Jacob Ramsey has made his move from the Bodymoor Heath Academy to the First Team Squad. Who’s next in line to take that mantle?
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
For the first time in a long time, Aston Villa’s Bodymoor Heath Academy seems to be thriving.
Of late, a number of youngsters have made their way to the matchday squad, offering cover on the bench. Kaine Kesler-Hayden, Carney Chukwuemeka and Jaden Philogene-Bidace have all been drafted in over recent weeks to offer an option should their senior counterpart suffer an injury.
This year has seen a number of academy prospects rise to the fore, with the excitement surrounding the ongoing development of these players and the footballers themselves almost reaching boiling point. Aston Villa fans are waiting for the day where the likes of Louie Barry, Lamare Bogarde, Ben Chrisene and others who have signed senior contracts recently make their debut in the Premier League.
The COVID-induced senior debut of much of the U18 side in the F.A Cup has certainly helped with the interest in the academy, with thousands, if not millions of football fans across the world shown an exceptional first half of football where the youngsters held the current Premier League Champions to a 1-1 draw. The end result of the game is well known, but it doesn’t take away from their efforts and how much they impressed.
With Jacob Ramsey currently undergoing the process of cementing himself in the First Team picture, making a handful of starts and a number of substitute appearances this season, there’s a lot of interest as to who the most likely young player to rise up the ranks may be.
And the answer to that question, based on the state of the current squad, is likely to be 18-year-old Kaine Kesler-Hayden, who captained the side against Liverpool and has continued to captain the developmental side on occasion this season.
Of late, Kesler-Hayden has spent time on the bench as a back-up to Ahmed Elmohamady during Matty Cash’s spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. With Cash looking to return for the Newcastle United game or a little later, it’s unlikely Kesler-Hayden will remain in the matchday squad for much longer – but could return for the start of next season.
With Ahmed Elmohamady currently finishing his final season in claret and blue after being an exceptional, reliable servant during his time at the club, there is a very open space for Kaine Kesler-Hayden to step in to. Of course, it may be that the 18-year-old isn’t quite ready in the eyes of Dean Smith and he opts for a different back-up option for first-choice Matty Cash, but from appearances in youth side games this season, Kesler-Hayden has looked ready to make somewhat of a step up this season despite his young age.
That, and Dean Smith would not be allowing the youngster to train with the senior squad, let alone include him in a matchday squad if he didn’t believe that Kesler-Hayden could perform in the Premier League.
Highly-rated academy captains have not endured the easiest of rides at the club in recent years, with Jordan Lyden making his Premier League debut in Aston Villa’s relegation season, before multiple loan spells and long-term injuries put the midfielder out of reckoning and resurrecting his career looked unlikely. He currently plays for Swindon Town in the Sky Bet League One. Another is Jack Clarke, who is currently loaned out to Chesterfield after a relatively unsuccessful spell at Yeovil Town earlier in the season. Now 22-years-old, it’s likely Clarke, who was scouted by the same scout who discovered Jack Grealish, will not make the grade at the club.
Developing youngsters is very much a lottery. Some players are just world-beaters no matter what, some have tailored progression that helps them realise their true potential, and some are exceptional players that never reach the heights that were touted for them due to a number of things.
Kaine Kesler-Hayden has the potential to go far at Aston Villa, and with the new owners, developmental structure and academy set-up, everything is in place to help him achieve it. It’s up to the player now.