By Jonty Banks

8th Jun, 2023 | 9:10pm

Josh Feeney first-team pathway blocked at Aston Villa as Unai Emery targets defensive additions

Aston Villa academy prospect Josh Feeney has shown he has a bright future in the West Midlands, but his first-team pathway could take a huge knock this summer.

Feeney, 18, has been one of the shining lights of the Bodymoor Heath academy in recent times and was rewarded for his impressive form with a call-up to the England Under-18s squad in March.

The tall, imposing centre-back was highly rated by ex-Villa manager Steven Gerrard, who gave the Englishman his first-team bow in friendlies against Walsall and Leeds United and took him on the summer tour of Australia in 2022.

Subsequently, the defender was handed his first professional contract by Villa, but since then, the starlet hasn’t featured once in the first-team squad – a theme that has become alarmingly common since Emery’s arrival in the West Midlands.

At times last season, the Spanish boss was happy to name two goalkeepers, Robin Olsen and Viljami Sinisalo, on his bench instead of dipping into his academy reserves when his first-team squad was depleted due to injuries.

The likes of Feeney, Arjan Raikhy and Kaine Kesler-Hayden felt the impact of this decision, with all three remaining with Tony Carss’ Under-21s side for the remainder of the campaign instead being blooded into the senior setup.

And with Emery reportedly wanting to bolster his ranks in the centre of defence this summer, with Spain internationals Pau Torres and Aymeric Laporte linked with big-money moves to Villa Park, Feeney could quickly see himself out of sight. [90min, 6 June]

Sky Sports journalist Dan Bardell previously told Villa News in February that the 18-year-old could be the next cab off the rank if injuries were to strike the likes of Tyrone Mings or Diego Carlos, but this looks a long way off now.

With Villa already possessing four first-team centre-backs and looking to add more numbers this summer, it is looking ever more likely that Feeney won’t be featuring under Emery, even with the additional workload of the Europa Conference League.

In other Aston Villa news, one Villa ace is ready to explode next season, with his goal-creation statistics not telling the full story.