This week, somehow, has turned into an extended paean to Villa's youth movement. And really, why not? As it says at the top of the site, "Our kids are better than yours." We're all riding the high of the Manchester United match, and it's been great. If you aren't all that excited, I'm not quite sure you have a pulse.
In the spirit of kinderfest, I thought it might be interesting to talk about a few of our lads in a bit more detail. But you've already heard each of us spout odes to our favorites, so this is a chance for us to write about our #2 in the youth movement. We all know Aaron loves some Lichaj, but supposing he got to take two young Villans in a young Villan draft, who would be his second? You'll find our answers below, and hopefully we'll find your answers in the comments!
This week's question: Who is your favorite amongst Villa's kids? Let me stop you there. Tell us instead about your #2 and what you love about him.
Aaron: I think it's pretty obvious who my favorite is, the fact that he's made less of an impact than any of the other youngins be damned. So if we're going for second favorite, I'll have to go with Barry Bannan. I love Marc albrighton, I really do. This is a difficult decision for me. Villa's dearth of quality central midfielders is a huge part of it and though Nigel Reo-Coker is a good player he's a very different kind of central mid; having a guy that can break up the attack with heavy tackles on one end and go on crashing runs and create hell for the defense on the other is a fantastic thing, but Bannan brings a level of creativity that this club is sorely missing. Villa have clearly missed James Milner's plamaking ability this season, and Barry looks to me like he could put him to shame in that department. His touch and vision are fantastic and though he certainly has some developing to do he's a whole lot smarter than you'd expect at his age.
Of all the kids to make their debut this season, Bannan just seems to have more superstar potential than the others. He's tiny and not especially fast. If he's dangerous from distance or the free kick we haven't seen it. But Villa have plenty of big guys and fast guys and guys that can make any set piece dangerous and guys that can score goals when they get decent service. One of the few things they don't have is a true playmaker, someone to create from the center and bring some variety to the attack. You can't break down every full back on every team week in and week out; eventually you need to mix things up. And in Bannan I see a player that can not only give the defense something to think about but that can make Villa just as dangerous in possession as they are on the counter. That's pretty exciting stuff.
Gareth: Since I haven't declared an allegiance to any particular Villa kid, let me plant my flag right now for Marc Albrighton. It's almost too obvious, isn't it? He's been a huge part of what we've done all season, since the first game against West Ham (in which he was my Man of the Match.) My favourite quality of his is his ridiculous work rate. He never ever stops running. I bet he's running now, as I write this. And he doesn't shy away from running at players either. He has enough confidence in his abilities that he can bear down on goal without getting rid of the ball, and that's a rare quality in English players nowadays.
On the Guardian's website, David Pleat compared him to David Beckham, which really helps to combat the stereotype that the English press overhypes talented young players. In all seriousness, though, if he can maintain his abilities and grow as a footballer, we're going to have a hell of a talent on our hands. In fact, he's now just below Ashley Young on the list of "Villa players I'm terrified of losing." Hopefully he will stick around, and Gerard Houllier will make good on his reputation as an excellent handler of young talent.
Kirsten: Back off, Aaron, and go back to Lichaj because Bannan? All mine. I jumped up and down and screamed when the news came through this morning that he signed his new contract. Everyone else is just a dim shadow compared to the wee Scot.
Ok, they're not really, but it's hard to pick a specific player. I'm interested to see how Ciaran Clark develops. While he hasn't been fantastic in central midfield, he's certainly done well picking up the slack of Sidwell, and it's a relief that he'll be back this weekend. I'm curious to see if he'll end up in midfield or back in central defense. It's no secret that Richard Dunne has been merely adequate this season, and apparently Carlos Cuellar insulted Gerard Houllier's mom or something, so having greater depth in the back would be something to get reasonably excited about...
Nope, can't do it. Excited we have a solid core of youngsters, anxious to have Fabian Delph back, thrilled with the performance of Marc Albrighton, but I've got Barry blinders on.
Robert: Well, despite the amount I've written about Marc, Stewie is my favorite amongst the young Villans, though at 26 he's positively ancient when compared with his teammates. So I'll go ahead and try to do some justice to Aaron's boy. (I think Marc is actually my #2, but you've read enough from me about him).
Coming into the season, the defense was supposed to be Villa's strong suit. That didn't work out so well in the first few games. Though things have solidified, it's good to know that we've got an up-and-coming defender in the stable. He's shown, whether it be with the reserves, the first team, or the USMNT, that he has an ability to get forward and make chances from the wings. And he's shown a pretty good defensive mind for one so young.
But what really gets me excited about him is the chance that, before too long, Villa may have the best outside in all of the Premier league. Eric is the last link in our wing-chain, and his ability to both attack and defend will make Villa a supremely dangerous team. And I've got a bit of bias. I'm not sure why, but a run up the edge feels much more fun to watch (for me at least) than one up the middle. There just tends to be a bit more pace on the edges.
Plus, I can't pass on the opportunity to root for a member of the USMNT. Any growth he sees here helps the national side, and vice versa. He's going to be a win-win, and I just hope Aaron's willing to make a bit of room on the bandwagon.