Aston Villa are taking 24 players to Hong Kong to compete in the Barclays Asia Trophy and the travelling party are en route right now. As the strength and depth of the squad is a hot topic at the moment, I thought it might be interesting to compare this pre-season tournament squad with the squads from the last couple of seasons.
Asia Trophy 2011
Shay Given, Brad Guzan, Andy Marshall.
Luke Young, Habib Beye, Eric Lichaj, James Collins, Richard Dunne, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Warnock, Shane Lowry.
Marc Albrighton, Stephen Ireland, Stiliyan Petrov, Jean II Makoun, Jonathan Hogg, Fabian Delph, Chris Herd, Barry Bannan, Gary Gardner.
Darren Bent, Gabby Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey, Nathan Delfouneso.
Andreas Weimann and Nathan Baker will be taking part in the U-20 World Cup in Colombia. Carlos Cuellar is currently injured and in discussions with Rangers regarding a move back to Scotland.
Guadiana Cup 2010
Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan.
Habib Beye, Eric Lichaj, Carlos Cuellar, Ciaran Clark, Curtis Davies, Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock, Nicky Shorey.
James Collins was injured, Luke Young was close to making a move to Liverpool, but later chose to stay at Villa.
Marc Albrighton, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Steve Sidwell, Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker, Barry Bannan.
James Milner did travel to Portugal, but played no part in the games as his move to Man City seemed imminent.
John Carew, Gabby Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey, Nathan Delfouneso, Andreas Weimann.
Peace Cup 2009
Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan, Elliot Parish
Luke Young, Eric Lichaj, Carlos Cuellar, Curtis Davies, Ciaran Clark, Nicky Shorey, Freddie Bouma, Shane Lowry.
Zat Knight travelled to Spain, but returned to England the same day to join Bolton. The assumption at the time was that a new centre back must be lined up, but we had to wait until the final day of the transfer window when Richard Dunne and James Collins were brought in.
Marc Albrighton, Ashley Young, Stiliyan Petrov, Steve Sidwell, Nigel Reo-Coker, Moustapha Salifou, Jonathan Hogg, Isaiah Osbourne, Chris Herd, Barry Bannan.
John Carew, Emile Heskey, Marlon Harewood, Andreas Weimann.
Gabby Agbonlahor, James Milner and Craig Gardner were not included as they had taken part in the 2009 U-21 European Championships. Nathan Delfouneso was competing in the 2009 U-19 European Championships in Ukraine.
I suppose this exercise serves as a reminder of how long the academy/reserve players have been involved with the first team during pre-season at least, only to play relatively little part once the season kicked off. It was during the 2009 Peace Cup that the likes of Lichaj, Clark, Lowry, Albrighton, Bannan, Hogg, Herd and Weimann all showed the ability they were developing.
All of these players are now in their early 20’s and most, if not all, have recently signed into new contracts keeping them at the club for the next couple of years. This is absolutely the season that they’ll be expected to play a significant part in the season and blend into a smaller core of experienced players.
It’s a prospect that appears to be making a lot of fans nervous, to say the least. Personally, I find it exciting… in a slightly scary sort of way. Perhaps it’s the sheer numbers of young players coming through, but they’re all pretty much part of the same “class”; if we’re generating top quality players and not integrating them into the first team, what is the point of having an academy?
I’m looking forward to these two games in Hong Kong, they should provide a great insight into how this group of players – most of whom have been playing together for years now – are likely to perform.