Tim Sherwood sees bright futures at Aston Villa for fledgling trio

Gary Gardner, Joe Bennett and Nathan Baker are all players who the Villa boss says figure into his long-term plans.

Gary Gardner, Nathan Baker and Joe Bennett can all still become key players for Aston Villa, manager Tim Sherwood has told AVTV.

Gardner, 23, has long-been considered one of Villa’s top prospects but two serious knee injuries have so far limited the midfielder to just 18 total appearances for his childhood club since earning his first-team debut in December 2011.

He signed a new three-year deal last month, however, after enjoying productive loan spells at Brighton & Hove Albion and Nottingham Forest last season, and Sherwood is eager to get him involved in the first-team once he recovers from the foot problem which has kept him out of action so far this term.

“We are delighted that Gary has signed a long-term contract because we do see him as the future of the football club,” said the Villa boss. "It's too easy to discard your homegrown players. I am not one to do that.

"We will give him every opportunity to play for the club he loves.”

 2014-15 Championship PositionTeamGoalsAssistsKey PassesPassing AccuracyTotal Tackles GAMEDuels Won GAMEDuel SuccessInterceptions GAMEAppearancesMins Played
Gary Gardner MF Brighton / Forest 6 2 26 77% 2.74 6.37 60.11% 2.03 35 2,743

Bennett, meanwhile, has made 38 appearances for Villa since signing from Middlesbrough in August 2012, but he has featured just eight times since the start of the 2013-14 campaign and spent last season on loan at Brighton.

The 25-year-old left-back has now made another loan move to Bournemouth until January – but not before penning a new deal himself, with Sherwood explaining: "We see Joe as part of the plans. We saw the loan as a good opportunity for Joe to go to Bournemouth and get Premier League minutes under his belt - and keep a close eye on him too.

"We want him to develop as a player and we think it was a good move for all parties - Joe, Bournemouth and Villa.”

 2014-15 Championship PositionTeamGoalsAssistsKey PassesPassing AccuracyTotal Crosses GAMECrossing AccuracyTotal Tackles GAMETotal Clearances GAMEAppearancesMins Played
Joe Bennett DF Brighton 1 3 38 81% 2.39 20% 2.32 2.68 41 3,674

Academy graduate Baker is in a similar position to Bennett, having joined Bristol City on a season-long loan after committing his future to Villa until 2019 this summer.

The 24-year-old centre-back has seen injuries and inconsistency hamper his claret and blue career over the past few campaigns but Sherwood believes that regular minutes in the Championship can help him overcome those problems.

“It’s not has if we pushed him out the door,” he added. "We want him to tick that durability box of playing games. If he can go to Bristol City and churn out 30 plus games, he will tick that box. He's a player for the future of this club."

 2014-15 Premier League Errors Lead To GoalTotal Tackles GAMETackle AccuracyTotal Clearances GAMEHeaders Won GAMEHeader SuccessInterceptions GAMEPassing AccuracyAppearancesMins Played
Nathan Baker 0 1.27 71% 9.27 3.36 58.73% 1.64 77% 11 763

Sherwood's praise in mind, most would agree that Gardner has the best shot of the three at making the grade at Villa given his age, potential and past performances, although there could well be a chance for Bennett to replace Kieran Richardson as the backup left-back to Jordan Amavi if he makes a good impression during his spell at Bournemouth.

Baker, though, could find himself competing for a place next term with the likes of team captain Micah Richards, Ciaran Clark, Joleon Lescott, Jores Okore and Liverpool loanee Tiago Ilori should his stint become permanent, leaving the left-footed stopper with a lot of work to do before then.

Nevertheless, it certainly says a lot about the squad's newfound depth when players like him are suddenly so far down the pecking order and, in that respect, a lot of credit has to go to Sherwood for the rebuilding effort which has taken place over the summer.

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