Aston Villa’s youth academy is full of exciting prospects from Carney Chukwuemeka to Louie Barry, Kaine Kesler and Jadon Philogene-Bidace – the Ramsey brothers are also destined for big things at Villa Park.
Born in Great Barr, Jacob and younger brother Aaron have both become key members of the club’s academy setup after both joining Villa as schoolboys.
As Dean Smith’s senior side prepared for the 2020-21 Premier League campaign, Jacob and Aaron both travelled to the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal played host for Villa’s third pre-season friendly before September’s league kick-off.
Jacob scored twice as Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal fell to a 3-2 defeat to a Villa side without captain Jack Grealish, Tyrone Mings, John McGinn and other first-team regulars.
Ramsey’s performances away from first-team action have caught traction not only at Bodymoor Heath but St. George’s Park too, as national team scouts regularly keep tabs on the 19-year-old making a name for himself in the Premier League 2.
In fact, after the 16 Premier League Under-18 appearances he made in the 2017-18 season, Ramsey registered ten goal contributions and scored seven goals. In the following campaign, his game went up another level, scoring eight goals in 13 games, including two braces against Swansea and Reading in the FA Youth Cup.
Ramsey flaunted his technical prowess, speed and goal-scoring ability to score a wonder-goal against the Royals which went viral on social media. He also found the net twice as he made his debut U23 season in Premier League 2 in 2018.
He continued his impressive form by contributing to 11 goals in 12 PL2 games last season, but after Villa went out of the FA Cup in December, Ramsey’s chances of featuring again in the first team during the Premier League run-in were slim. League One side Doncaster Rovers, who are managed by Smith’s friend Darren Moore, offered him not only game-time but a chance to prove himself in senior football as the Donny launched their promotion bid.
Football’s indefinite suspension during the Coronavirus outbreak postponed Ramsey’s progression under Moore. He was making great strides in League One after making the odd cameo for Villa’s first team last season.
Smith was reluctant to accept any loan offers that came Ramsey’s way this summer, with the youngster firmly fixed in the plans of the Villa gaffer who handed the attacking midfielder his debut and many more opportunities since to prove his promise under Smith’s watch.
Head coach Smith has high hopes for the talented teenager who made his first-team bow in a 2-0 defeat to West Brom in 2019. Ramsey later featured in Villa’s Carabao Cup third-round tie against Brighton – his first senior appearance last season.
Ramsey was also named on the substitute’s bench by Smith when Villa lost 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the third round of the FA Cup in January. He came on to make his third appearance for Villa in the 86th minute, and at the end of the month, Ramsey joined Doncaster on deadline day.
Last season, in Villa’s other cup competition, a Carabao Cup final appearance gave Villa fans some respite away from a troubling Premier League campaign. Project Restart would later stage the greatest of great escapes but make no mistake, Ramsey’s first-team minutes would’ve shot up if Villa had dropped out the top-flight in July.
This term, while Villa’s Carabao Cup exploits haven’t quite hit the heights of last season, or indeed seasons past – as Villa boast a proud history in the competition – Ramsey did feature in all three of Villa’s ties against Burton Albion, Bristol City and Stoke City.
Deputising in the league this season as Villa ran out 3-0 winners at Craven Cottage, Ramsey’s future at the club may well mark the start of an exciting but more importantly effective academy overhaul as Mark Harrison and Johan Lange navigate the academy through a new age of recruitment and player development.
Aston Villa’s academy overhaul: Jacob Ramsey ready to make the next step
The 19-year old who joined Villa’s academy at the age of six, penned a ‘long-term’ professional contract with the club last year. His deal was the first handed to a promising youngster as Villa have sought to restructure their academy operations over the past year.
Former academy manager Sean Kimberley, who had overseen Ramsey’s rise from schoolboy to a professional player, said: “If he continues to match his undoubted technical ability and eye for a goal with the desire and energy to reach the next level, he will have a bright future in the game.”
Ramsey has excellent footwork as well as a turn of pace and an eye for a pass – he holds all the typical traits of an attack-minded midfielder. His eye for a goal has particularly been the cause for optimism around his quickly developing game.
On his debut for Doncaster last season, Ramsey scored twice against Tranmere before scoring in his seventh and final game for the club against MK Dons in March prior to the league’s suspension amid the global health crisis.
He impressed so much at the Keepmoat and at such a tender age that he even drew comparisons to a former Villa great. The former West Brom defender and current Doncaster manager, Moore had been discussing Ramsey’s impact with the Doncaster Free Press and compared the teen to former Villa star, David Platt.
“He’s a very good player. He added that bit more power to the midfield,” Moore said.
“He’s a goalscoring midfielder. If you’ve got that at this level, it helps a lot. It takes a bit of pressure off the forwards and it gives the opposition something else to worry about.
“He was almost David Platt-esque how he arrived late in the box. It’s an unbelievable skill that he’s got to arrive late.
“He’s got the power to get off the back of people and come in from deep to create overloads.”
Platt spent three years at Villa, scoring 64 goals for the club and winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1989-90 – it’s high praise from the coach Ramsey spent the best part of three months with.
Villa boss Smith has also regularly sung his praises and placed his faith in Ramsey by offering him a spot in the first team this season.
“I keep moving JJ up in training as often as I can to give him that experience. He’s had a bit of a growth spurt as well so we have to be mindful of that too,” Smith said.
Many of Villa’s young hopefuls made the step-up from U18 to U23 football this season as Villa endeavour to fast-track the development of their promising stars. Jacob is physically maturing into a very capable midfielder as his time in the U23s comes to an end despite matching up against players five years his senior.
Villa will assess Ramsey’s development as the January transfer window rolls around in the coming weeks with a whole host of Championship clubs tracking Ramsey’s progression in Villa’s senior side.
He used to be a diminutive figure in Villa’s U23s, but Ramsey has recently shot up. His physique is developing with regular strength and conditioning work as Villa continues to closely monitor his progress with the club’s sports scientists keeping an eye on his development.
Without an abundance of Premier League minutes this term, a loan move is likely. But you could make an argument that learning alongside two of England’s most creative players, Ross Barkley and certainly Grealish can elevate Ramsey’s game even more. After all, Villa aren’t too well-stocked on numbers if injuries occur as the season unfolds.
Bodymoor brotherhood: The Ramsey brothers
Jacob has two brothers: Aaron, 17, who continues to make a big impression at Bodymoor Heath and even captained England Under-17s recently, and Cole, 13, who is developing further down the age groups at Villa.
Three Ramsey’s in one Villa team of the future is quite a thought and they’re already a third of the way there with Jacob turning professional last year. There is some friendly debate over who is the most talented footballer in the family.
Aaron was one of the standout players in Villa’s Under-16s before he made the step up to U18s football several seasons ago, and hopes to join Jacob in the professional ranks before too long. If Aaron makes it, the Ramsey’s could become the second pair of Brummie Brothers to play for Villa after the turn of the millennium – Luke Moore and Stefan Moore both came through the academy around 2005.
England officials at St. George’s Park have also recognised Aaron’s potential and recently handed him the captain’s armband in a 2-0 win for the U17s over Czech Republic in November. He played alongside the likes of Louie Barry, who Villa snapped up from Barcelona, Alex Robertson of Manchester City and Bayern Munich’s City’s Jamal Musiala.
Aaron joined Villa at the age of eight-years-old and plays in a slightly deeper midfield role for the U18s than that of Jacob’s. He started out at local team FC Premier before being spotted by Villa at an early age.
Aaron was even named in The Guardian’s Next Generation list, which is an annual list of 20 names comprising the best talent from Premier League clubs born between September 1, 2002, and August 31 2003.
The two brothers, having grown up just a short way away from Villa Park in Great Barr are leading lights amongst Villa’s exciting academy set up – there’s a buzz around Bodymoor Heath, an expectation that Villa can become a hotbed for homegrown talent once more.