Feature: 5 Academy Players Who Seemed Destined To Make It. #avfc

All fans want the Villa academy to do well.  We long for the home grown lad to score a screamer at the Holte End.  We are crying out for our kids to come good.

However, the Grealish’s of this world seem to come along all too rarely at Villa Park…here are the five that we all thought would be the next big thing, but never made it.

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5.  Michael Standing

He could have had it all!  A silky midfielder, acquired in the same deal that saw Gareth Barry join as a youngster, Standing stood out (see what I did there?) in the youth and reserve teams & always seemed to be on the cusp of the first team.

As big as his talent appeared, it seemed to be matched by an ego to accompany it.  Not content at 20 years of age to sit tight until his opportunity presented at Villa, he refused an offer of a contract renewal and left the club when his deal expired.  Talk of moves to rival clubs in England and overseas in Italy never materialised & the rest is history.  

Standing struggled to hold down a team for longer than a couple of seasons and took in the sights of Bradford, Walsall, QPR, Bournemouth, Oxford Utd, Grays Athletic, Lewes, Shoreham…you get the picture.

4.  Nathan Delfouneso

With reports of him terrorising defenders in the youth and reserve leagues, Villa fans couldn’t wait to see how Delfouneso progressed.  We were promised the new, improved, more all round version of Gabby Agbonlahor.  Ideal!  Unfortunately what we got was a lightweight, disappointing player who just never looked capable in the Premier League.

Whilst a tricky footballer, Nathan always needed the extra touch & would very quickly look lost, especially if up against more physical opposition.  

Delfouneso was released by Villa in 2014 and snapped up by Championship side Blackpool  However, in a poor set bound for relegation, Delfouneso managed just 3 goals all season and was released at the end of the campaign.  At the time of writing the 24 year old who seemed destined for great things, is a free agent.

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3.  Isaiah Osbourne

A real puzzler.  He had all of the physical attributes to dominate midfields, height, strength and long strides.  Osbourne was also raved about in his academy days.

The reality was he never showed a single ounce of quality in the first team.  The sub of last resort, the game would pass him by as the norm.  Slow, unable to pick a pass & brought nothing to the team.

Released by Villa in 2011, Osbourne spent 2 years at Hibs followed by a year at Blackpool.  He is currently on the books at Scunthorpe.

2.  Darren Byfield

John Gregory once remarked that young players got too much, too soon.  He was referring specifically to then Villa youngster Lee Hendrie’s erratic behaviour at the time.  However, Byfield fit the mould for this perfectly.

Having broken into the Villa squad he looked like an absolute gem.  He had all of the attributes, pace, strength and a natural eye for goalscoring.

But it never, ever materialised.  Byfield never settled with a club and became a classic “much travelled footballer”, with over ten clubs.  Showing both his talent, but also his inability to consistently show it, Byfield was capped at International level by Jamaica 6 times.

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1.  Stefan Moore

This could be the ‘Moore’ brothers in reality.  Luke, at least tried at Villa & had a run of games & goals – he was just ultimately an average Pro.  Stefan, smaller than his younger brother, seemed to have a natural eye for goal.

Stefan broke onto the scene after rave reviews at youth and reserve level.  Sound familiar?  The step up seemed natural.  Stefan showed the qualities when he played, clever movement, light footed and he opened his account with a chipped goal having come on as a sub.

But his career then went promptly nowhere.  From FA Youth Cup winner, scoring on his debut….he now runs a taxi firm…sometimes driving fares himself.