Express & Star

Young Lions urged to make an impact at Aston Villa

Steven Gerrard has thrown down the gauntlet to Villa youngsters Carney Chukwuemeka, Tim Iroegbunam and Aaron Ramsey after they won the Euros with England Under-19s.


Chukwuemeka, Iroegbunam and Ramsey all featured prominently as the Young Lions went all the way in Slovenia, beating Israel in the final.

Chukwuemeka and Ramsey both scored in extra-time last Friday while Iroegbunam came on to help Ian Foster’s lot to glory.

Gerrard has urged the trio to build on that experience and prove they deserve to be in the first-team reckoning.

“I was in contact with them through messages and wishing them luck for games,” said Gerrard.

“I must say congratulations to Ian Foster and his staff. I watched some of the games, and they did a fantastic job.

“I was really proud of the performances of our individuals. Our boys contributed to that achievement. We’re really proud of them and hope they become better from that experience.

“The ball’s in their court. I’ve shown in a short time that age is just a number.

“If you’re good enough and deserve an opportunity, I’ll have no qualms over putting you in, even if that means pushing someone with more experience to the side.

“We need the best players and I’ll continue to have that mentality.

“I’m slightly biased as I came through an academy system myself and know what it feels like to achieve your dream.

“These are all local boys, so I know what it means.

“If you prove to the first-team staff and players you’re good enough, the ball will certainly be put in their court.”

Meanwhile, Villa chief Gerrard has reiterated his excitement over the signing of French midfielder Boubacar Kamara and also said he is looking to strengthen his midfield further.

“He’s got tremendous range in his passing. For someone so young, he comes with big experience,” said Gerrard on Kamara.

“He’s recently become an international player for France, so that gives you a really good idea of the level of talent we’re dealing with.

“He’ll need time to settle in and, again, he’ll strengthen our midfield.”

Gerrard added: “It’s still an area we’re looking to strengthen again.

“We want to challenge the lads that have done really well for us since I’ve been here. We want to really make it difficult for people to have guaranteed places.

“We want to challenge every area of the team for us to become better and stronger.”