With plenty of changes at Aston Villa following the arrivals of new owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, although most fans will only naturally focus on first team affairs, there’s also been a hell of a lot of work put into our Academy setup.
With well known names departing in recent years at that level, earlier in the summer we poached West Bromwich Albion’s Academy Head, Mark Harrison, given the success he’s had with them, and we’ve added the likes of Richard Beale, and most recently, former player George Boateng, to the staff.
With head coach Dean Smith already making his thoughts clear about the pathway through – and the subsequent departures of players at Under 23 level as we seek to maximise development potential – our gaffer gave a decent interview to the Official Site on Wednesday, highlighting just how much of a focus we now have on producing our own.
“I was involved in the recruitment process for Mark, along with Jesus Garcia Pitarch, Jeremy Oliver and Christian Purslow. We wanted the best Academy Head that could make ours the most progressive in the area. Mark’s got a good track record of doing that. I’ve been impressed by his work and have seen it close up during my time with both Walsall and Aston Villa. I was fortunate enough to pick up a few of the West Bromwich Albion players from his era in Romaine Sawyers and Paul Downing. They knew how to produce players there. Now, I think Mark will take over here and push us forward. We want to be the best Academy in the area, and even the country. That’s got to be the aim and the ambition. We also have Richard Beale in now with the U18s – another established coach who is very good at his job. I’ve known him for a long time. And we have George Boateng, who understands the club and knows what’s required. He was a top professional who played a lot of games at the highest level.”
In recent times, Jack Grealish is the obvious standout success, but fans continue to hope for big things when it comes to the likes of Jake Doyle-Hayes and Callum O’Hare, and on a first team front, we’ve recently been introduced to Cameron Archer as well.
A greater focus at that level, investment, but with far better management when it comes to getting our homegrown talent real game time at League One or League Two level, long before they turn 22/23, can only serve us well.