While much of the hype surrounding Aston Villa’s academy setup may be over Carney Chukwuemeka – and understandably so – there may be another young prospect who could be knocking on the door of the first team next season in the Premier League.
The Express and Star’s Matt Maher recently revealed that Kaine Kesler was handed a new five-year professional contract to stay at Villa Park for the long-term, the longest the club have given to any academy player in their history – even Jack Grealish, who signed a four-year deal after turning 19 back in 2014.
The 18-year-old didn’t play a single minute in the Premier League last season, but he was given his senior debut by Dean Smith when Villa’s young guns were needed for the FA Cup third round clash against Liverpool.
Alhough they fell to a 4-1 defeat, Kesler was one of the players who really stood out against Jurgen Klopp’s men, and showed enough in that 90-minute performance to suggest that he will be a big player in the coming years.
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.”
Writing for The Athletic, Villa correspondent 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”.
While the club may have already signed 36-year-old Ashley Young to give Villa some much-needed cover for that right-back slot after Ahmed Elmohamady’s departure, the former Manchester United’s man age means he’s not going to be a long-term solution.
At just 18, and with the versatility to play up and down the right flank as a winger too, Kesler could not only challenge Matty Cash for a first team berth sooner rather than later, but also become a regular starter in the side as well.
While Chukwuemeka may be the name on many people’s lips around Aston Villa, Kesler could be someone who shocks the Premier League by bursting onto the scene in the coming months.