This week, Aston Villa switched their focus from the Premier League to the Carabao Cup. The draw in the previous round saw the Villans matched up against Barrow AFC, with the League Two side gaining the home advantage.
With the sun shining down on The Dunes Hotel Stadium, the team, containing a mix of youth and experience, gave the 662 travelling supporters something to shout about as they ran out 6-0 winners. Goals came courtesy of Frederic Guilbert, Anwar El Ghazi (2) along with the star of the show and focal point of this article, Cameron Archer, grabbing a hattrick.
It was a very professional performance all around from the team to get the job done as manager Dean Smith got his team selection spot on. The experienced heads at the back allowed the young forwards of Archer, Carney Chukwuemeka and Jaden Philogene-Bidace to express themselves going forward and express themselves they did. For now, I want to talk about a player who, despite not being in the forefront of many fans’ minds, showed maturity and quality beyond his years to fire Villa into the next round of the cup. That player is Cameron Archer.
Rising through the ranks
Archer joined Villa at the age of 6 having grown up in nearby Walsall. A Villa fan himself, he would work hard over the following 10 years in order to achieve his dream of one day featuring for his boyhood club.
His chance would come on August 27th 2019 when, at just 17 years and 262 days old, he came off the bench to feature for Villa in a Carabao Cup tie against Crewe Alexandra, a game they would subsequently win 6-1.
Archer also featured for Villa’s under 21 side who participated in the 2019-20 EFL Trophy, where he started in both games against Tranmere Rovers and Salford City. The team ultimately wouldn’t progress further than the group stages, but Cameron would net his first goal against senior opposition in the 2-1 defeat to Tranmere.
Having tasted senior football for the first time, the young attacker was determined to push on and make a name for himself in the men’s game.
From Solihull Moors to the Carabao Cup
In October 2020, Archer joined local National League side, Solihull Moors, on an initial loan until January 2021. Just 8 days later he would get off the mark for his new side, scoring 2 goals in the 5-0 demolition of King’s Lynn Town. A fantastic moment for the young striker.
As January arrived the club opted to extend his loan stay until the end of the season, a suitable solution for both parties. He would go on to net another 2 goals throughout the rest of the campaign.
Upon the expiration of his loan, Cameron joined up with the rest of the squad for pre-season training. Recently, most of the attention in regards to younger players has been focussed on members of the FA Youth Cup-winning team such as Louie Barry, Brad Young, Kaine Hayden and breakthrough first-teamers Chukwuemeka and Philogene-Bidace. For this reason, Archer had not been given as much recognition as some of his counterparts but that hasn’t deterred him from forcing his way into the spotlight.
He began the 2021/22 season leading the line for the under 23’s and has helped the team to secure 2 wins in their opening 2 matches, scoring 2 goals and assisting another.
As the Villans prepared for their Carabao Cup clash with Barrow, an unexpected name appeared on the team sheet. Archer was to lead the line for Aston Villa. This was his chance to impress the boss, fans and fellow teammates and that’s exactly what he did, and some!
He opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a poacher finish, slotting home from El Ghazi’s cross. On 62 minutes, the young striker made a lung-busting run at the heart of the Barrow defence following a through ball by the dutchman and, as the keeper rushed out to close him down, he finished emphatically with a deft chip over the keeper. He capped off an outstanding performance in the 88th minute as he carried the ball into the Barrow box which was then taken over by Philogene-Bidace. Archer made an intelligent run towards the centre circle and Philogene-Bidace found him with a pinpoint pass, taking out 4 Barrow defenders, and he slid the ball home.
A wonderful performance from an extremely talented young player saw Villa advance into the next round. The young forward received the EFL Man of the Match award for his hattrick and deservedly received all the plaudits for his performance.
It was great to see one of Villa’s promising young lions take centre stage in a cup competition and Cameron has certainly given Smith something to think about. His awareness, poachers instinct, finishing ability and speed make him an ideal forward for Premier League football.
He has certainly worked his way into Dean Smith’s thoughts and provides a different option for Villa off the bench in the league. I believe that, with his ability and determination, Cameron has a bright future ahead of him at Villa Park and will play a key role in the team’s progression this season.