With most eyes on the upcoming Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley against Derby County, Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith recently spoke to the BBC and one of the topics up for discussion was the raft of youngsters we have released, given the time of year we find ourselves at.
With Mitch Clark the clear standout from that group after his successful loan spell out with Port Vale this year, plenty of fans were hoping we’d see a bit more of him next season but talking to BBC Radio recently, Smith admitted it was a tough time of year for youngsters but ultimately we had to make decisions based on who we thought would improve us, and those not at that level deserved the opportunity to drop down a bit and continue to develop elsewhere.
“I think historically as a football club we have had players come through the system and done very well from it. We have had a look at the U-23’s squad recently, a number of contracts have come up and we have released quite a few of them. I think you get to a stage where these players get to 21, 22 and 23 and you have to look at them and say, ‘Are they a top-six Championship player?’ ‘Are they going to be a top-six Championship player or Premier League player?’ If not, we have to let them go on and pursue their careers and help them with their future pathways because you’re not helping them by keeping them around.”
Every year we see at least one player released that most think should’ve been kept on, but with a long standing criticism of our Academy being we never seem to get players out for real experience quick enough, it seems our new management are keenly aware of that fact and that we have to do better.
There’s no point letting a player reach 22/23 before seeing how they cope in League One or Two as by that age they need to be playing regularly if they are to get a chance in our first team setup, and we’ve simply not done that enough. Two or three loan spells by 19/20 and they have more of a chance of having an impact with us and unfortunately, it’s part of the game.
Even then, we won’t get every decision right and someone will come back to bite us but you play the odds and percentages and you can’t get perfection.