Rushian Hepburn Murphy

With Aston Villa’s Premier League return, there’s a host of youngsters that will need more reserve time or loan moves away to further develop.

Words by Simon Lines | @simonlines


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Mark Delaney’s Under 23 side experienced a good season in 2018/19.

The side finished fifth, grabbing the final Play-Off Spot in the Premier League 2 and unfortunately went on to bow out to a strong Southampton side in the Play-Off Semi-Final at St. Mary’s a few weeks ago.

However, for Aston Villa it represented a season of progress and development for the young lions. The side was decimated throughout the season with more senior under 23 players leaving for EFL clubs on much needed loans, and this saw under 18 players step up into the higher set-up. They gave a good account of themselves, enabling Villa to finish strongly and give hope to the future.

With the departure of a number of senior academy players, including Mitchell Clark and Corey Blackett-Taylor, Aston Villa will be looking at some of the current crop to make a step up. Expect an influx of new academy players in and around the under 23 set up next term, purely for the reason that the club have released a large number of players who you’d expect to find in that squad.

Some of the more senior lads will need further loan experience if they are to carve out successful careers for Aston Villa or elsewhere.

Matija Sarkic

Matija is a highly rated 21-year-old goalkeeper, who has been with Aston Villa for four years since joining from Anderlecht.

The 2018-19 season was frustrating for the young goalkeeper, who made fifteen appearances in the Premier League 2, whilst also going out on loan to Stratford Town and Havant & Waterlooville, making six and one appearance respectively.

Sarkic found himself on the bench of the first team for a number of games towards the end of the season when Lovre Kalinic was injured, but is yet to make his debut for the first team.

He’ll be needing first team football next season, and with Jed Steer, Lovre Kalinic and Orjan Nyland all ahead of him in the pecking order, don’t be surprised to see Sarkic gain a much needed season-long loan as he enters the final year of his contract.

Callum O’Hare

The big fish in Aston Villa’s under 23 pond.

Callum is a talent that is highly rated by the club, and outshines his team-mates regularly, whilst also ending last season with an impressive loan spell at Carlisle United – where he went on to score 3 goals in 16 appearances, and assisting a further 3 goals.

He was well liked at Carlisle, and returns to Aston Villa in the hope he can make his mark.

If Villa had remained in the Championship, O’Hare would be expected to be a regular. Promotion to the Premier League makes this a little more difficult, and if O’Hare isn’t to be around the first team, then expect a loan deal to a Championship side to progress his development.

Rushian Hepburn-Murphy

Rushian endured a frustrating loan spell at Cambridge United in 2018-19, scoring 3 goals in 16 appearances.

He suffered with injury at times and despite being well liked by Cambridge United and their coach Colin Calderwood, he would have viewed the loan spell as slightly underwhelming.

Rushian needs game time, and expect to see another season long loan to a League One or League Two side.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Jake Doyle-Hayes

Jake was also with Cambridge United for a part of the 2018-19 season and like Rushian, had a frustrating time.

He managed to play five times for Cambridge, with injuries being a big factor in his limited game time.

Jake Doyle-Hayes is another player who needs regular game time, so expect to see another loan next season.

Jack Clarke

The captain of the Aston Villa under 23 side impressed in 2018-19 with his all running, all action displays.

He made 20 appearances, scoring twice and assisting another five.

He become a mainstay in the side this season, and at 20-years-old, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him loaned to a football league club.

A good talent, Villa will be hoping for more of the same from Jack next season.

Dominic Revan

Dominic is one of the younger players who made the step up to the under 23 set-up in 2018-19.

Revan made 20 appearances, as well as making the first team bench on a few occasions.

A strong, athletic, left-sided defender, Dominic Revan will be expected to cement his place in the under 23 squad for the coming season.

(Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

Jacob Ramsey

Jacob Ramsey had his breakthrough season in 2018-19. He signed a new long term contract with the club, and won the Academy Player of the Season award.

He made 11 appearance for the under 23 side, and is highly-rated at Villa Park.

He will be looking to further establish himself in the under 23 set up next season.

Indiana Vassilev

Another member of the under 18 side who broke through into the under 23 set up last season.

Indiana Vassilev is a quick, industrious winger who scored 3 times in 13 for the under 23’s, assisting in a further one.

His performances impressed many at Villa last season and he will be hoping to establish himself further in 2019-20.


There are others who will be hoping to establish themselves in the under 23 set up next year too.

The likes of Aaron Pressley, Cameron Archer, Tyreik Wright and Jake Walker have all had game time at under 23 level in the past twelve months.

Expect a summer of change in the academy, with players being drafted in due to the high turnover of players in recent weeks.

The academy is in a transitional period, with a lot of hierarchy change underway due to stagnation in the academy in recent years – however the club continue to perform well at this level.

Owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, along with CEO Christian Purslow, Sporting Director Jesus Garcia Pitarch and Head Coach Dean Smith, are all big believers in the academy system.

Let’s hope 2019-20 can be a big season for the lads as we look to develop the next Aston Villa superstar.

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