By Villa News Speaking to Dan Bardell

1st May, 2023 | 5:10pm

New inner-city academy can help Aston Villa develop players in similar mould to Gabby Agbonlahor - Sky Sports journalist

We’re delighted to welcome Sky Sports and The Athletic’s Dan Bardell as our exclusive Aston Villa columnist each week he’ll be giving his views on the biggest talking points at the club…

Dan Bardell believes the new Aston Villa inner-city academy could help the club develop players in the mould in which they produced Gabby Agbonlahor.

The inner-city academy is expected to be completed in August 2023 and will mark another important step in the club’s ambitious plans.

The £8million site, which overlooks Villa Park, will be aimed at five to 16-year-olds and aim to create a hub for youth development and the brightest local talent.

Villa’s current Bodymoor Heath training ground is situated 12km away from the stadium and it was thought that the club were missing out to the likes of Birmingham City, West Brom and Wolves for the city’s top young talent.

Speaking exclusively to Villa News, Bardell admitted that the new development could be a method of finding more local homegrown talents in the ilk of Agbonlahor, who is the club’s record Premier League goalscorer with 74 goals.

“It brings players in from areas where perhaps you wouldn’t get to see them play usually, but there will be talent there,” he said.

“I saw an interview Gabby Agbonlahor has done recently and he was saying that he grew up five or ten minutes from where the inner-city academy will be, and he was quite a unique player in terms of when he was younger he wasn’t a natural footballer, but they saw his speed and potential.

“Villa worked with him to make a footballer out of him, and he’s now our Premier League record goalscorer, so it’s a chance to maybe find unique players like that, who maybe aren’t playing 11-a-side every week.

“The new academy can maybe help to develop some young players in a similar fashion to Gabby.”

In Agbonlahor’s interview with talkSPORT, the former Villa striker revealed that he grew up within a stone’s throw of Villa Park and learnt to play football in close proximity to the club’s home.

Although Villa produced the first £100million British player in Jack Grealish, youth development ground to a halt under former owner Tony Xia.

However, the new inner-city development looks to be putting Villa back on the map as one of the brightest youth set-ups in the country.

In other Aston Villa news, the club might have found an heir to Emi Martinez after the emergence of some new transfer news.