Chukwuemeka pushing for step up as Villa must handle young gem with care

Aston Villa starlet Carney Chukwuemeka put in a superb display as the U18s overcame Newcastle Utd in the FA Youth Cup this week, and calls for a chance at senior level are growing.

The 17-year-old has put in a string of brilliant performances already this season, as he has seven goals and five assists in 22 outings to emerge as one of the stand-out talents in the latest crop of Villa youngsters.

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He’ll hope to add to those tallies and help our youth sides finish off the campaign strong, perhaps with silverware to show for it too, but there is a growing demand to see him given an opportunity by Dean Smith.

Chukwuemeka was on the bench in our last Premier League outing against West Brom, and although he wasn’t brought on, he’s quietly gaining matchday experience at senior level while also training with the first-team squad during the week.

It’s important to note that Smith and the coaching staff observe him on a daily basis and will be in a far better position to analyse the youngsters trying to make the step up.

Perhaps he has seen areas of improvement that need to be addressed before Chukwuemeka is given a run out against stronger, quicker and more demanding opposition in the ultimate age group, but it’s hoped that we do get a glimpse of him at that level in the coming weeks before the current Premier League season comes to an end to see what he can offer.

Although he wasn’t the only player to produce an impressive display on Tuesday night at St. James’ Park, with the likes of Kaine Kesler, Arjan Raikhy and Brad Young also putting in top performances, it was clear throughout the encounter that Chukwuemeka is physically and technically beyond that age group.

With that in mind, this is a pivotal period in his career, and one that Villa and Smith will be desperate to manage correctly to ensure that we have a future star on our hands at our club and not elsewhere.

Should he continue to develop his game for the U23s? Would a loan move at a lower league side benefit him more? Is is too big a risk throwing him in with the first-team or what does Smith have to lose?

These are all questions that Villa will be assessing and looking for the most appropriate answers to. On one hand, there really is a strong argument in favour of giving Chukwuemeka a run out in some of the remaining Premier League games which don’t interfere with his involvement at youth level.

Then comes another big decision in the summer as to whether we keep in house and oversee his development directly or ship him out on loan to gain experience and playing time to continue his progression.

These are all unknowns for now, but what is certain is that Villa have a gem on our hands in the shape of the teenager, and if he’s managed and coached correctly as he fills out, gains experience and develops his all-round game, then there really is a lot to be excited about when it comes to his future.

In the more immediate future, the question remains as to whether or not we’ll see him against Everton this weekend and the only man who can answer that one, and importantly is in the best position of all of us to make that crucial call, is Smith himself.