Aston Villa’s U18s lifted the FA Youth Cup on Monday night, with Dean Smith hoping a number of the youngsters make a case to break into the first team.
It’s the first time since 2002 that we have won the prestigious youth trophy, with goals from Ben Chrisene and Brad Young ensuring that it was a memorable night at Villa Park for these young stars who were boosted by the presence of a small, but noisy, Villa contingent in the stands.
While they will no doubt enjoy this achievement, the big test in their respective careers comes in the next few years as they’ll hope to build on the promise that they’ve shown to this stage and earn opportunities to feature in the senior squad.
Having focused and invested in the youth academy in recent years, it’s clearly an area that the Villa owners and management want to make the most of, and so now it’s over to these talented youngsters to take that next step and break into the first-team in the coming years.
Technically gifted and comfortable on the ball, the Villa right-back has shown excellent defensive qualities and an ability to break forward and be a threat in the attacking phase too.
As captain of the side, he has also shown leadership and maturity throughout the Cup run, and he’ll hope that with a slot opening up behind Matty Cash in the senior squad with Ahmed Elmohamady expected to depart this summer, he can fill the void and get chances to impress next season.
A really elegant and talented midfield player, Raikhy has been the unsung hero to an extent on several occasions for this side as he’s perhaps overshadowed at times by his attacking teammates.
Nevertheless, he has played a pivotal role in midfield with his work ethic, vision and passing ability, and he certainly does it with a sense of style too.
If Villa can develop his skills and qualities and adapt them to the senior level, we’ll hopefully a real talent on our hands as his maturity and composure belie his age.
The 17-year-old is no longer a secret as especially after making his senior debut in the win over Tottenham last week, there are plenty of eyes on him.
Villa fans will know that he is undoubtedly a star in the making. His balance and composure in possession and the attacking class that he has shown in the final third has ensured he has stood out on several occasions.
If Smith and the coaching staff show that they have a plan for him and follow up promises of first-team opportunities, it’s hoped that he can steadily grow into a big role for us and not get his head turned.
It’s been quite a career thus far for the winger after a brief stop at Barcelona, while his goal against Liverpool in the senior edition of the FA Cup in January saw the limelight shone on him.
His pace, movement and cutting edge in front of goal makes him a top young player, now it’s about filling out, continuing to improve and becoming consistent, and hopefully he’ll be an option off the bench for us next season.
With big brother Jacob already in the first team, Aaron is no doubt hoping to follow in his footsteps and make his own breakthrough in the next year or two.
Injury unfortunately limited him in the back-end of this Cup run, but he returned for the Final and showed the quality that he possesses with his attacking threat.
Time will tell if Villa have another pair of brothers ready to make their names in the senior side.
The 18-year-old has bagged 21 goals and seven assists in 33 appearances in this campaign, and so that alone has shown he can be a real handful for opposition defenders.
However, it’s the cleverness of his movement and pace to get into dangerous positions which is arguably the most impressive attribute at his age, and he’ll hopefully only get better and better.
Villa need a spark off the bench, and Young can certainly provide that with his work ethic and speed. With Wesley still working his way back from a serious injury and Keinan Davis impressing but not scoring enough goals, Young could be another knocking on the door as soon as next season.