With a lack of money to spend, at least before the sale of James Milner this week, Aston Villa have started their 2010/11 Premier League campaign with the inclusion of a number of youngsters in their first two competitive games.
Their 3-0 victory over West Ham United on Saturday to kick off the campaign saw first Premier League starts for youngsters Ciaran Clark and Marc Albrighton, while Andreas Weimann and Barry Bannan made appearances off the bench. The result was a 3-0 victory, albeit against one of the weaker sides in the division who gave a poor showing.
Following James Milner’s departure, Stewart Downing could be tucked inside with Stiliyan Petrov in midfield, opening up a space for Marc Albrighton to become a regular starter on the wing, switching sides with Ashley Young. Despite being one of the stars in pre-season, Albrighton may be pushed for a place in the starting lineup when Gabriel Agbonlahor returns from an injury that kept him out of the opening game. Agbonlahor, another product of Aston Villa’s successful youth system.
Another injured midfielder absent for the start of Aston Villa’s current campaign is Fabian Delph. Still only 20 years old, the former Leeds United star signed for Aston Villa one year ago and is still recovering from a cruciate ligament injury picked up towards the end of last season.
Barry Bannan is another player looking to break into the Aston Villa first team. Playing just a handful of seconds as a substitute at Villa Park on Saturday, Bannan scored Aston Villa’s goal in their 1-1 draw with Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday evening. He’s had successful loan spells with both Derby County and Blackpool in the Championship over the past 18 months that boosted his push for a first team place at Vlla Park this season.
Ciaran Clark debutised in the centre of defence alongside the experienced Richard Dunne on Saturday. Clarke’s first start for the team was handed to him with the injuries to both James Collins and Carlos Cueller. His chances of becoming a regular in the Villa side this season seem unlikely at this point and a full season out on loan may benefit him in the long run.
One other player looking to become more active with the first team this season is striker Nathan Delfouneso. The former England under 19 star has been tipped for a bright future, but needs to remain patient in the Aston Villa side. He’s main experiences have come in cup competitions for Aston Villa so far, featuring and scoring in both the Europa League and FA Cup competitions. His opportunities to play in the league remain limited, below Gabriel Agbonlahor, John Carew and Emile Heskey on the pecking order.
Aside from injuries to regular first teamers from last season, current caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald has been the decision maker for playing the kids. The reserve team coach since 2003 knows these youngsters well enough and has shown good judgement so far in giving them first team opportunities.
Aston Villa travel to Newcastle on Sunday for their second Premier League game of the season. It will be interesting to see how many and which youngsters Kevin MacDonald goes with, should he remain in charge for the weekend’s game.