Amid all the big-money signings that Aston Villa made over the summer, one of the less heralded arrivals might be the one to make the most surprising impact over the coming years – Caleb Chukwuemeka.
The 19-year-old arrived from Northampton Town to join forces with his younger brother Carney, and speaking after the signing, Villa academy manager Mark Harrison raved: “He has been a player we have been monitoring for a while now and has continued to develop well at Northampton, making a number of appearances last season.
“He is an exciting attacking player with an eye for goal and we feel has a lot of potential. We are really looking forward to working with him.”
Just like former Villa striker John Carew – who scored 48 goals in 131 games for the club – the elder Chukwuemeka appears to be a real handful up front and embraces the physical battle.
That’s something upon which the teengaer’s former football coach Jamie Wilcock reflected recently, saying: “He scored 38 goals for the school, he played a variety of roles, but predominantly centre-midfield and he was a strong, strong, strong player, fantastic physical presence all over the field. Very, very strong on the ball, it’s very hard to get the ball off him too.
“He looks a little bit ungainly, I always used to compare him to Paulo Wanchope, all arms and legs, but he had fantastic control of the ball and he was a very strong presence on the field whichever age group he was playing at.”
Former Northampton manager Keith Curle was full of praise for the 19-year-old last year, saying: “Caleb has got an unpredictability about him and he can be unorthodox at times. What we’re trying to do is get the fundamentals in place in his play without taking away that excitement and that freedom in his play.”
Villa snapping him up had Noel Whelan applauding the club, saying that given the teenager’s previous first-team experience at Northampton, he could develop into a real star.
The former Leeds striker said: “We all know that Aston Villa have got a good youth system. Great academy facilities. It’s very, very high on their agenda when it comes to young players and bringing them through. They’ve let go of one of them in Jack Grealish.
“To take a chance on somebody who’s already been playing first-team football, that could be integral to them over the next couple of seasons with a bit more progression, that’s great business, in my opinion.”
The 6 foot 2 starlet could well be the next breakout star from Villa Park, and he appears to have all the physical tools in his locker to become the club’s next Carew.