Are bright days ahead for Aston Villa?

In case you had forgotten, we beat Arsenal 10-1 not so long ago. Okay it was the reserves and maybe it could be overlooked if the team was packed full with senior players just looking for match fitness, playing against a team of awe-struck Arsenal youngsters, but it wasn't.

Chris Herd, Nathan Delfouneso, Gary Gardner, Andreas Weimann and Jonathan Hogg were the goalscorers that day, and all have made an appearance for the first team this season apart from the injury-ravaged Gardner.

Solid proving ground

With the exception of Gardner and Herd, they are also all out on loan at top Championship sides and getting regular action and valuable match day experience. This will only help Aston Villa in the long term.

The Championship is known for being a brutal, frantic League and no place for passengers.

We also have other youngsters we can include in this list; Barry Bannan, Marc Albrighton, Nathan Baker, Eric Lichaj and Shane Lowry. With the first five, this makes ten youngsters who are all on the fringes of breaking into the first team, or have been deemed worthy of a chance by a Championship team. Throw in young keeper Brad Guzan and it really does make a starting eleven.

It sounds nice, that on paper, we have a full side of talented youngsters plus more seasoned youngsters (Delph and Clark) to throw in, but which of these youngsters are good enough to really make the grade? Will any be poached before we can see them fulfil their Aston Villa promise?

Delfouneso has always had the talent and as a local lad, he is the one we are craving to do well, but questions have been asked about his attitude. It was a surprise Kevin MacDonald chose not to throw him in the thick of it at the start of the season, and instead turn to Weimann.

Weimann has had rave reviews for some reserve performances, and seems to be doing a useful job at Watford. Lowry and Lichaj have become first team players for Sheff Utd and Leeds, and Hogg seems to have become a lynchpin at Pompey, playing every game in a six match winning streak. It won't be a surprise for the second year in a row to see an Aston Villa player earning promotion via the play-offs.

The forgotten man in all of this however, is Gary Gardner. Judging by reports from the reserve games, before and after his injury, he was the pick of the lot. Twice as talented as Craig and a polished gem with an eye for a killer pass and a top class tenacious football brain to match.

Is Houllier waiting for next season to blood him, once he has cleared out some of the excess midfielders we'll no longer need?

The bright future

This bunch of youngsters is the sole reason Houllier will be in charge of Aston Villa next season. Lerner must be feeling the pinch financially and will be eager to see these kids given serious game time.

Keep an eye out for these names. I firmly believe they are going to help take Aston Villa much higher up the table in the near future. They are eager to impress, are used to playing with each other and most importantly, they are committed to the club.

Most have signed new contracts and are just waiting for their chance and if Ashley Young does leave in the summer, there is a first team place available for Marc Albrighton already. Lets keep the faith and back the youngsters, because I believe they really are the future.