Aston Villa captain Micah Richards has claimed that the quality of the youngsters that are coming through at Villa Park should give the club a reason to be optimistic about the future, the Birmingham Mail reports.
The Midlands outfit will have their relegation to the Championship confirmed this Saturday if they fail to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford, although a win may still not be good enough if Norwich collect any points against Sunderland on the same day.
But despite the miserable season, Richards has suggested that the prospects that are emerging into the first-team have provided the squad with a lift, initially singling out Jack Grealish as a player whose return from injury has boosted the mood.
"There is no denying that there haven't been a lot of things for us to be positive about over the past few weeks," he told the Mail.
"But the emergence of some of our young players can provide everybody with a glimmer of hope for the future.
"It's great to see Jack Grealish back in action. We saw glimpses of what Jack does best - getting on the ball, running at players and looking to open up defences."
"Jordan Lyden and Andre Green have followed in Jack's footsteps this season by breaking through from our academy and players like this give me confidence that there is a better future in the store for the club," he added.
Although dropping down to the second tier will not have been in the team's plans, the slight drop in standard may well help the younger players realise their potential as whoever the manager will be next season may be more willing to give them opportunities, and there will be slightly less pressure on them to succeed straight away.
However, that pressure may soon be back on if the next manager is unable to get the balance right between picking the young players that need to perfect their game and selecting the experienced heads that will know how tough it will be to get back to the top flight.