Eric Black has high praise for Aston Villa youngster Kevin Toner after Newcastle draw

The 19-year-old defender made his second straight Premier League start on Saturday as Black's side drew 0-0 with the Magpies at Villa Park.

Aston Villa caretaker manager Eric Black has lavished praise on defender Kevin Toner after seeing the 19-year-old Irishman put in an “outstanding” display in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle United.

Toner, who has made three appearances for Villa since earning his first-team debut in last month’s 4-2 defeat to Southampton, was handed his second straight start for Newcastle’s visit and showcased his promise with a strong performance to help the hosts pick up just their second home clean sheet of the season.

The youngster was filling in at left wing-back for the suspended Aly Cissokho after playing in his favoured centre-half role in last weekend’s 3-2 loss at Watford, but he did not look out of place when battling with Andros Townsend on the afternoon.

The Newcastle winger has been in excellent form during the run-in, having scored three goals in five games going into this weekend, but Toner did an excellent job of restricting his influence over the course of the 90 minutes, limiting him to just one shot.

Speaking to Villa’s official website after the match, Black was full of praise for the Republic of Ireland Under-19 international’s performance and stressed that he deserved “enormous credit” for transitioning into the first-team with such ease.

“I thought he was outstanding,” Black said of Toner. “Andros Townsend has been their best player in the last four or five games, he's been outstanding and we knew that.

“We looked at the video and the biggest threat was down the right hand side which was a big ask for Kevin Toner but, my goodness, did he stand up to it.

“He deserves enormous credit for coming into a difficult situation with his head held high and not only that, he has performed at a Premier League level.”

Despite Toner’s involvement, Black has received a fair amount of criticism from both fans and the media for his reluctance to throw more of Villa’s Under-21 starlets into the first-team mix since their relegation from the Premier League was confirmed last month with four games to spare, but the Scot was quick to defend his approach following the Newcastle draw.

"People have their opinions,” he added to “People come and watch football and see analysts on TV and everything else but unfortunately they don't have the detail that we have, in terms of I watch them in training.

“I watch the reserve games, I speak to the coaches about their mentality. I look at the data in terms of how they perform, I bring them into training with the first team, so there are steps there.

“I certainly wasn't against playing anybody but the other factor was the atmosphere being difficult. I just had to make professional choices and that's what I did.”

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