There’s no denying the clear talent in Aston Villa’s Under 23 ranks - Callum O’Hare, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Jake Doyle-Hayes are prime examples of that, as was a stellar bit of play in the youth team’s last outing that saw them score an incredible goal.
But the time must come for growth. A metaphorical ocean separates U23 and reserve football from league football in the EFL and if players are going to grow - they need to do so by gaining first-team minutes. Either at Villa or on-loan, U23 players must play to grow.
Recent whispers have shed light on the fact that Villa are considering a number of loan requests for young Jake Doyle-Hayes. The Irish midfielder is one in the mould of a wonderkid, with technical abilities and footballing intelligence that bely his lack of first-team minutes. The trouble for Doyle-Hayes is that Villa are stacked up in depth at his position, and for him to earn a spot would be some ask this current season.
That’s why these loan offers from League One sides should be taken seriously by Aston Villa, if they do exist. It’s a big ask to fit Doyle-Hayes into the first team at the minute, especially since Conor Hourihane and John McGinn are two of the players ahead of him. With an improving Glen Whelan and Birkir Bjarnason in reserve as well as young Callum O’Hare as the youth option, it’d take something short of an injury crisis to bring Doyle-Hayes into the first-team fold for real and for keeps.
That’s not to say that his talent can’t get him there, but some game time in League One would be worth its weight in gold to him. We’ve also got a perfect example of this type of move in practice, when Jack Grealish joined Notts County on loan before he made his breakthrough at Villa. Young Grealish had his setbecks after, but he really did make his mark at a lower level. It’s undeniable that Grealish’s loan spell accelerated his growth. The same can happen, and should happen, for Doyle-Hayes.
With Villa looking at other options in midfield, and Jake seemingly growing a bit ‘above’ the U23 talent bar, it’s maybe high-time Villa sent him out on loan for the season. It’d surely be the right thing to do?