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Aston Villa's Youngsters Breathe New Life Into Team

Nathan Delfouneso Aston Villa 2008/09 Aston Villa V MSK Zillina 04/12/08 UEFA Cup Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International

With the injuries piling up at Villa Park the youngsters have been given a chance by Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier. Marc Albrighton broke into the team under care-taker boss Kevin McDonald but now youngsters Barry Bannan, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Delfouneso have been given a run in the first team and the Villa kids were pivotal to the 3-2 win over Blackpool.

As a Villa fan its been tough watching this year and when DJ Campbell scored in the 87th minute I thought it was going to be another Fulham and Stoke match when we just didn’t have the killer instinct to kill off the game. That was until James Collins and my vote for Villa’s Player of the Year so far popped up with a bullet header. I’ve always been a big fan of the Welsh international and after his late winner his popularity will surely increase with the rest of the Villa faithful.

Villa have always prided themselves on their youth development bringing through players such as Gabriel Agbonlahor, Craig Gardner, Liam Ridgewell, Gary Cahill, Steven Davis, Darius Vassell and, as far back as Lee Hendrie, producing some of Britain’s best footballers. Now Marc Albrighton is being named as the next talent to come off the Villa youth conveyor belt.

Albrighton has been a revelation this year and the young winger has shown some fantastic potential that has had his name linked with future England caps. Last week at Fulham, Albrighton was the best player on the park turning Fulham’s Mexican international left back inside out. The winger then went and topped off his performance with a goal. It’s a shame the game will now not be remembered for the performance of Albrighton but for the late equaliser from Fulham’s tall defender Brede Hangeland.

The name on all the Villa fans lips after Wednesday nights performance is striker Nathan Delfouneso. He looked dangerous with pace and an eye for goal I haven’t seen since Gabriel Agbonlahor burst onto the scene a few years back. All night he was on the shoulder of the Blackpool centre half’s waiting for the killer pass to set him free. This was evident when Delfouneso confidentally scored Villa’s second. His performance could have been — no, should have been — completed with a second after the referee disallowed a a perfectly good header for the striker and that would have been a third for Villa and would have finished Blackpool off. Instead we had to go through the anguish of a late winner.

The last two Villa games have been a better improvement from the dour performance against Birmingham a fortnight ago. I believe this happened because of the introduction of the young players to the starting eleven. There’s definitely a sense of no pressure from the youngsters competing for places and that’s rubbing off onto the senior players who have performed well.

This weekend the youngsters are going to have the biggest test of the their short career so far when they come up against Manchester United. I am pretty confident that we can come away with the three points on Saturday as we have home advantage and Alex Ferguson in the past has said on more than one occasion that the trip to Villa Park is the hardest away game of the season. This Saturday will prove if Alan Hansen was right when he said “you can’t win anything with kids.” Or will we be saying the kids are all right on the night?

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  1. William

    November 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Should be a good match tomorrow, ill be watching on my xbox 🙂

  2. 11Kicks

    November 12, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Even if Villa’s youngsters struggle against Man Utd tomorrow, it’s still great to see a Premier League team fielding plenty of youngsters. Might not work in the short term, but has to be good (for Villa, and maybe even England) long term.

  3. Villain-from-Texas

    November 12, 2010 at 7:35 am

    As a Villa fan, I don’t share your optimism regarding tomorrow’s match, unfortunately. I’ve enjoyed watching the kids. But I can’t see us getting three points. We’re up against Man United, albeit a depleted Man United, with kids who just got into the squad, including a central defender (Clark) playing as a midfielder for the first time in his career.

    • James

      November 12, 2010 at 8:04 am

      Also a Villa fan, and I also don’t agree that we’ll pick up the three points tomorrow – we have a terrible record against Utd at home, and I don’t see that changing. Ferguson is only ever complimentary about sides when there is something in it for him, and consistently over the years that has been 3 points at Villa Park.

      That aside, I agree that the blooding of youth sets us up well. This year is quickly turning into one of transition, given the massive injury problems we have at the moment, but that may be no bad thing. Even if we can finish below last year’s 6th place (which seems likely) but at the same time blood in a new generation of academy players into the first team, the net result will be a positive year in my view.

      The end of the O’Neill era was defined by its stagnancy, in terms of league position, in terms of tactical ideas, and in terms of squad rotation. I have a lot of confidence in Houllier that, in the long term, he can break the perceived ‘glass ceiling’ many felt O’Neill had reached.

      A bit of investment in some new (preferably foreign!) players, alongside a team invigorated with the likes of Albrighton, Delfouneso, Bannan, Clark and Lichaj – and I think the good times may yet be around the corner….

      • VillaPark

        November 12, 2010 at 9:44 am

        I will go into the game on Saturday not expecting anything yet very aware that this same team held Chelsea scoreless a few weeks ago. It’s not like United is setting the league on fire offensively, especially after their scoreless draw against City on Wednesday. They also are still recovering from illness throughout the squad and will be missing some key components.

        That said, I am optimistic that with a younger squad that Houllier allows them to take the game to United. I would also like to see Eric Lichaj get some playing time along with the likes of Albrighton, Bannan, Clark, and Delfouneso. Since this seems like a year in transition anyways for Villa, it will be really nice heading into next year if we can include those five players as regular starters.

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