Villa have recently been hit by an injury crisis, and to make matters worse, have Jordan Ayew serving a three-match suspension after he was shown a straight red card for elbowing Aaron Cresswell during the first half of the 2-0 loss at West Ham United earlier this week.
They also failed to add any new players to an already small squad during the January transfer window, leaving Garde short of options for the rest of the season.
The Frenchman already promoted 20-year-old utility man Jordan Lyden to the first-team in early December, handing him two FA Cup appearances since, while fellow Under-21s regular Niall Mason was also involved in the senior setup for the first time against West Ham as an unused substitute.
With the club currently sitting 10 points from safety at the bottom of the Premier League, the ex-Lyon boss is wary of throwing untested rookies into a relegation battle, but he admits that he could be forced into giving some a chance between now and the end of the campaign.
"I had Niall Mason on the bench in the last game and probably I will have maybe one or two more on the bench for the next game,” Garde said at his press conference. “Since I’ve come, I haven’t had too much time to look at the young players in this academy, but I’ve been told that Aston Villa’s academy is one of the best in the country.
“I will see now if I can rely on some players, but then saying that, you cannot ask young players who never played in the first-team or Premier League football to deliver in the situation we are in now. It wouldn’t be fair under this pressure to suddenly say, ‘Show me what you can do for the team.’
“It’s not the best situation for me and the team for them to go in the first-team, but if we have to, football is also about having strong characters and being ready to play first-team football when it’s the time to do it.
“I always say to the young players that there is no best moment to come into the first-team. Sometimes it happens when you don’t think it will, or you are ready to do it when there is no chance – you have to be ready every time. Probably it’s the time for some of them.”
Along with the suspended Ayew, Villa will also be missing fellow forward Rudy Gestede for the Norwich match due to a hamstring strain, while Libor Kozak has been sidelined for around a month after fracturing his ankle.
It leaves Gabby Agbonlahor, who has not scored in 11 months, as the team’s only out-and-out striker available for the Canaries clash, leading to suggestions that the promising Jerell Sellars could be handed a surprise call-up.
The 20-year-old made headlines during preseason when he came off the bench to score in a 2-0 friendly win at Swindon Town, and he has since hit six goals in 14 appearances for Gordan Cowans’ Under-21 side.
The Villa staff reportedly believe that the pacey attacker is not ready for first-team football yet [h/t Birmingham Mail], but current circumstances could see Garde forced to turn to him.
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