By Villa News Speaking to Dan Bardell

12th Feb, 2023 | 10:30am

View: Academy prospect Josh Feeney is next cab off the rank for Aston Villa first team exposure

Aston Villa teenage sensation Josh Feeney is clearly destined for great things in the West Midlands, but his ascension into the first team could come sooner than first expected if injuries continue to plague Unai Emery this season.

The centre-back, who doesn’t turn 18 until May, has been one of the shining lights in the Bodymoor Heath academy this season, making nine appearances in the Premier League 2 and proving he has an eye for goal by netting twice during this time.

Having joined the Villa ranks from Fleetwood Town back in July 2021, the youngster was awarded his first-team bow by Steven Gerrard in pre-season in friendlies against Walsall and Leeds United after impressing for the youth sides over the last 18 months.

Although he is yet to feature under Emery since his arrival at the club, the highly-touted defender was spotted training with Aston Villa’s first-team in Dubai during the World Cup break – clearly highlighting himself as one to watch in the West Midlands over the coming years.

With the Spanish manager also using the January transfer window to trim down his squad instead of bring in fresh faces, Emery has left his first-team squad vulnerable to an injury crisis, with two goalkeepers being named on the bench in the club’s last two fixtures against Southampton and Leicester City.

Speaking exclusively to Villa News, The Athletic’s Dan Bardell suggested Feeney could well be the next cab off the rank from the academy, if any of Emery’s centre-backs were to fall foul to injuries.

“I think Josh Feeney could potentially be one you could see come in,” he said. “The staff at Villa Park really like Feeney, and he’s been popular in loads of different regimes since he joined the club.

“I was at an event with him and I saw that he’s absolutely massive, and built like a proper centre-half who could deal with the physicality of first-team football. I know John McGinn is trying to get him to declare for Scotland at the moment, but he has captained England at various age groups as well.

“Because Villa are short with Jan Bednarek going back to Southampton and Diego Carlos’ injury, it only takes one further injury and Josh Feeney is suddenly on the bench – so he should be the one to keep an eye out for in the coming months.”

With the club pinning Feeney down to a first professional contract in the summer, supporters can expect to see plenty more of the academy star in the future, but a loan deal in the football league seems to be the next step in his development as a player.

However, for now, the defender will be eagerly awaiting any opportunities that Emery throws his way to feature in any match-day squads throughout the remainder of the Premier League season.

In other Aston Villa news, the club are set to revive interest in an Athletic Bilbao player in the summer after a failed January swoop.