Gabby Agbonlahor has urged Villa’s Young Lions to grab any loan opportunities that come their way next season, insisting: ‘It will get you closer to the first team.’
The 19-year-old striker enjoyed temporary stints with Championship outfits Watford and Sheffield Wednesday last season.
He then returned to force his way into David O’Leary’s first-team squad, becoming an instant hit as he scored on his Premiership debut.
Erdington-born Agbonlahor told www.avfc.co.uk: ‘When I came back off the loan spells, I had a few games on the left for the reserves and a few in the centre. I thought I did quite well and then I pushed onto the first-team.
‘The loan spells definitely helped me. When I made my debut at Watford, playing in front of 20,000 fans was different to anything I’d done before.
‘I was nervous and I didn’t really play as well as I should have done in that game. But the more games I played there and at Sheffield Wednesday, I knew I could play in front of that sort of crowd.
‘So that helped when I made my Villa debut at GoodisonPark – I wasn’t nervous at all. Reserve games are important and we all want to win them all, but you don’t get the crowds you get in League football. Playing in front of bigger crowds helps you develop.
‘If any of the younger players coming through the ranks get a chance to go out on loan next season, they should definitely grab the chance.’
Agbonlahor is ready to fight for a regular first-team slot next term, but knows he may also at times be expected to continue his development with the reserves. And he knows second string action has played a key role in his emergence.
He added: ‘The coaches right the way through have been excellent with me from the age of about 14 or 15. They’ve helped me achieve what I have so far.
‘The reserves did well again last year. We were desperate to win the league, but we had to settle for runners-up.
‘But we weren’t scared of anybody and when we came up against senior players, we just got on with the job. That’s important when you do get into the first-team.’
Gabby’s loan advice