An entire roster of youth talent has been shipped out to League One and League Two clubs, first-team rotation options have been pushed out to polarising ends of the Championship table. This can only be described as something of an exodus. And this recent loan exodus has been met with a fair portion of criticism.
If there is another injury crisis at Bodymoor Heath, the club could be left high and dry - and without a transfer window to fix anything. Also, it is believed that every single one of the players shipped out should be fighting for a first-team place at Villa. It’s also likely that many feel that keeping these youth players at Villa is a better option for their development than a loan spell at another club. If your question is what is the right thing to do with youth players, there’s no real answer to that. The right answer is going to be affected by context. Some players will thrive, others will wilt.
The thing is, most clubs aren’t in the privileged position of Aston Villa - in the lower leagues, promising youth players are pushed to the forefront into make-or-break scenarios. Villa, without an injury crisis, won’t really miss any of the players that they have shipped out. There’s no squad depth issue at Villa, not really - but the squad is heavily imbalanced.
Still, no matter that imbalance, Villa have some real quality in the first team squad, and moving even an average player out of the side can have some upsetting effects. Villa’s squad depth is still something to be marvelled at, for example, Alan Hutton and Ahmed Elmohamady would likely start for 85% of Championship teams at right-back alone. They are being highly paid, and while their performances might be questionable at best, they are still part of the current make-up of the first team until they are not. If they are to be forced out of the side, it will likely be by a youth player with actual footballing experience. What’s more, if Villa’s Head Coach believes he is better off with senior players at this time, that’s his decision.
Villa’s talented crop of youngsters will now be chasing first-team football, and will have experience when they return and there’s every chance that Villa benefit from these outgoing loan deals. Mitch Clark, for one, has thrived at Port Vale and will likely push hard for a first team place at Aston Villa next season. Corey Blackett-Taylor will fight to earn a contract at Villa by starring at Walsall. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy will be able to hone his potential at Cambridge United, as will Jake Doyle-Hayes. Callum O’Hare will find balance at Carlisle. Above all, most of these players might find a reality check - life in football can be cut-throat, and especially so when we drop down the tier. Sometimes, this can inspire brilliant careers.
With all this said, the loan deal that is taking James Bree to Ipswich seems rather-odd. Still - we are not privy to training sessions, and tactical meetings. We do not know if Bree has a part to play this season and we do not know of his capability. A loan move in this instance is still valuable - as it keeps a player like Bree happy and gives him the minutes that his development demands. James Bree is the only senior player who has started more than 2 games to be sent away on loan. That in itself is telling - and not at Bree’s ability - but at the fact that there is simply no room in the inn at Villa Park (right now).
A similar situation appears to be the Scott Hogan loan. Hogan was unquestionably put out of the first-team picture by his former manager, Steve Bruce and looked shaky and ineffectual when deployed in patches for the team. He has now been sent to title-chasers Sheffield United who have no option nor obligation to buy the player. The reason Hogan has been sent on loan is simple - because Tammy Abraham playing in the same position as Hogan is too good. There is every chance that Hogan is leaving Villa now, so he can find the confidence he’ll need to compete to lead the line next year. Villa could yet move on from Jonathan Kodjia, which would leave Keinan Davis and Hogan as the two senior strikers at Villa, backed up by Rushian Hepburn-Murphy.
It’s entirely possible that Villa are sending Bree and Hogan out on loan now to reap the benefits from them next season. What’s more, if these players impress on loan, they will raise their values and become saleable assets for Villa. This is more beneficial for every single party than simply rooting a player to the bench. It’s also possible that Villa’s younger players come back ready to fight for a place in the AVFC first team. This, as well, is better for every single party involved. If Villa can sell-on certain players to build a better, more balanced side - that benefits the club.
The most important thing? All of these listed players will be set for first-team football and will likely be given the platform to succeed. No matter what happens, that can only be described as a good thing. Not just for the players, but for Villa.