As Aaron Ramsey added the goal in extra-time to confirm England’s U19s as champions of Europe on Friday, there would have been a few broad smiles at Bodymoor Heath. Having seen one of their other starlets Carney Chukwuemeka find the net in extra-time in the final, this was an England triumph inspired by Aston Villa.
One man who knows those youngsters more than most is former Villa assistant Michael Beale. Now manager of Championship side Queens Park Rangers, he got up close and personal with some of the finest youngsters in the country.
“I would say that there are some fantastic players at Aston Villa,” he told The Sportsman. “It reminds me of my time at Chelsea, the amount and volume of players that could potentially come through. Headed by Jacob Ramsey who is maybe the standout at this moment in time. But they have got six, seven, eight possibly nine players coming behind that will need experience going out on loan or breaking through they will need time and patience. So I think it is a really exciting time for Aston Villa.”
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As Beale mentions, Jacob Ramsey, the older brother of final goalscorer Aaron is the shining light of Villa’s academy products. At just 21, he is knocking on the door of Gareth Southgate’s England squad and could be part of the next wave of talent to make an impact after the World Cup.
But having worked with the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool, and Reece James, Maon Mount and Tammy Abraham at Chelsea, Beale knows a thing or two about top young talent. Comparing this Villa crop to the one he saw come through at Chelsea is praise of the highest order.
Talking of his time at Villa, Beale was full of praise for his close colleague Steven Gerrard, who he also worked with at Rangers.
“Steven Gerrard has had a huge influence on me. He is a real quality human being,” he explained. “He has got a lot of values as a person that I really respect. It is hard for me to respect someone more than I respect Steven in terms of a man. The time that we spent together along with Gary McCallister and the rest of the staff was fantastic.
“I feel like Steven is like a football brother if you like. It is never the right moment for that relationship to end but it was important that I make sure that when I started out in football that I had some things that I wanted to achieve, it was important that I remembered that and I got on to starting to do that. But at the same time it had to be the right opportunity and I think when I spoke to Steven he was very appreciative of the fact that I felt this was the right one and he didn't stand in my way, he was very good with me.”
Also involved in the England U19 squad from a Villa perspective was midfielder Tim Iroegbunam who has huge promise, while big things are expected of 18-year-old Tommi O'Reilly and England under-17 captain Josh Feeney. But there is one star striker who is generating huge loan interest again this summer.
20-year-old Cameron Archer was on loan at Preston North End, second seven goals in 20 appearances and has four in four for England’s U21s. This season is pivotal to his development and although he is on the fringes of the first team, another loan could see his value skyrocket.
Any club that lands him on loan will have hit the bullseye, but he is just one of a handful of stars coming through in Birmingham. Villa have tapped into something special at Bodymoor Heath, which looks set to keep the good times rolling for some future.
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