With reports linking Aston Villa with a summer move for a new centre-back, Dean Smith might be better off looking closer to home and unleashing one of the club’s brightest academy prospects: Mungo Bridge.
Reports in recent days have linked the Premier League side with a swoop for Rangers defender Filip Helander, but in the 20-year-old Bridge, they have someone who has shown in the brief glimpse of first-team football he has enjoyed this season, that he could well be a real answer for Smith.
Despite coming up against a star-stuffed Liverpool attack in the FA Cup third round – a line-up that included the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah – Bridge looked strong physically. He won four of his seven total duels, with only Dominic Revan and Kaine Kesler winning more with seven.
He also made a team-high three tackles and committed no fouls whatsoever, which just goes to show his impressive reading of the game. Even when playing at Premier League level, Bridge won’t be going up against the likes of Mane and Salah week-in and week-out, so for him to be that composed against Liverpool bodes well for how he might fare in the future.
Indeed, writing for The Birmingham Mail early last year, Ashley Preece said: “Mungo Bridge continues to make waves for the under-23s and oozes class. Bridge possesses a fierce left foot, good in the air and loves a stern tackle. Overall, Bridge is a top talent and one to watch. He’d be ideal in a back three, say, while he has played at left-back previously. His technical ability makes him an attractive proposition for Smith, who’ll no doubt see a mini Tyrone Mings in Bridge given their similar playing style.
“Bridge is an exciting proposition and one who always intrigues Smith every time the head coach – a former centre-half don’t forget – watches him.”
And, tweeting ahead of Villa’s U23s clash against West Brom last year, Preece added: “Mungo Bridge, 19, has attracted interest from AC Milan prev. He’s so highly thought-of at #AVFC. Left-footed, technically very assured but still only slight in size. Looks most-likely of U23 lads to break in given Villa’s somewhat CB shortage.”
Given Helander is predominantly left-footed too, surely Villa would be better off promoting one of their own and watching him succeed rather than spending big-money on a player from elsewhere?
The club’s academy talents have already shown against Liverpool that they can step up when needed, and Smith would do well to unleash the 20-year-old Bridge.
Meanwhille, Villa are interested in this teenage sensation…