If Dean Smith spent Monday night dreaming of the perfect Aston Villa performance, then he certainly got it when his side thrashed Barrow 6-0 in the Carabao Cup second round.
The Midlands club were superb from minute one, carving open the League Two side with relative ease time and time again, with a number of players really staking their claim for future involvement in the first-team.
Smith was keen to give a bunch of his side’s brightest young academy talents the chance to impress, and while Cameron Archer no doubt stole the post-match headlines thanks to his fine hat-trick, it was arguably Jaden Philogene-Bidace who was the real sensation.
Here on FFC, we called on Smith to unleash the 19-year-old flier last night, and in a follow-up poll, 99% of the people who voted wanted him to start too (127 to 1). And boy, did he not disappoint those who wanted him in the team!
As per Sofascore, he completed three of his four dribbles, including one that saw him drive into the penalty area with real purpose before being brought down.
And while he actually made just a mind-boggling seven passes over the course of the 90 minutes he was on the pitch, he made most of them count.
Two of them were key passes, including arguably the assist of the night when he checked back on the by-line before delivering a cute pass back into the path of Archer to fire home for his hat-trick.
He also won a team-high 11 duels which was a real indication of the kind of effort he put into both sides of the game, not just going forward.
And, writing in his post-match player ratings for The Birmingham Mail, Joseph Chapman gave him a nine, saying: “Very lively, extremely quick and so dangerous with his feet.
“Operated on both wings, and while on the right he won the penalty in the first half. Had more than one sight of goal, but he didn’t pull the trigger quickly enough. JPB dragged a shot wide of the post and blazed over with another, but he wonderfully teed up Archer’s treble.”
While of course Archer will be the talk of the town, it was Philogene-Bidace’s willingness to take players on, but equally show the fine composure to pick out his teammates in better positions, that would have left Smith absolutely raving on the side-lines.
The teenager was Villa’s unsung hero on the night.