Aston Villa youngster Kevin Toner thankful for loan experience

The 19-year-old Irish defender enjoyed a six-game stint at Kidderminster Harriers earlier this season.

Aston Villa defender Kevin Toner has credited his loan spell at Kidderminster Harriers with helping him prepare for first-team football with the claret and blues.

Toner, who joined Villa from Irish outfit Home Farm in 2012, made his senior debut for the club last month when he replaced the injured Micah Richards at half-time of their 4-2 home defeat to Southampton.

The 19-year-old centre-back was subsequently handed his first start for last Saturday’s trip to Watford and received widespread praise from fans for his performance despite suffering a 3-2 loss on the afternoon.

His first-team breakthrough comes after he spent a month on loan at Kidderminster earlier this season, when he made six straight starts for the National League side, and the Republic of Ireland Under-19 international believes he benefited a great deal from his brief stint in non-league football.

Speaking to AVTV about the experience, Toner said: "It was good. It was just different. It was nice to be out playing men’s football and seeing what it was all about. It’s all about getting points on the board and not so much just playing football – you have to make sure you win. That’s the main part at the end of it all.

“But it was good to just go out and see. It’s a lot more physical so you have to be able to step and show you’re not just a kid – you’re there as a man as well.

“We got about 1,000 or 2,000 fans and even that’s different to the Under-21s. You’re starting to play in front of fans and can hear the crowd react when you’re making tackles.”

Toner’s six appearances for Kidderminster all came at left-back, but while he is comfortable at the position, the promising defender admits that his preferred role is centre-half.

“I’d rather play centre-back,” he added. “But I’ll play anywhere on the left side, I don’t really mind – left-sided centre-back or left-back.”

Toner has been one of the Villa Under-21 side’s most consistent performers over the past two seasons and has played a key role in their run to the U21 Premier League Division Two play-off final this term, making eight starts since returning from Kidderminster.

It was his impressive form for the development team over the past few months that saw him rewarded with a call-up to the senior squad, and the Irishman believes that much of his recent progress is down to working with coaches like Kevin MacDonald and Gordon Cowans.

“They’ve all helped me massively, he told AVTV. “Even off the pitch. Obviously I’m from Ireland so it’s difficult coming over here when you’re younger. It’s a different lifestyle to going from training maybe twice a week for an hour or two in the evening to fulltime.

“I think everyone in the Under-21s is now hoping for that little call-up. All you need is a bit of luck and then, once you get the shout, it’s your chance to just take it.”

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