The exodus from Aston Villa is set to continue, with Ron Vlaar likely to join the already departed Tom Cleverley and Darren Bent. All of a sudden, the ranks at Villa are starting to get very thin. In addition, last week Villa announced they released eight players from their Under-21 squad, and countless other squad members have been linked with moves to other clubs.
With all that said, there finally looks to be some good news coming from Villa Park. One of the U-21 players they didn't release was Kevin Toner, the 18-year-old Irish center-back who has served as the captain of the U-21 squad since September. Toner, who has played for the Republic of Ireland U-19 squad, is reportedly close to signing a one-year contract extension with the club, with an option for an additional year.
Toner has already attracted interest from several clubs, with Newcastle, Leicester, Norwich, and Stoke City all eyeing the youngster, but it seems like Villa have managed to keep hold of the promising center-back. Both Tim Sherwood and U-21 manager Gordon Cowans have been impressed with Toner's performances. "He gets his head onto everything," said Cowans. "He's a throwback to the old days. He just heads it, kicks it, clears it and he's comfortable on the ball."
While it's not the big-name signing that many fans were hoping for, it's still good news. Keeping hold of talented youngsters is crucial for the long-term success of the club, and Sherwood knows it. "Ultimately the young players from your academy will be your best players over a long period of time," said Sherwood. "I think history has shown that with John Terry, Jamie Carragher, the Neville brothers." In this same vein, Sherwood was left unimpressed by Villa's decision to let Daniel Johnson, a promising central-midfielder, join Preston North End during the January transfer window.
Toner is still extremely young, and fans shouldn't expect too much too quickly from the center-back. But youth has never stood in Sherwood's way before; the extension of Toner is yet another sign of Sherwood's commitment to younger players. With the right development and coaching, combined with a loan spell, Toner could have a bright future in Tim Sherwood's side.