Paul Parker

Villa’s future all bright

Paul Parker

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Of the many
expensively acquired summer recruits to take their bows over the weekend, the
player who most impressed on his Premier League debut didn't cost his club a penny.

Marc
Albrighton eclipsed everyone around him on Saturday with a superb performance
on his first top-flight game for Aston
Villa.

A product
of Villa's youth academy, the 20-year-old was the best player on the pitch for
the 89 minutes he was on it, proving clubs need not break the bank to uncover
match-winning jewels.

In all
likelihood, Albrighton wouldn't have started
the game if Martin O'Neill were still in charge,
but the faith shown in him by caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald, who knows him
well from the youth team, was paid back in full.

What most
impressed me about Albrighton was his willingness to run at his defender and go
round the outside. There aren't many players like him left these days - all too
often wingers come inside on to their other
foot.

But to see
a classic winger taking on his man and running down the line was a real treat.
And such was the confidence with which he went about his afternoon's work, you
really wouldn't have thought that was his full debut.

The bonus,
of course, is that he is English, playing in the Premier League. That will not
only help Villa in the long run, but also England.

The only
shame is that he hasn't been given the chance before. Twenty years old is far
too late. Had he been given the opportunity to play alongside more experienced
players a little earlier, we might be talking about him in a completely
different vein now. There's only so much to be gained from playing in the
reserves and if a player shows genuine promise, he should be given a chance.

I just hope
that whoever comes in - if MacDonald isn't handed the job on a full-time basis
- is equally willing to give youngsters like Albrighton a chance to shine.

- - -

It doesn't
look like Manchester City will be taking that view any time soon, such is their
immense spending power.

They
paraded big money signings Aleksandar Kolorov, Yaya Toure and David Silva at
the weekend, but all three were overshadowed by a player who cost a fraction of
the amount splashed on them.

Joe Hart,
like Albrighton, repaid the faith shown in him by his manager with a virtuoso
display in between the sticks in City's goalless draw with Tottenham.

To get the
nod ahead of Shay Given is no mean feat and it was a brave decision for Roberto
Mancini to make, but one which was fully justified as Hart pulled off a string
of top-drawer saves to keep Spurs at bay.

Again,
Hart's performance just goes to show that sometimes the best deals are right
there under your nose.  City may well have gone shopping for new threads
this summer, lavishly so, but it turns out that they had something in the
wardrobe already.

That said,
for me the decision to play Hart was nothing more than common sense. He's a
young English goalkeeper who has the quality to play regularly in the Premier
League and the potential to progress even further if he plays regular football.

Of course,
he's going to make mistakes, but less and less as he gets older. On the other
hand, Given, who is 34 and 11 years Hart's senior, is only going to start
making more and more.

Sometimes
the old has to give way to the young and City should help out Arsenal by offloading
Given - and do themselves a favour by keeping Hart in the team.

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