Academy Irish: Aston Villa Youth
In the third part of our Academy Irish series, we’re focusing on Aston Villa’s youth side, a team who regularly see players promoted to first team action (such as Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan this season). They currently play in the FA Premier Academy League group B, and were last year’s Youth Cup runners-up.
Seventeen year-old Derrick Williams was signed by Aston Villa from Tramore AFC, and has gone to be capped by the Republic of Ireland under-16 team. Although born in Germany, the defender grew up in Waterford, before joining Aston Villa and forming a strong partnership with another Irish central defender, Daniel Devine. Williams also made the step-up to play for the reserves last season.
Although born and raised in Birmingham, Richard Bryan, 16, decided to play for Ireland, and has kitted out for both the under-16 and under-17 international teams. He’s a central defender, who can also play on the left, and has been with his local club since the age of 12.
Dublin-born Daniel Devine signed for Villa from Crumlin United, and is a central defender in the Richard Dunne mould. He’s strong, and excellent from set-pieces, even scoring twice in his side’s run to the FA Youth Cup final last season. The 17 year old has been capped for Ireland at under-15, under-16, and under-17 levels.
15-year-old Jordan Graham has an interesting future ahead of him. Merely because he faces a Darron Gibson style tug-of-war between the Republic of Ireland and England. Having already been capped by the Ireland under-15s, and scoring twice against Northern Ireland in the Tri-Nations Tournament, the winger was one of six Aston Villa youngsters called up to the England under-16 training camp last month.
Like Jordan Graham, Jack Grealish is another English-born Irish winger (on the left), and has played for the Ireland under-17s, even though he’s currently at the tender age of 14. Again, like Graham he was one of six Aston Villa academy players at that 40-man England youth training camp. Grealish is one of many players to take advantage of the Grandparents’ Rule, as his grandfather provides the Irish connection. He’s a supremely talented midfielder, and has been called the best Aston Villa academy prospect in a decade or more. Hopefully we can hang on to him for the Irish team.
Irish under-17 forward, who signed from Belvedere College has already made an impact for the senior Villa side. He played in a friendly for the club in July, and scored in the same game. A naturally left-footed player, Burke can also play on the left side of midfield as well as up front.
Former Evergreen striker, Michael Drennan has won underage caps for Ireland at u15 and u16 level. Born in Kilkenny, Drennan is already a hit for Ireland at youth level, scoring against Israel and Denmark last year, as well as bagging a hat-trick against Czech Republic.