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Looking back at Aston Villa’s youth prospects

Andre Green has returned to Aston Villa, but recent history shows that youth players don’t tend to ‘make the grade’ at Villa.

Telford United v Aston Villa - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Yannick Bolasie has gone. Andre Green is back.

Whether you think that’s a fair swap is up to you. It’s what we’ve got but it does represent a big chance for Green. It’s an opportunity to reclaim his potential and be the player that people think he could be.

That’s if Villa allow him to be.

This isn’t really condemning the current set-up, but if recent history shows us anything, Villa really struggle to give youth prospects a chance. There are the odd-few special ones to break through, but really, the success rate should be a lot higher.

Let’s take a look at what could have been.

GARY CAHILL

We will start with perhaps one of the most successful Villa graduates to play in the Premier League. Since leaving the club, Cahill has gone on to win two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, a League Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League. That’s remarkable. For a time, in between John Terry’s international retirement and the rise of Harry Maguire, Cahill was England’s best centre-back.

I’m not saying he would have stayed at Villa for the rest of his career. I’m just wondering why he had to leave Villa to get to the level where Chelsea are interested.

Cahill for Bolton was incredible. The talent was there. Why did he fail to break through?

At least, we still have THAT overhead kick to remember him by.

MARC ALBRIGHTON

From one Premier League winner to another.

Once again, my question with Albrighton is why? When he broke through at the start of the 2010/11 season, he looked like a real threat on the wing. He was willing to take people on and was capable of putting in some really dangerous crossing. In truth, he’s the type of player Villa have been crying out for since 2015.

He definitely had consistency issues. Some days, he was unplayable. Some days, he wasn’t even playing. Isn’t that what young players do though? They don’t give you stability, but they are worth keeping.

I wish Albrighton was at Villa now. I really do.

BARRY BANNAN

Here’s another one from a very talented class of youth prospects.

It’s said by some that Barry Bannan had the best left foot to come through the Villa academy ever. You wouldn’t know because the Scot spent more time on loan that he did in Claret and Blue during his time at Villa Park.

He is one who found first time opportunities hard to come by and I’m not really sure why. Villa’s central midfield when Bannan left in 2013? Fabian Delph, Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood and Leandro Bacuna. There was a place for him.

Since leaving, he struggled to find a home until moving to Sheffield Wednesday where he as continually improved. He is now at a leading level in the Championship and a real game-changer for Wednesday. He just needed a real chance.

DANIEL JOHNSON

I’ll end with an unlikely one. This man may not even be known to some of you. During his time at Villa, he made a grand total of ZERO appearances for the first team. He was an unused substitute once or twice, but that’s it.

However, as Villa found out against Preston nearly two years ago, he has bags of ability. In a disappointing loss at Deepdale, Johnson played Villa off the park with some tidy touches, good passes and well-timed tackles too.

To think, he could have been lining up for Villa that day.