Speaking before Villa’s defeat against Leicester at the weekend, Smith admitted: “Matt has a hamstring strain. I am not sure the grade but it will mean a few weeks out, which is a blow for us.
“But it is something we have been good at dealing with so far. We have not had too many injuries but when we have people have come in and done the job for us.”
Unfortunately for Villa and Smith, Cash’s stand-in on Sunday, veteran full-back Ahmed Elmohamady, just looked completely off the pace, with it being no surprise that the manager singled him out for criticism after the game following his role in the opening goal.
He said: “I’m disappointed with the goals. Elmo shouldn’t have got involved with the first one, leave it to Ezri and deal with the second ball. In general they dealt with the second balls better than we did.”
At 33, Elmohamady isn’t the future of Villa, and in the pace and intensity of the Premier League, it’s difficult and unreasonable to expect the Egyptian to be the kind of marauding full-back that Cash is.
But in one academy starlet, Smith could solve his major concern at right-back: Kaine Kesler.
The 18-year-old made his first-team debut when he took to the field in that now famous FA Cup clash against Liverpool earlier this calendar year, where Villa’s entire side was named full of the club’s U23s and U18s after the first-team squad were forced to sit out.
Kesler who has predominantly played at right-back at Premier League 2 level, seems to have all the tools in his locker to be a real dangerous threat going forward for Villa, with his pace something that has already made people sit up and take notice.
In fact, speaking to The Athletic, one source said: “He looks like he’s got a real chance of featuring for the first team in the future. His speed is frightening and that could set him apart.”
And writing for The Athletic, Gregg Evans revealed that “senior players have been taken back by his blistering pace and his desire to make an impression when called upon”, and that “Smith rates the rapid right-back highly”.
Smith should make the brave call of giving Kesler the chance to shine now that Cash is out, and he could well be the man to solve the Villa’s boss’ concern in that position.