Five Aston Villa youngsters who should get a first-team chance in the second half of the season

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With Villa looking certain to drop down to the Championship, manager Remi Garde should resist the urge to spend in January and give these young players a chance to show their worth instead.

After back-to-back defeats to Norwich City and Sunderland, respectively, it seems virtually inevitable that Aston Villa’s run as Premier League ever-presents is coming to an end.

The club currently sit 11 points from safety at the foot of the table after recording only one win and eight points from 20 games, and while it is still mathematically possible that they could pull off an unprecedented escape act, the chances of them taking the 30-odd points needed for survival from their 18 remaining fixtures are slim to none.

Manager Remi Garde is seemingly not giving up without a fight, having reiterated in recent weeks that he is eager to strengthen his struggling side in the January transfer window, but even potential signings like Loic Remy will not be enough to save them at this stage.

Instead, it may just be in the club’s best interests to accept their fate now and start preparing for life in the Championship, in which case giving a few youngsters some first-team opportunities over the second half of the season would seem like a wise move.

After all, these are players who could have a chance of seeing significant minutes next term following the anticipated summer clear-out, and handing them a head start with some top-flight experience may just give Villa a better chance of bouncing straight back up.

In the event that Garde does take that approach, here are five names that should certainly be in his plans.

Gary Gardner

At 23, Gardner may not be considered a “youngster” anymore by some, but it has to be emphasised that he’s still making up for lost time after suffering two significant knee ligament injuries.

Long regarded as one of Villa’s top prospects, the homegrown midfielder was even compared to Steven Gerrard while rising through the ranks, but fitness issues have continued to derail his progress since making his first-team breakthrough during the 2011-12 season.

The former England Under-21 international looked primed to push himself into the plans of former boss Tim Sherwood during pre-season after successful loan stints at Brighton and Nottingham Forest last term, but an ankle injury suffered in the 2-0 friendly win at Swindon Town subsequently sidelined him for most of the first half of the campaign.

Nevertheless, the lifelong Villa fan is now back to full fitness, and while recent reports have linked with a return to Forest [h/t Nottingham Post], his past performances in the Championship suggest that Garde would be wise to start re-integrating him into the first-team.

Lewis Kinsella

Kinsella was drafted into the Villa first-team last March due to a spate of defensive injuries, and after appearing as an unused substitute in three straight games, got his first taste of professional experience out on loan at Luton Town over the final two months of the 2014-15 campaign.

While a key player for Gordon Cowans’ Under-21s, the 21-year-old left-back has not been involved in the senior set-up so far this term, but with Jordan Amavi out injured until at least the summer, now could be the perfect time for Garde to let him prove whether he has a long-term future at the club.

Aly Cissokho is currently manning the position after being recalled early from his loan spell at Porto, but how long he will hold onto the role remains to be seen after flattering to deceive last season.

Jordan Lyden

Lyden saw his progress curtailed last season by a major hamstring injury which sidelined him for the entire campaign, but he is now making up for lost time.

The 19-year-old Australian midfielder was called up to first-team training by Garde last month after skippering the Under-21s through their first 11 games of the campaign and has since made the bench for the defeats to Arsenal and Norwich.

"It's a message to Jordan,” Garde told AVTV after the 2-0 loss to Arsenal. "What I saw of Jordan is a very committed player in training sessions.

“He has a lot of energy - and is always positive. He is young, without experience - but he has skills, talent and spirit.”

Also capable of playing in defence, Lyden could certainly prove a valuable utility man in the immediate future, but having compared himself to compatriot Mile Jedinak, he might be taking Carlos Sanchez’s role in the side before long.

Niall Mason

Mason joined Villa on trial last April ahead of his contract at Southampton expiring and went on to earn a permanent deal after impressing in the Under-21s side’s subsequent fixtures.

Like Lyden, the 18-year-old midfielder can play in a variety of roles, and after spending time with the first-team during their pre-season training camp in Portugal, has featured at both right-back and centre-half as a regular starter for the development side this term.

He might be more of a long-shot to earn some first-team minutes this term, but having also been on the books of Real Madrid during his short but nomadic career, the versatile teenager’s potential is obvious.

Jerell Sellars

Sellars originally joined Villa from Conference side Lincoln City in 2012, and while he has not been as talked up as fellow striker Callum Robinson since, there is reason to believe that he could be the better prospect.

The emerging speedster, who turned 20 last month, made headlines during pre-season when he came off the bench to score in the game against Swindon, while he followed up that performance with an impressive cameo in a 1-1 draw with Walsall.

He has since netted four times in 11 starts for the Under-21s, while seeing time up top, out wide and as a No. 10, but some of his best showings have come in recent weeks.

The forward earned the praise of coach Cowans last month after outshining Adama Traore with a goal and assist from the left wing in a 2-2 draw with Blackburn Rovers and he also scored and set up another in his latest outing against Arsenal.

Whether Garde has him in his thoughts at this stage is unclear, but with Villa recording a Premier League-low 16 goals in 20 games, it could well be worth seeing whether he can help inject some life into their sputtering attack.

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