McLeish sees bright future for Villa
Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish believes the crop of youngsters coming through the club's ranks means there is plenty to look forward to in the future.
The Scot used six players aged 23 or under in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Liverpool, in which Chris Herd's 10th-minute goal was cancelled out by a late Luis Suarez strike. Herd and Eric Lichaj, both 23, Barry Bannan, 22, and Nathan Baker, 20, all started while Andreas Weimann, 20, Gary Gardner and Samir Carruthers, both 19, came off the bench.
The average age of Villa's outfield substitutes was just 19 and a half and McLeish hopes all his younger players will develop into reliable first-team regulars. He said: "The first-half performance was great and I'm very proud of the young players, helped by the experienced players in the team."
He added: "Sometimes you have to find out the hard way when you are not sure if they are ready and then they go and produce performances like that.
"In terms of their application we know that is the first thing we ask from them but when they show us some of the qualities they have done in terms of possession and what we expect from them then they have done well.
"Andreas Weimann came off with an injury last weekend and did not train all week and we felt it was a risk to start him after his performance against Chelsea. Gary Gardner did not train all week due to a virus and these young boys are doing Villa proud, they will run their hearts out for the club.
"They are real young lions and a credit to the academy. Nathan Baker looks like he could be a great young centre-half. There are so many I can mention - Samir Carruthers came on as a sub and had the cheek to take on Stevie Gerrard on the right wing but I suppose that shows the confidence of the young players.
"They really have high opinions of themselves without being too cocky. Chris Herd has had to get a fast-track in the Premier League and you can see the progress he has made and he scored a terrific goal."
The point at Anfield ended a run of two defeats and eased some of the worries about the club being sucked into a late relegation battle. They have little time to recover as they host Stoke at Villa Park on Monday but McLeish believes the performance they put in will carry them through a second match in three days.
"Every one of them is ready to go again. They took great confidence from the display," he added. "The invested an awful lot (of effort) but the confidence they have taken from that will let them go again. I always believe if they can get great confidence from a game they can go into the next one not feeling tired."