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Trophy Tuesday: Reserves vs. Arsenal


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OutByEaster Previews the reserve game against Arsenal

his Tuesday will see Villa’s all conquering reserve team awarded the trophy for winning the Barclays Premiership Reserve League South. It’s a proper ceremony you know with the blue Premiership stage and the champagne and the streamer things.

Why not come and have a look? Kick off is at seven.

Our reserves have done superbly well this season, and last week claimed the title with a game to spare. We’ve seen some great games this year, including back-to-back 4-1’s against Fulham and Derby and a magnificent 6-0 against Chelsea and the team have fully deserved their success.

Credit should go to Kevin McDonald who has shown consistently over recent years his expertise at both bringing players through and winning consistently. Kudos also to Tony McAndrew, Bryan Jones and Gordon Cowans who have not only won their own title with the academy but have also supplied Kevin with much of his Championship winning side.

The Youth and Academy set up at Villa Park compares favourably to just about any in the country and that’s largely down to the work of those four men; unsung heroes of the Villa who’ve produced a string of players for the club and brought in millions of pounds. I look forward to seeing them parade the trophy at nine o’clock on Tuesday night.

A number of first team players have leant a hand this year, with special mention going to Curtis Davies, Zat Knight, Patrik Berger and most notably Marlon Harewood whose early season performances were exemplary.

Wayne Routledge of late has also helped us push on and Stuart Taylor’s exhortations from the Villa goalmouth have enlivened many a dull game. Even the much-maligned Luke Moore has pitched in this year with a goal against small heath in one of our two derby wins.

Top scorer this season has been the occasionally baffling occasionally brilliant Tobias Mikaelsson who has matured through the year and looks much more a player than when the season began.

Tobias joined Chris Herd and Zoltan Stieber on loan at lower league clubs this season, with mixed success. Herd has really progressed this year and is one of our most improved players and if Stieber can reproduce the form he showed for us prior to his loan he is surely a real prospect and could yet be the best of the bunch.

A defence featuring Shane Lowry and Eric Lund ably assisted throughout the year by Stephen O’Halloran, Ciaran Clark and young Nathan Baker has looked solid all season with Clark in particular impressing. He’s become England’s U19 Captain this season and at eighteen he has a real chance. Baker is one for the future, he’s big and assured and only turned seventeen last week; I think we’ll hear a lot more about him in the next few years.

O’Halloran is one of a couple of young players who’ve suffered nasty injuries this season and he’ll be out for a while yet, as will the industrious Jonathon “Boss” Hogg who should be back next season following his trip to see Dr Steadman. Their efforts should not be forgotten.

The middle of the field has largely been the story of Barry Bannan this year; He’s increasingly moved from being a periphery figure to being the centre of attention and he’s thrived in the limelight. He looks after the ball supremely well and despite his diminutive stature dominates games with his footballing brain.

Mustapha Salifou has been good all year too, occasionally very good. One magical performance against Spurs hasn’t yet been equalled, but he has excellent energy and a good eye for a pass.

Isaiah Osbourne has also led from the middle of the park, bringing his energy and dynamism to the table, and both Marc Albrighton and Harry Forrester have done well with artistry down the flanks.

Up front Sam Williams surprised everybody by returning towards the end of the season, and James Collins has worked his socks off when given the chance.

Nathan Delfouneso has been the breakthrough act up front this year however, and with Harewood pressed into first team action and Mikaelsson and Moore elsewhere he’s filled in very nicely indeed. He shares Luke’s occasionally frustrating habit of drifting in and out of games but he’s powerful on the ball, takes up good positions and is a predatory finisher. He has good size and plenty of pace. At just seventeen he has plenty of time to add a bit of labour to his artistry and is a superb prospect.

As a collective this group have worked extremely hard for their success this season, many of them have also played a big part in our academy league success and played their way to the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup and they can be very proud of their efforts.

I look forward to seeing them all drenched in champagne and bouncing up and down like idiots.

There’s a game to be played first though and our opponents are Arsenal.

It won’t be an easy one and is particularly interesting because we beat Arsenal on Saturday in the Academy Play off semi-final. Many of the players from both sides who played in that one will play in this one, and as those who were there will have noted it wasn’t the most friendly of affairs. It promises to be a spicy ninety minutes.

It’s well worth catching this game for a whole number of reasons:

For starters, I can’t recommend enough the experience of watching reserve team football. It’s relaxed and friendly, yet the games are competitive and always entertaining.

These players warrant your attention, I will be amazed if at least four or five of the players mentioned here don’t have a future in league football, I will be surprised if at least one or two don’t play Premiership football. They are a genuinely outstanding group and we should enjoy them while we can.

It’s cheap as chips, entry to reserve games costs just £2.00 for adults and £1.00 for kids and for season ticket holders it’s free. In these days of price rises on season tickets, I’ll have seen a total of 31 games on mine this season. Parking is free behind the North Stand and an empty Villa Park on a spring evening is a beautiful sight from the Trinity Road Stand.

For this game in particular the club have put on a great (although slightly strange) offer for the first 250 fans in attendance to sample the executive facilities in the Trinity Lounge and sit in the best seats in the ground.

It’ll be like being Doug Ellis for the night.

So, just to confirm what I’m recommending here:

The chance to park up at Villa Park then see an exciting group of footballers with the potential to be the future of Aston Villa Football Club lift a trophy after a cracking game against Arsenal whilst sitting on a comfy padded seat in an area with a bundle of fringe first team players and footballing celebrities for a total cost of absolutely nothing.

Or you can stay at home and do the ironing.

Tuesday 29th April – 19:00 – Villa Park.

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