Bryan Jones Communicates With Fans
An email update sent by Bryan Jones, head of the Academy. Think I'm ok to publish this!
First of all I would like to thank those of you who came out in force to cheer on the U19 team in the NextGen Series quarter-final against Marseille. The atmosphere created by the 3,500 supporters at Villa Park made the occasion feel even greater for our young players. We are extremely proud of the way the team performed, although we are disappointed not to be progressing to a semi-final against Inter Milan.
We created a host of chances but were unable to take them on the night and we were unfortunate to lose 2-1 in extra-time. Nevertheless, the tournament has been a fantastic experience for the players and staff and we look forward to it next year.
Just two of this year`s squad - Gary Gardner and Benjamin Siegrist - will be too old to compete in the 2012-13 NextGen Series so most of our players will go into next year`s competition having already gained experience of facing top European opposition. Five members of our NextGen squad - Gary Gardner, Derrick Williams, Daniel Johnson, Samir Carruthers and Graham Burke - now have first team squad numbers, proving that the Aston Villa production line is still rolling.
The NextGen Series has been a real eye-opener in terms of learning about the styles and philosophies of foreign teams and players. Sometimes there is a feeling of trepidation among young English players about facing their counterparts from the continent because it is often drummed into us that the French, German or Spanish youth development models are superior to ours. But people are starting to appreciate how good our system is. I think we are among the best in Europe and the results are there to prove that. It is something that we have to get into the mindsets of players.
The U18 team are currently going through a purple patch in the Barclays Premier Academy League, making an unbeaten start to 2012. Three highly-rated members of that squad also shone on the international stage this week by helping England U17s clinch the Algarve Tournament title. Striker Callum Robinson, winger Jordan Graham and defender Joshua Webb all featured prominently in the four-team tournament, which pitted England against Holland, France and hosts Portugal.
It was extremely pleasing to see Callum score the goal that clinched the title in Monday`s decisive clash against France. After winning 2-1 against Portugal in the first match, England drew 2-2 with Holland before being confirmed as champions by beating France 2-1. The reports we have received on Callum, Jordan and Joshua have been very positive. From a development point of view it is great experience for them to go and represent their country in an overseas tournament, while it offers some of our even younger players the opportunity to step up to the U18 squad in their absence.
Having so many internationals in the ranks is also a boost for the academy. In addition to the three England boys, winger Jack Grealish and defender Brad Lewis are currently away in Portugal with Republic of Ireland U17s.
As you may have read in the national press, the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) has been approved by the shareholders of the Premier League and will come into effect on July 1. It means academies across the country will be graded into four categories and we hope to achieve elite status by obtaining a Category 1 license.
Finally, I am pleased to confirm that we have been invited back to the Hong Kong International Soccer 7s in May. It will be the 11th time that Aston Villa have taken part in the tournament and we have lifted the trophy on five occasions. We originally started going across to the Far East for the experience of playing in humidity and heat.
It is a well-organised tournament and the likes of Gabby Agbonlahor, Nathan Delfouneso, Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton are among those to have represented Villa at previous Soccer 7s competitions. Our U19 squad will fly out on May 15 with the tournament taking place on the weekend of May 19 and 20.
Read more in the forum thread: Click Here