With Steven Gerrard attracting big names to Villa Park in the last few weeks, the headlines have focused on the pulling factor Villa have now with Gerrard at the helm.
But, if you look more closely at the set-up away from these two headline transfer moves, Aston Villa have talent coming directly through their academy. The best of the bunch is Jacob Ramsey, a key performer for Aston Villa this campaign at just 20-years-of-age.
Played frequently under the tenure of Dean Smith, Ramsey’s form this season has seen him win Villa’s Player of the Month for December. A deserving recipient of such an accolade, with the Birmingham born midfielder scoring his first ever Premier League goal that same month with a wonderful solo strike against Norwich.
His performance against Manchester United showcased the fearlessness of the youngster, lashing in an effort after an interchange of passes found his feet. Philippe Coutinho’s debut goal to level the score might well have filled the majority of column inches after the match, but Ramsey’s run through to set up the equaliser evaded United shirts before a pass put it on a plate for the Brazilian to level.
Even with Aston Villa spending big, Ramsey is rivalling the spending power at Villa Park with homegrown talent.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Aston Villa’s breakthrough talent however, having to go down to the lower leagues on loan and prove himself like many other youth players have to. Even after making his professional debut at the age of 18, alongside winning the 2018-19 Academy Player of the Season, he was shipped out on loan to Doncaster Rovers in League One to prove himself.
Managed by a fellow Brummie in Darren Moore during his short stint at The Keepmoat, it was the perfect place to showcase the talent that saw him shine at youth level. With Doncaster making an unlikely push for the playoffs – managed by a boss who prioritises attacking football – Ramsey had the perfect opportunity to show off his skills in the men’s game.
His Donny loan would be cut short, the pandemic disrupting the season and cancelling proceedings prematurely, but Ramsey would manage three goals from a fleeting number of appearances. He would have a debut to remember for Darren Moore’s Doncaster, side-footing a shot in on his debut against Tranmere whilst heading another opportunity past Simon Davies. Two goals on his official senior debut, taking apart League Two Tranmere at will.
His only other strike for the League One side would come away at Milton Keynes, smashing an effort in after making strides into the box to get in on the end of a centre. Speaking after his first goal in League action, Ramsey rued another opportunity he missed in the contest at Stadium MK. Not one to get carried away by scoring once, he wanted more. Unfortunately, due to COVID intervening, his successful stint with Doncaster was over.
After impressing in League One, Dean Smith would give Ramsey the chance within the Aston Villa first team set-up. This coincided too with call-ups to a number of England youth-team set-ups, being capped by the England U21s only last year. His appearances under Dean Smith showed raw promise, but a lack of end product that saw him as a goal-scoring midfielder as an Academy player and out on loan.
This season, under both Smith and Gerrard, he really has come into his own and demanded a place every match within the starting line-up. Obviously keen to score goals, Ramsey this season in certain matches has improved his pressing game and his ability to get stuck in when required – pressurising Manchester United constantly at Old Trafford, panicking experienced players in the process.
He has also been crucial for Villa in retrieving the ball from deep and starting attacks, often picking up the ball in the centre and playing in the likes of midfield partner John McGinn to build a move. His stock has certainly risen since Ramsey showcased his goal-scoring edge – three goals in 18 appearances for Gerrard’s men – but he’s been an important cog even without his recent form in front of goal.
His first ever Premier League goal in an Aston Villa shirt came in a 3-1 loss at The Emirates, a wonderful finish into the top corner past a stationary Aaron Ramsdale. The goal meant very little in the grand scheme of things – another loss that saw Dean Smith’s job become ever more precarious before his eventual sacking – but Jacob Ramsey would have been delighted to score after drawing blanks throughout 20 or so appearances the season before.
His goal against Norwich came when facing off against Dean Smith, the manager who gave him countless opportunities within the first team mix with the Villains. This goal is the finest of his collection to date, driving past three hapless Norwich City shirts before firing an effort in past Tim Krul. An otherwise routine 2-0 win for the Villans, Ramsey’s moment of class the stand-out.
The aforementioned performance against Rangnick’s Red Devils is his most complete so far in senior football, the catalyst for Villa’s unlikely comeback. Gambling on the ball finding its way to him, he leathered a strike past De Gea before assisting the equaliser shortly after. That game, in particular, shows to you the sudden rise of Jacob Ramsey – scoring away at Tranmere at the start of 2020, helping Aston Villa pick up a draw against Manchester United by scoring and assisting at a stadium he would’ve dreamed being a star at in 2022.
After the victory over the Canaries at Carrow Road, Jacob Ramsey spoke of trying to emulate the feats of Steven Gerrard during his career. Idolising Gerrard’s goal-scoring heroics, he will be a star-man for the rest of the season even with Aston Villa breaking the bank. With more transfers expected to come in at Villa, Ramsey will hope he can continue impressing in the starting line-up to retain his spot. If he can sustain this, he could well mirror the career of his well-respected coach.