive as it enables them to acquire the necessary attributes to succeed at the top level of men’s football. The premier league demands players to be strong, both physically and mentally, fast and able to adapt to the many different styles of play that are present both at Villa and against various opponents.

The young lions will gain this valuable experience while on loan, either in the EFL or abroad, and under the watchful eye of Loan Development Coach and former fan favourite Mile Jedinak, I passionately believe that none of them will have any shortage of offers.

Manager Dean Smith will be hoping that for a select few of these youngsters, that 2021/22 will be their breakout season. The likes of Carney Chukwuemeka, Jaden Philogene-Bidace, Hayden and even Barry will be tasked with impressing boss, Smith, during pre-season.

Key players such as Jack Grealish, Emi Martinez and Douglas Luiz will be due a holiday following the conclusion of the Euros and Copa America so the young lads will be looking to push each other for a starting spot against Walsall in a fortnights time. They must look to grab their opportunity with both hands and not let go in order to show Smith they are capable of helping propel the club forward.

The names ‘Louie Barry’ and ‘Carney Chukwuemeka’ may not roll off the tongue as easily as you would like, but they are certainly becoming much more familiar to the footballing world than this time last year. With CEO Christian Purslow dubbing Chukwuemeka as “the best 16-year-old in England” when speaking to club media last year and Louie Barry scoring his famous goal against Liverpool in the FA in January, it is clear to see the difference a year makes.

The potential of Villa’s young lions is there for all to see and for many, the sky is the limit. It won’t be long before the footballing world comes to realise what we as Villa fans have known all along about these young lads.

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