On the 1st of April 2013, the Aston Villa under-19s became European Champions.
The NextGen Series in 2012-13 was the second year of the competition and featured some elite clubs from across Europe including Inter Milan, Chelsea, Juventus and Barcelona.
In the group stages, Villa came up against Sporting Lisbon, PSV and Celtic. They would eventually qualify after beating all three opponents despite losing their two opening games.
Villa finished second in the group on 10 points, 2 behind Sporting Lisbon who won 4 of their 6 games.
In the first knockout game Villa came up against Ajax, a team steeped in youth team glory in the past.
They were defeated as Villa came out 2-1 winners on the night. Next was Olympiacos who were beaten by an early Villa goal which sent Villa through to the semi finals.
In the semis it was Sporting Lisbon again, both teams had, had success against each other previously in the competition. The game finished 3-1 after 2 goals in extra time for Villa sealed the place in the final.
In the final came Chelsea who had beat Barcelona, Juventus and Arsenal to get to the final. The game was settled on 2 penalties from Villa, both were scored and they came out as European Champions with a 2-0 win. The question is what happened to the squad that won the competition?
The final took place on April 1st 2013 in Lake Como, Italy. Now let’s see where the 11 players that started that game are now. I will give them a score out of 10 based on how well their careers have panned out.
Brad Watkins is now a 25 year old goalkeeper and sadly his career has mainly gone downhill since winning the NextGen series. There is very little information out there about Brad Watkins but what we do know is that he had two loan spells away from Villa Park in 2013 at Tranmere and at Chelmsford City in 2014.
According to Transfermarkt he is currently without a club.
Having left Villa at the end of his contract he joined Slough although there are no stats from his time there. Unfortunately Watkins has ultimately been unsuccessful despite success early in his career.
2 out of 10
Webb currently plays his football at National League North, 6th tier, with Kidderminster Harriers. After leaving Villa in 2016 he made a move to the Scottish Leagues with Kilmarnock where he made very limited appearances and left at the end of the season to join Kidderminster, like Watkins there is very limited information about Webb.
He did make 7 appearances for England schoolboy teams in the past, which shows that he was highly rated as a youth player, but it hasn’t worked out as he and Villa fans would have wanted.
3 out of 10
Bradley Lewis is an Irish player who is currently without a club having been released from Halesowen.
He left Aston Villa in 2014 & made 2 appearances for Irish youth teams including the under-21 team. He moved to Halesowen in 2015 who are in the seventh tier of English football.
Like every other player on this list so far, he has ultimately been unsuccessful in his career.
2 out of 10
Janoi Donacien was at Aston Villa until 2017 before he left he made 4 loan spells away from Villa including 2 stints at Tranmere Rovers then to Wycombe and finally Newport in 2015.
He wasn’t a product of the Villa academy as he joined from Luton in 2010 for the under-18s side.
Eventually he left on a free transfer to Accrington. After 2 successful seasons he moved on loan to Championship side Ipswich Town. This deal was made permanent 2018 for an undisclosed fee before he moved back out on loan to Accrington for the season.
So far this season he has made a total of 5 appearances for Ipswich as they sit second in the table with a game in hand at the time of writing. Donacien hasn’t been overwhelmingly successful in his career but has played at a high level following the NextGen win, unlike many members of this 11.
6 out of 10
Lewis Kinsella joined Aston Villa from Arsenal in 2011 and made his way upto the under-23s by 2013.
Kinsella had 2 loan spells away from Villa, one at Luton Town and one at Kidderminster. Neither of these loan deals were made permanent making a total of 16 appearances across both loan spells.
In 2016, Kinsella left permanently to Colchester United. He made 15 appearances for Colchester in the 16/17 season before being shipped off to Aldershot Town on another free transfer in January of the 17/18 season.
He has made over 60 appearances for Aldershot in which time he has got 2 assists from left back. Although he hasn’t been successful at a high level, he has recently established himself as a first team player and this could result in a move in the future if he plays to a high standard in the National League.
4 out of 10
Since the NextGen Series Josh Barton’s career has gone downhill very quickly.
In July 2013 he left the club, joining semi-professional, Northern Irish side Portadown.
He made 18 appearances, scoring 1 goal and getting 2 assists for the club.
Barton joined Dungannon in 2014, where he made 10 appearances and getting 1 assist.
He left Dungannon in 2015 on a free transfer but it is unknown where he moved to.
Barton never established a pro-career, despite being European champion very early on.
2 out of 10
Riccardo Calder has the ability to play in a variety of appearances including left back, left wing and central midfielder.
He had 4 loans including Dundee, Doncaster twice and Lincoln City making 44 appearances while away from Villa. Following these loan spells he moved to Inverness on a free transfer.
Calder made 33 appearances for the Scotish outfit scoring 2 and assisting 1 in his first season.
The midfielder was jailed in December 2018 for assault. Upon getting convicted, Calder was sacked by Inverness Calidonian Thistle.
He joined Bradford PA in 2019 after a break from football without a club. Despite having some success, he has ultimately been a flop and has got himself involved in some legal trouble since leaving Villa.
5 out of 10
Samir Curruthers is currently playing Cambridge United in League Two.
He is one of the few players on this list that has made any form of first team impression at Villa, having made 3 first team appearances between 2012 and 2014.
Having left Villa in 2013 on loan to MK Dons he scored 2 and assisted 5 in 23 league games, his loan was made permanent. This was despite unsavoury press coverage of public urination into a pint glass whilst at the races.
Carruthers played for 2 seasons in which he made 85 appearances scoring 2 and assisting 16. Despite a large amount of games and a decent output Curruthers was let go for an undisclosed fee to Sheffield United in January of the 16/17 season. He played 12 games for Oxford where he only got 1 assist and as a result of this he was sold to Cambridge United on a free transfer.
So far this season he has played 155 minutes in 2 games.
Although Carruthers hasn’t been a massive success, he has at least been able to forge a decent career since leaving Villa, a decent way above some players in this list.
5 out of 10
What ever happened to Jack Grealish since the NextGen series?
Grealish has to date had quite easily the best career out of this 11.
Back in 2013 he was sent out on loan to Notts County to get some minutes in a first team. While he was out, he made 37 appearances scoring 6 and assisting 7. Grealish often reflects that the move was one of the best things he ever did to develop his career.
For his boyhood club Grealish has made 150 appearances, scored 16 and assisted 25.
While in the Championship he was regarded as one of the best players in the league, and since his move to a more central role he has excelled.
Easily the best player in this NextGen squad. Super Jack!
9 out of 10
Graham Burke won the top scorer award at this tournament and as a result he was held up in high esteem as a good young player and potentially a future Villa striker who would score lots of goals.
This wasn’t the case and he never got his chance in the Villa first team; he did have two loan spells but he scored 1 goal in 10 games across 2 loan spells and as a result was let go by Villa in 2015 on a free transfer to Notts County.
Between 2015 and 2017 he scored 2 goals in 36 games and due to this lack of goals he was yet again sold on a free transfer but this time to his hometown club, Shamrock Rovers.
Burke’s form did pick up during his time back in Ireland as he scored 18 goals in 41 games in the 17/18 season. This good form led to Preston North End picking him up for £315k.
Yet again it hasn’t worked out at Preston and he has since had two loans away at Gillingham and Shamrock Rovers. Burke has had many positive opportunities in his career, but overall he hasn’t lived up to high hopes.
6 out of 10
New Sheffield United signing Callum Robinson has been one of the more successful players from this squad.
He did make 4 appearances for the Villa first team between 2013 and 2016 where he scored no goals.
Robinson also had 3 loan spells away from Villa Park where he went to Preston twice and Bristol City in between. He was successful at Preston while on loan, and as a result he signed on a free to them in 2016.
The striker was there for 3 years and in that time made 110 appearances and he scored 29 goals and got 16 assists in that time.
This summer he joined new Premier League side Sheffield United for £7 million where he has so far made 5 appearances including 1 goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Robinson is a player that Villa may feel that they shouldn’t of let go which isn’t a very common occurrence on this list of players.
8 out of 10
Overall, these players have largely been unsuccessful in their careers.
Although there are a few exceptions, in general, these players haven’t lived up to expectations.
Let’s hope that a larger number of the current crop of young Villa players can have good quality careers and hopefully improve the Villa team for the future.
Players such as Jacob Ramsey and Callum O’Hare can develop into quality players and make a name for themselves in the big leagues