Bodymoor Heath has been shrouded in gloom throughout winter but the first rays of spring sunshine have turned thoughts to lambs, blossom and new beginnings.
Improved performances from the U-18’s and U-21 teams have provided cautious optimism that solutions can be found for next season within the academy. Aston Villa manager, Remi Garde, explained that the youngsters would need plenty of training sessions with the first team so that he could assess their ability and character.
“They need to have many training sessions with me and the first team to have the opportunity to me. You know how much I like to work with young players. I will be very careful with all these guys.”
Who, therefore, could be promoted to the first team for Villa’s likely campaign in the Championship?
The 20-year-old Aussie midfielder was the first academy player to impress Garde this season. The French boss was full of praise for Lyden’s professionalism, dedication and never say die attitude. It seemed as if Garde was laying down a marker to the other academy players by singling the young Aussie out for praise.
The message appeared to be that other academy players would need to show the same level of commitment as Lyden to be afforded chances in the first team.
Lyden’s best position is as a box to box midfielder and his footballing hero is Frank Lampard. The youngster is not blessed with flicks or tricks but he contributes very well in the central midfielder position through his work rate, hunger to win the ball back and desire to get forward into goal scoring positions.
Lyden is efficient in his distribution and quickly plays forward balls to more skilful attackers. He is a forward thinking player who could benefit an often fussy first team midfield.
The 17-year-old winger is the current jewel in the academy. Green is a player who has been identified by England coaches as one of the best players in his age group, similarly to Jack Grealish and Daniel Crowley before him. Like Grealish, Green is a tall winger with an elegant dribbling style. Green does not rush his decision-making and he is a composed player for his age.
Garde has been impressed in recent weeks by Green’s professionalism around Bodymoor Heath and attitude in training sessions. It has been steep learning curve for Green in the past 12 months. He represented the U-21 team as a 16-year-old and has now, as a 17-year-old, experienced his first minutes in the first team.
In an U-21 game against Arsenal on Monday he looked every bit as impressive as Arsenal’s hot prospects Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Serge Gnabry and it was good to see Green tracking back and winning balls as he will need to show fighting spirit if Villa play in the Championship next season. Garde gave the youngster thirty minutes against Tottenham and he didn’t look out of place.
The 17-year-old Brummie striker with be 18 shortly after next season begins and it is hopeful that he can be an important player next season for Aston Villa. Hepburn-Murphy made his debut as a 16-year-old for old boss Tim Sherwood against Sunderland. Like Green, Hepburn-Murphy has developed a lot physically since his debut last season and has a scoring rate similar to Chelsea’s hot prospect Tammy Abraham.
Hepburn-Murphy is mobile with a good technique, good in the air and competent with both feet. Aston Villa have seemed to favour target men since Paul Lambert arrived at the club but as teams like Leicester and Liverpool have shown, mobile strikers can add a lot to a team.
Unfortunately Hepburn-Murphy has been injured recently but it is likely that Garde will include him in squads in the final eight Premier League games if he recovers his fitness in time. In training photos the Villa boss appeared to be watching Hepburn-Murphy very closely.
The 20-year-old Villa striker rose to prominence in pre season under Tim Sherwood where he out performed strikers from the first team squad. Sellars played well against Swindon and seemed to have the edge in acceleration compared to the declining Agbonlahor who looked slow to every ball.
The nimble young striker has a skinny frame but a nose for the goal and is always pestering defenders and giving opponents no rest. His street fighting qualities could serve him well in the Championship. There was some concern in the academy that he would need a loan before playing for the first team as he had not developed physically as well as some of the other academy boys.
There will be less concern in that regard you would have thought in the Championship next season. Sellars, Hepburn-Murphy and the returning Callum Robinson should add pace, enthusiasm and hunger to Villa’s forward positions next season.
The 19-year-old utility player moved from Southampton to Aston Villa last summer and featured prominently in pre season under Tim Sherwood. Mason has mainly played centre back for the U-21 team this season but had been used by Sherwood at right-back and central midfield also.
Mason is probably better in central midfield where he is committed, industrious and focused. Mason’s mentality, professionalism and toughness also appealed to Remi Garde who selected him for the bench against West Ham. Mason could be an important player next season for the first team as he has the commitment and toughness for a long and gruelling season in the Championship.
Aston Villa have often lacked grit and desire in their performances this season and Mason has both of these qualities in abundance. The former Real Madrid and Southampton academy player is highly thought of in the academy and it is hoped he can join the first team squad next season following the anticipated high turnover of first team players.
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