By Jonty Banks

13th Feb, 2023 | 11:30am

View: Unai Emery shows faith in Aston Villa academy prospect Sil Swinkels v Manchester City

There was a surprise name on the substitutes bench for Aston Villa against Manchester City on Sunday (12 January), as academy prospect Sil Swinkels was given a vote of confidence by Unai Emery.

The 19-year-old was given his first taster of Premier League football as he was brought into the squad following a late injury to Tyrone Mings.

Even though he didn’t feature from the bench against the Premier League champions, such experience will aid the development for this up-and-coming star of the Bodymoor Heath academy.

The young defender, who joined from Vitesse Arnhem in the summer of 2020, has been a mainstay in the Under-21s in the past 18 months and is clearly highly regarded amongst the academy at the West Midlands club.

Swinkels contributed to Villa’s success in the 2-1 win in the FA Youth Cup final against Liverpool in 2021 and was subsequently awarded his senior debut under Dean Smith when he came on for the final 15 minutes of the FA Cup third-round tie against Liverpool in the same year.

After signing his first professional contract at Villa Park in the summer of 2021, Swinkels was named Aston Villa’s Scholar of the Year last term but was stung by a long-term injury at the end of the summer.

The horrible head injury he sustained for the Young Lions earlier this season halted Swinkel’s rapid progression and meant he only made his return to academy action last month against Brentford.

Such exposure for Emery’s first team would have been that much sweeter for Swinkel after the torrid times he endured earlier this season.

Having earned international recognition for the Netherlands at a variety of age-group levels, Swinkels, alongside fellow defender Josh Feeney, looks to be the long-term successor to the likes of Tyrone Mings in the first-team.

The future bodes well for the Dutch youth international, and he clearly ticks a lot of boxes for Emery.

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.