Aston Villa have been busy restructuring recruitment and youth development operations over recent months as the club begins to lay the foundations for Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens’ exciting plans.
Behind the scenes, Villa are quickly becoming one of the more forward-thinking Premier League clubs with a long term, thorough blueprint in place to create a sustainable pathway for many academy hopefuls at Bodymoor Heath.
After investing up to £200 million in transfer dealings since taking over the club, Sawiris and Edens are equally invested in improving an academy that has for several years fallen victim to other priorities at Villa Park in the past decade.
Amongst the seven new scholars to join a promising under-18 side this season, Kahrel Reddin has impressed in his first campaign with Sean Verity’s side.
Frankie Ealing, Taylor-Jay Hart, Joshua Lane, Tommi O’Reilly, Teddy Rowe and Dewain Sewell all put pen to paper on their first contracts at the club in July – but it’s Reddin who has been earmarked by club icon Gabriel Agbonlahor to make the grade.
Speaking to Football Insider, Agbonlahor has predicted that academy stars Louie Barry and Reddin are two future first-teamers at Villa Park. The two 17-year-olds have been impressive for Villa’s under-18s and under-23s of late.
“I’ve heard about Louie Barry, there’s another one, his name’s Kahrel Reddin,” Agbonlahor said.
“But I think they need to play more games in the under-18s, under-23s, get their experience before they come into the first team because the squad that Aston Villa have got, it’s going to be really tough for them to breakthrough.
“Sometimes loans can help. We’ve seen Jack [Grealish] go on loan when he was 17,18 to Notts County, I went on loan when I was 18 to Sheffield Wednesday.
“Sometimes, get yourself out on loan and go and play with the men. Under-23s football’s good but there’s nothing better than playing real football and real competitive football and that’s what these players need to do.”
Villa’s under-18s have got their Premier League U18 campaign off to a winning start. Verity’s young lions beat Leicester City at Bodymoor Heath 2-1 on their season-opener thanks to goals from winger Reddin and striker Bradley Young.
Summer additions Sil Swinkels, Ben Chrisene and Caolan McBride all made their Villa debuts, but it’s homegrown talent, Reddin who has been catching the eye as Villa continue to make an impressive start to the league season.
Villa won six of their first eight games in the Premier League U18 South Division after amassing 19 points to sit at the summit of the division at the end of November.
Reddin grew up in the Sutton Coldfield area and has been at Villa for several years. Football conditioning coach and owner of Peak Performance, James Atkins recently worked with Reddin with training heavily based around flexibility, mobility, rhythm and fluid movement.
Reddin said: “My sessions with Jamie were based on speed, agility and mobility.
“Every session and drill has a specific crossover not only to my game but the position I play. Jamie was always positive throughout our session, this really brought the best out of me. I recently had a hip flexor injury and during our sessions Jamie showed me ways that would limit the chances of this happening again.”
This term, Reddin has been a mainstay in Verity’s starting team, featuring in seven of the eight games Villa’s under-18s have played this campaign.
Reddin has played over 500 minutes of football already having only missed Villa’s 3-0 loss to Fulham in October – interestingly, the U18s first and only loss of the campaign.
The winger completed 86 successful short passes in his first eight games, even winning 23 tackles. 8 successful dribbles describes his game better than any other statistical measurement – though Villa’s promising winger isn’t in lonely company, with Jaden Philogene-Bidace also making his mark at Bodymoor Heath.
Philogene-Bidace was reportedly interesting European football powerhouses Manchester City, Ajax and Bayern Munich. Football Insider also reported that Arsenal were keeping tabs on the youngster after some eye-catching displays in Villa’s reserve teams last year.
The winger notched six goals in ten Premier League U18 games after playing over 1000 minutes across Villa’s under-18 and under-23 sides last season. Since Philogene-Bidace made his under-23 debut, Villa’s CEO Christian Purslow has since overhauled the club’s youth football operations.
Speaking at the Villa Supporters Trust’s AGM in January, Purslow said: “Frankly, I’m going to be brutal, 22-year-olds playing in an under-23 team means your system isn’t working.
“It means your system has failed because 22-year-old footballers at Aston Villa need to be in the first team. The ultimate goal is to populate the under-23 team with 11 outstanding 16, 17 and 18-year-olds, then I will know it’s working.
“And that will take years, not months. We need to be higher in recruiting the best eight-year-old, nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old, 12-year-old, 14, 16, one a year that makes it and gets a professional contract at 16.”
Villa have been populating their youth sides with the player profiles Purslow and Academy Manager, Mark Harrison desire. Johan Lange and Rob Mackenzie’s summer appointments have also bolstered Villa’s recruitment possibilities as the club tries to identify and lure Europe’s best, young talent to B6 – and the likes of Philogene-Bidace and Reddin will form the start of a new era for reserve football at Villa Park.
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