The introduction of Premier League Under-21teams into the rebranded EFL Trophy during the 2016/17 season was a controversial one. Traditionally the tournament had given the chance of clubs from England’s two lower football leagues a real chance of a rare trip to Wembley. If the concern was that opportunity would be gazumped by young Premier League teams, they needn’t have worried.
The furtherest a Premier League U-21 team has got so far, was when Chelsea U-21 were beaten on penalties at the semi-final stage in 2017/18 to the eventual winners Lincoln City.
In times of desperation, when the Villa Twitterati call for Dean Smith to ‘play the kids’ remind them of the gap between youth level and the EFL.
While they weren’t exactly made welcome, Premier League clubs haven’t compromised the dreams of League One and Two teams, so it’s proven a valuable opportunity to blood their youth players against proper senior players.
Aston VIlla’s U-21 entered the tournament for the first time last season, but failed to pick up any points in the group stages. With the increasing focus by the club on lifting the levels of the Villa Academy, the EFL Trophy will become an increasingly useful outlet in terms of the development of Villa’s youth.
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The current Villa youth talent pool of Louie Barry, Carney Chukwuemeka, Jaden Philogene-Bidace and the new boys Aaron O’Reilly, Caolan McBride and Sil Swinkels, will get a chance to impress in what on paper looks to be a tough draw for the Villa boys in next season’s tournament.
Aston Villa will face Carlisle United, Sunderland and Fleetwood Town in Group A of this season’s EFL Trophy.
Villa were drawn in the Northern section of the tournament and it’ll be difficult to see the Young Lions progressing considering Fleetwood Town (6th) and Sunderland (8th) were two of the better sides in League 1 last season.
Matchday one will take place on 8/9 September, matchday two on 6/7 October and matchday three on 10/11 November.
Should the Villans progress, they will feature in the round of 32 on 8/9 December.
Some Villa fans have already been calling for Louie Barry to make the senior match day squad, without having seen him play. So they should get a better gage of his readiness through the cause of these matches.
While other Premier League clubs have announced their friendly fixtures for the preseason period, Villa are still yet to release any. Considering the Covid situation, you’d expect that Villa will host a series of games at Villa Park, so they can control the environment. It’s the path for example that Spurs have gone down, which will see them three games at their new stadium including the visit of Birmingham City.