Eric Black gives his verdict on Kevin Toner's Aston Villa debut

The 19-year-old defender made his Premier League bow as a half-time substitute in Saturday's 4-2 home defeat to Southampton.

Aston Villa caretaker manager Eric Black has tipped teenage defender Kevin Toner for a big future after handing the highly-rated Irishman his first-team debut in Saturday’s 4-2 home defeat to Southampton.

Black was speaking to Villa’s official website after the match at Villa Park, having seen the Saints go 2-0 up inside 39 minutes through goals from Shane Long and Dusan Tadic.

Ashley Westwood manage to reduce the deficit in first-half injury-time with a low finish from the centre of the box, but the visitors restored their two-goal advantage with 20 minutes left when Tadic added his second.

Westwood again handed Villa a lifeline five minutes from time, drilling a powerful shot past Fraser Forster from the edge of the box, but Sadio Mane’s stoppage-time header condemned them to their 10th straight defeat.

Vs Southampton AssistsKey PassesTotal PassesPassing AccuracyTotal TacklesTotal ClearancesDuels WonsDuels LostInterceptionsTouchesDispossessedMins Played
Kevin Toner 1 1 10 50% 2 3 3 2 2 18 0 45

Unsurprisingly, there were very few positives for the already-relegated hosts to take from the game, but Toner’s introduction on the afternoon at least offered supporters some hope for a brighter future.

The 19-year-old centre-back replaced the injured Micah Richards at half-time and put in a solid display over the second period, recording two tackles, three clearances, two interceptions and winning three duels in the process.

He was also credit with the assist for Villa’s second goal after getting a slight touch on Grealish’s low cross before it reached Westwood on the left-hand side of the box, and Black was impressed with how he handled his first taste of top-flight football.

“I thought Kevin did extremely well,” the Scot told “I have watched him two or three times in the U21s and he's a very committed boy.

“He's desperate to be a football player and I thought he acquitted himself very well today.

“It's not easy to come on but he looked the part.”

Toner, who joined Villa as a scholar in 2012, has been one of the Under-21 side’s star performers of the past two campaigns and also impressed during a month-long loan at National League side Kidderminster Harriers earlier this season, making six starts.

Comfortable at centre-half or left-back, the Republic of Ireland Under-19 international was linked with the likes of Leicester City, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Stoke City over the second half of last term before signing a new deal with Villa [h/t Daily Mail], and it now looks like he could be in line to see some significant minutes in the Championship next season as the club prepare to overhaul their squad during the summer.

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