Stephen Ireland reborn as Aston Villa's elder statesman
But on closer inspection, it becomes clear that in among them is Darren Bent. It is not, after all, the under-15s about to be put through their paces. This is the Aston Villa first-team squad. Seventeen years ago, Manchester United played at Villa Park with a side of such striking youth Alan Hansen was moved to make his infamous observation about how little can be won with young players. As the two sides prepare to meet this afternoon it is Villa who are now in thrall to the next generation. With players such as Matthew Lowton, Joe Bennett, Christian Benteke and Ciaran Clark in their midst, the average age of the side which beat Sunderland last weekend was 24. “I know, they aren’t half getting younger,” says Stephen Ireland of his team mates. “I had this at Manchester City. Kevin Keegan left, Stuart Pearce took over and all of a sudden, me Micah Richards, Joe Hart were given a chance.” And, he adds, those City youngsters were a bunch of kids who went on to win something.
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