Rub your eyes all you like, the title is not going away.
Some of you will guffaw and dismiss me as a looney - you are naive.
Others may have heard whispers and will be intrigued about the outlandish claims.
A few may have have heard or seen quotes from people like Trevor Brooking, Andy Roxburgh, Wenger or a few of the other influencial figures in the game who have cast an impressed eye over the Villa youth set up.
Now this is a claim sensible Villans could not have made under the stewardship of Martin O'Neill. O'Neill craved players with experience, rarely would he give young players a chance to prove them selves in any serious way. A game every now and again if they were lucky was the extent to which he integrated the young players Kevin MacDonald and Gordan "Sid" Cowans had invested so much time in.
MoN was incredibly successful as the Villa manager, I thank him for everything and putting us back in the limelight. The problem with him is everything was for the now, his transfers were in the main for the now.
Houllier has come in, has understood Randy Lerners stance on the club being "Self Sustaining" and a natural movement toward producing our own players has come in conjuction with a batch of young players better than I can ever remember in my life time of watching Villa.
A few most will have heard of by now, Albrighton and Clark can now be added to Gabby in the Villa squad as homegrown first teamers. Bannan now on loan will be included in this by next season.
3 players, all extremely talented. All with the potential to become very decent players.
Bannan has been likened to Villa legend Sid Cowans with his ability to pass the ball and always find space and room.
Albrighton for me already is already one of the best "in play" crossers of the ball in the Premier League. Some say he is Barry Manilows love child, but he's more like a smaller, quicker Beckham to me.
Clark is a brilliant young defender. Not like Phil Jones (who is also a great prospect) who has already filled out and can match players push for push. Clark is a reader of the game, no one will match McGrath for his ability to step out of defence, intersept the ball and start an attack. But Clark is the nearest I've seen, he reads the game so well and with the right battering ram next to him to scare attackers witless he'll be another excellent leader of a defence.
Now your all saying "So what? I can name 3 player from our accademy who look like they could make it."
Well, I say, these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Andreas Weimann is a young striker who has been described by his international coach as "the most exciting talent since Hans Krankl".
Delfouneso, who it seems has been around for years but has only just turned 20. Has been described by "Onze" the french footballing magazine (who didn't do bad picking out Messi and Ronaldo back in '94 as ones to watch) as "the next Thierry Henry". I think some people need to realise Henry struggled until he was 21/22 to establish him self in a top league. It's a tough position and he as yet he hasn't filled out and thus is missing the core strength he needs in the Premier League. The boy has talent in abundance though.
Gardner, Rafa spent 12 months trying to pinch him for Liverpool before being sacked, then tried to take him to Inter. Gardner is used to teams watching him, he's had it since he played in the same Villa reserve team with his brother at just 16 years old. He ran cricles around Essien in a reserve game so much so that Essien gave him his shirt and told him to "concentrate on football, you can be great". His progress was halted by a serious knee injury, but is now back and the signs look great.
Delph, now some will say it is cheating to mention him, and it may be, but United fans claim they "developed" Rooney in to the player he is and Delph moved at a similar age. His progress has also been somewhat thwarted by a bad injury but again this kid looks like having the potential of being another England International supplied by Aston Villa. We have afterall had the most representatives in England Shirts... by some distance too.
Have I finished yet?
Carruthers, Johnson, Halfhuid, Baker and Siegrist are 5 more that all represent their country, have all stepped up to the reserves and have looked excellent against strong teams. All are tipped to progress through the Villa ranks in the next 12-18months.
Then we come to our new "hot prospects" Jordan Graham and Michael Drennan. Two 16 year olds with the World, Sir Alex, King Kenny and Arsene Winger at their feet begging them to join their clubs.
It may never happen, but boy have we got a good chance of being on the brink of something special.
I expect to have Arsenal fans bleating on about their "accademy system".... to you I say 10-1.
We play in Claret and Blue, Houllier wants us playing beautiful football and if we hold our nerve and get some luck we'll have developed most of our first team allowing Houllier and Lerner to spend big on a select few players to compliment the naivety and exurberance of youth.
Sound like anyone?
The lads have all signed new contracts, Lerner needs to keep his nerve and reject everything.
I propose we change our name to the Park Nou in preparation for the Glorious Champions League Campaigns to come.
Is it a given that Young is leaving? I thought he was excellent against us played upfront, even though we won that game.
Wasn't both Albrighton and CLark given their debuts by Kevin MacDonald...? Also, do you really think Houllier's had any impact on the youth setup in just five months...?
Gerard Houllier destroyed the youth setup at Liverpool. Hence hardly any youth players breaking through in the last few years, Rafa had to rebuild the acedamy!
I like villa and it is good that you are giving youngsters a chance, but to credit houllier and dismiss MON so arrogantly is wrong!
Fair enough but from my experience of Houllier in charge of Liverpool, he wasn't one for giving youth a chance, well, unless they were from the french league of course. Beyond Gerrard, Carragher and Owen (of which, only Gerrard made his debut under him), there very few others. It would have been pretty hard for him to ignore those three too! Maybe I am being harsh on Houllier, I just do not think he is the manager you appear to think he is.
Houllier will try to take the credit for anything positive and blame others for the negatives. He likes the media to reflect on him only in a positive light and he reportedly punished players for anything other than this. What other manager would try and take credit for a Champions League win when no longer at a club...?
I actually think MON's transfer policy was good for you guys, it was the next step that was the problem. Buying players in the way he did got you into a position where you could attract better players, the transfer policy then needed to alter to suit.
I have no idea about comments MON has made about Villa's youth system.
MoN's transfer policy was good for at the start.. but after we'd finished 6 twice we had players asking for transfer to Villa. McCarthy at Wigan a prime example, anyone with half a football brain could see the lad is going to be a great little footballer. He wanted game, rejected Liverpool and United for this reason and basically pleaded with MoN to sign him. We didn't. Why? No Premier League experience.
£7m on Warnock... really there wasn't a better player on the continent? £6m for L.Young after refusing a £2m deal the summer previous? Sidwell on £50k a week? Also his policy of picking the same team irespective for form, fixtures or results results ended up with burn out 3/4 in to the season and certain players becoming far to comfortable in their positions.
MoN has great points but people who believe he is some kind of genius manager will be disappointed if he takes over their team. Celtic fans wouldn't have him back. His tactics are the same for every match and they aren't exactly difficult. He is a manager from another era and if he get in at United I would give him 18 months before fans get fustrated with his "style" of management.
I think most Premier League clubs will have to move forward in this way - promoting the best young players will become essential.
I really like the look of some of your young players at Aston Villa, but I think it would be more polite to suggest you may well be just a little over enthusiastic about your claims...