The 2013-14 season wasn't a particularly impressive one in terms of results for the Aston Villa academy. The Under 21 team finished a disappointing 15th in the league, meaning they will play next season in the second tier under the new Professional Development League format. The Under 18s also finished 7th in the South Division and Villa took an early exit in all youth cup competitions. However, the main purpose of the academy is to produce players that can eventually play for the first team. Judged on these terms, Villa can look back on 2013-14 with some pride. Jack Grealish excelled on loan at Notts County, Samir Carruthers impressed for MK Dons, strong performances in the reserves gave Callum Robinson, Daniel Johnson and Janoi Donacien the opportunity to travel with the first team. Grealish and Robinson both made their Premier League debut.
The news today from Mat Kendrick at the Birmingham Mail is that Robinson has agreed a two-year deal (which for some reason still hasn't been officially announced) with Grealish and Donacien also set for contract talks.
Jack Grealish has genuine potential to be a Premier League star and extending his deal is one of the most important pieces of business for Villa this summer. His current contract has one year remaining and it would be a massive blow to see him poached by another club. We will certainly see Jack playing at a higher level next season, either in the first team or on loan to one of many interested Championship clubs. With Villa still short of creative midfield options and Joe Cole unlikely to be available for every game, I would argue that Grealish needs to stay at Villa Park to compete for a starting role.
Callum Robinson has scored goals at every level so far, including 3 goals for England Under 19s. It is surely time for him to be given a chance at first team football. With options up front thin at the start of the season in the absence of Benteke and Kozak, Robinson could be more involved with the first team, but we should probably expect him to be the next youngster to take a loan opportunity.
Janoi Donacien is another strong prospect. His chances of appearing for Villa next season appear slim with the return of Okore and addition of Senderos. A loan spell in the lower leagues could be beneficial, but Villa don't have a particularly strong selection of centre backs in the academy teams. This could mean the club choose to keep him at home for another season before sending him to gain experience.
Signing up these players would be the end of the most immediate contract concerns. The focus must surely then shift to the futures of players free to leave next summer, specifically Gabby Agbonlahor, Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph and Samir Carruthers.