Villa coach MacDonald: NextGen series great for our young players

Aston Villa coach Kevin MacDonald says participating in the NextGen series this season has helped their youth development.

Aston Villa coach Kevin MacDonald says participating in the NextGen series this season has helped their youth development.

Villa have used the NextGen Series to accelerate their players’ development. After an inauspicious start, they won their group ahead of Ajax, Fenerbahce and Rosenborg and face Marseille in the quarter-finals.

"We’ve looked at the NextGen Series more as our reserve side this year and it’s been very beneficial," said MacDonald to the Daily Mail.

"At various stages we’ve had to match together 16-year-olds and a schoolboy such as 15-year-old Jordan Graham with players like Gary Gardner, who has just been called back from a loan at Coventry because we need him in the first team. It’s helped the lads become more streetwise.

"In terms of attributes we base a lot on the technical side but our players have to have more physical ability due to the nature of the English game. Yet we’ve seen players grow and develop quickly because of this experience. We lost away to Ajax and you could see they were intimidated by the whole Ajax aura but by the end of the group stage they’ve played Ajax at home and beaten them.

"There are different physical demands. They couldn’t fly back the night of the Ajax game so stayed over and trained the following day. When they went to Turkey for Fenerbahce they had to spend three or four hours on a coach going through the city before they got to their drop-off point. It’s all part of their development into young professionals so when the manager needs them they are ready."

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