Whilst Aston Villa fans are used to hearing about a number of youth talents by now, there’s some that are still relatively unknown. We’ve profiled the likes of break-out star Corey Blackett-Taylor and more.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy) // Follow us on Twitter (@claretandview)
In the last few seasons at Aston Villa, we’ve been introduced to youth talent in the form of Callum O’Hare, Jake-Doyle Hayes, Keinan Davis, Mitch Clark, Easah Suliman and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy.
But this pre-season, before Aston Villa were recently saved from the brink of financial ruin by investors Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, Steve Bruced seemed to reluctantly admit that the club would need to bed in some young talent for the season ahead. That still seems the case, so we thought we’d profile some of the newer kids on the block.
20-year old Blackett-Taylor has been at the club for eleven years, working his way up the academy. He was born relatively nearby, in Erdington.
A few years back, Corey scored five goals in the opening nine matches of the 2015-16 season for the under 18 side, before being selected for the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens tournament in the same year and helping Aston Villa win it for a record sixth time.
Blackett-Taylor has already made his first team debut, coming on in the 87th minute in 2017 and replacing Neil Taylor in a 1-0 loss against Huddersfield.
Corey signed a contract extension on the 20th of April of this year, keeping him at the club until the summer of 2019. This means it could truly be a make or break season for the youngster – who has impressed fans during pre-season.
Preferring to play on the right side, but with the ability to perform on the left – the speedy youngster is known for his ability on the ball and his deliveries into the box.
Blackett-Taylor looked to hurt himself in Villa’s 4-0 win against Burton in preseason.
19-year-old Harvey Knibbs has found himself thrust into the limelight this pre-season, with injuries to the likes of Scott Hogan, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Harry McKirdy.
Derbyshire born and raised, Knibbs found himself promoted to the Aston Villa U23 side last season, where he scored in key games against Fulham and Sheffield United.
With 14 goals and three assists in 41 appearances throughout the Premier League 2, U18 Premier League and the FA Youth Cup, Knibbs obviously showed Bruce that he was worth looking at, and it’s seen him selected to be in the squad for all three possible appearances he could have made.
Generally behind the likes of Keinan Davis and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy in the pecking order, Harvey Knibbs scored his first senior goal in the friendly at Kidderminster – slotting home confidently with an assist from Jack Grealish.
Knibbs signed a two year professional contract in 2017, meaning like Corey Blackett-Taylor – the youngster will need to impress this season to ensure he’s given a new deal.
With Rushian Hepburn-Murphy promoted to the senior squad, it’s likely that Knibbs will remain in Aston Villa’s youth set up this season and battle Kelsey Mooney for the forward role.
19-year-old Jack Clarke went to the same school as Jack Grealish and was picked up by the same scout that found our brightest talent in years.
Clarke is known for his wand of a left foot and silky dribbling, and he fired in the important first goal for Aston Villa in their Premier League Cup semi-final win against Leicester.
Jack joined a number of his team mates in training with senior players last season, all whilst in his first year of a professional contract.
An understated member of the U23’s last season, Clarke is a technical midfielder who loves to dribble much like his more senior team mates in Grealish and Hourihane.
With an astonishing 58 appearances across all competitions last season, Jack racked up nearly 4,000 minutes of football which makes him the highest appearing youngster during the 2017/18 season.
Managing one goal and six assists in those games, Jack does have to add to his game, but could quite easily be another youth product we see in the first team soon.
Pictured on the left appearing for the United States youth team, Vassilev is a highly rated talent that appeared in the last ten minutes of the Kidderminster game.
Born in 2001, the 17-year-old dual heritage winger chose to appear for the USA over Bulgaria.
Whilst he’ll be considered a little too young for first team action this season, we could be seeing more of Vassilev appearing for the U23’s next season if the staff see fit.
Signed just before Christmas of 2017 after impressing after the U-17 World Cup, Villa had tracked Indiana’s talent for some time – expressing an interest before he turned 16.
With the likes of Christian Pulisic coming through as an exciting American talent, the USA’s youth set up rate Vassilev just as highly.
Relatively strong for his age, Indiana Vassilev uses his strength, pace and silky dribbling to his advantage and often gets the better of the opposition defenders.
Whilst it could be a few years yet until Aston Villa fans hear more from Vassilev, he’s certainly someone to look out for.