It took Aston Villa’s youngsters over two hours, but they finally scraped past a resilient Blackburn Rovers side up north at Ewood Park. The Villan’s managed to stay focused and secure a 7-6 penalty shootout victory that will see them into the fifth round of this year’s FA Youth Cup.
So, who will they be battling with? Well. It’s not Arsenal or Manchester United, who haven’t made it this far.
It’s actually. Well, it’s Broxbourne Borough.
I noticed something today.— Ali Maxwell (@TheMakeleleRole) December 8, 2016
FC Broxbourne Borough, from Level 9 of English Football, have made it to the 4th Round of the FA Youth Cup...
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at FC Broxbourne Borough.
Broxbourne inhabit the 300 seater Goffs Lane stadium and their senior team is currently battling it out in the Premier Division of the Spartan South Midlands Football League. Previous league champions include Hanwell Town, Kings Langley and Biggleswade Town - notable to Villa fans as that is previous club of recent Villa debutant, Keinan Davis.
The Football Conference is the highest level of Non-League football. The Spartan South Midlands Football League is four promotions under that level. If Broxbourne went on a insane run of form, it’d have to last them five entire seasons for them to break through into the Football League with five straight promotions. Broxbourne are an absolute microcosm. It’s like that theory that if you hold a grain of sand to the sky, it’s an entire galaxy. That’s how small we are talking. My beloved Sutton Coldfield town, with their passionate ultras would need three consecutive promotions to reach the Football League proper, and they aren’t a badly run club at all.
So you can probably see how much this competition means to Broxbourne.
Remember that this isn’t even Broxbourne’s first team, it’s their youth club. Science says that these guys shouldn’t even be at Broxbourne’s level. This is absolute insanity. How could a small club have got this far.
Well, there’s actually method behind the madness. This might not be as big of a surprise as we may want to think. What if Broxbourne’s youth team is a well-oiled machine, driven to learn the basics of football, who play each and every single game with a dedicated philosophy under a coach who drives himself to educate his prospects on the nature of the game.
Sound a bit unrealistic? Well, you’d be wrong. This fantastic piece of reporting shows that this was the goal for Broxbourne’s youth team. The under 18’s have played together since the age of 10 and are likely to graduate to the first team immediately. Broxbourne have kept the same u18’s coach and players for nine years. This is a project almost a decade in the making - something unheard of in football.
Broxbourne’s philosophy probably shows up every single club in the entire world, except a notable few. Aston Villa are one of those many clubs who could be doing better.
Despite winning the NexTGen series and battering teams at the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens, it doesn’t seem like a youth prospect has really ‘made the grade’ at Villa. Jack Grealish has done well thus far and Nathan Baker somehow managed, Gary Gardner eventually got there, while Gabby Agbonlahor did well for a number of seasons before fading away. That’s about it. That’s four players over ten years. Four academy prospects that are still with the club. What’s even worse is that with the exception of Baker and Gardner, these players are all from separate generations of youth teams. While Villa’s youth teams may do exceedingly well at generating talent and success, they don’t seem to ever be brought through to the club and moulded by the first team.
Nathan Delfouneso, Luke and Stefan Moore, Ciaran Clark and Jordan Graham are just a few of the talents that Villa have brought few in the last few years. Most of these failed to make the grade - namely the first trio. While the last two were sold on without much fuss.
What will happen with those currently lurking around the first team? Villa don’t seem capable of being able to handle the Rushian Hepburn-Murphy situation, while Jordan Lyden and Kevin Toner don’t look like they are near a sniff of the first-team. Andre Green and Keinan Davis were given a chance during a FA Cup match, but it’s unlikely that they will see the first team for a while, unless this is a new move from Steve Bruce.
Every single player named in this article has been a fantastic youth talent, so pardon my French - but what in the f**k is going on? Is Aston Villa FC a place where young footballers go to die? Villa are a club that pride themselves on their academy, yet they have no Marcus Rashford, no Dele Alli, no Harry Winks, no Gareth Bale, no Paul Scholes.
More clubs should stick to the ideals of Broxbourne. A philosophy might just be more important than a league position. It gives you a chance to build something and separate the wheat from the chaff. Your club is known for something other than being ‘that team that won something half its fans weren’t alive to see’.
As for Broxbourne, it’s pretty likely that they will meet their match with Villa, who can offer their kids more than anything Broxbourne can in terms of money, facilities, coaching and training - but the magic of the cup is still there and it might be the team of highly drilled paupers that trounce the princes of Villa Park.