Aston Villa’s Ramsey brothers, Jacob and Ramsey, are making waves at senior and youth level this season – but science predicts it’s Aaron who’ll make the most of his time at the club.

Words: Matthew Cotter | @MattCotter_


With older brother Jacob solidifying himself in Villa’s first team this season, younger brother Aaron Ramsey has ensured he isn’t the forgotten sibling. Aaron, just eighteen and a year younger, saw himself honoured with the Premier League 2 Player of the Month award for March. His performances in the early spring were nothing short of mesmerising, having seven goal involvements in just three games. It is evident to most that Aaron is set to follow in his brother’s footsteps.

Despite undeniable success for both brothers at such an early age, scientific findings would suggest that it is Aaron destined for superior success. Siblings in sport are not exactly an enigma. Perhaps the most famous would be the Williams sisters. Here at Villa, the Ramsey brothers are not alone either, with Dominic and Sebastian Revan both being a pivotal part of Villa’s youth set up.

Unfortunately for Jacob and Dominic, science would predict higher achievements for their younger siblings. The phenomenon is called the ‘little sibling effect’ and perhaps is one of the more nuanced theories in sports science. In short, the theory predicts younger siblings have a higher chance of becoming elite athletes. It is an idea that has been investigated by journalist Tim Wigmore and University of Utah Professor, Mark Williams in their recent book The Best: How Elite Athletes Are Made.

But why? Well, in short, older siblings are both test dummies and rival targets. Younger siblings can avoid the mistakes made by their brothers and sisters, whilst also having an easy target to where to set their aspirations. In both competitive and physical activity, it is always the younger sibling who is set to gain more from participating with their elder siblings. Competing at a higher physical standard than their own, they prematurely develop greater physical abilities alongside establishing a much sharper competitive edge.


Far from a bold unsubstantiated claim, widescale studies have highlighted the truths of the science. An analysis of sport in Canada and Australia, using 33 different sports, found that, on average, elite athletes (those who reach senior international level) have at least one older sibling.

An example used by Tim Lewis from The Guardian was rugby’s Jonny Wilkinson, who was being tackled and shoved to the floor by elder brother Mark from a young age. Not only did this prepare Jonny for when he would be hit by much bigger players than himself at the professional level, but also installed a fighter’s mentality. “I’d see it in his eyes, how determined he was to win” was what brother Mark, who did, in fact, become a professional rugby player, said in 2015. It was Jonny, however, who would become a sporting icon and achieve World Cup success with England in 2003.

So, what does this mean for Villa’s current superstar sibling pairing? Perhaps, nothing. Whilst science would predict that Aaron will achieve greater success in his career, it is by no means certain. Other facts such as injuries and motivation inevitably play a serious part in forming the career of any professional athlete. As we have seen by his solid performances so far this season, Jacob in his own right is a very talented footballer who Villa fans will want to see in Claret and Blue for years to come.

This season seems only the beginning for the Ramsey brothers. As both continue the progression from junior to senior football, the surrounding excitement grows. Hopefully, the Ramsey brothers can be the anomaly, with both the younger and elder sibling consistently performing at the elite level.

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