COLCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10: Gary Gardner of England celebrates scoring the fifth goal during the UEFA Under-21 Championship Group 8 Qualifier between England and Iceland at the Weston Homes Community Stadium on November 10, 2011 in Colchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Some happy news amidst the otherwise depressing reality that has become being an Aston Villa fan: the youth team the club sent to the NextGen Series advanced to the final eight of the tournament today with a 3-0 win over Ajax at Villa Park. Gary Gardner continued to give us all a reason to
live look forward to the future as he did all of the day's scoring, continuing a run of tremendous form that began at the beginning of the season and hasn't come close to letting up. One would think he's going to be getting a crack at the first team soon enough, and watching him tear quality competition to shreds makes that premature Carling Cup exit all the more annoying.
The Villa kiddos will now face one of Barcelona, Celtic or Marseille in the knockout round, all clubs with excellent youth systems. Barcelona's is obviously a step above though, and it would be nice to see them avoided for at least a bit longer as any chance for the youngsters to earn reps against quality European competition should be welcomed. The big boys aren't giving us a lot to be excited about at the moment, but hope springs eternal and all that.
Now for heaven's sake, can we get Gardner in the team?