Johnny Phillips: Aston Villa's Jacob Ramsey has the potential to be streets ahead of the rest

With Philippe Coutinho stealing the national headlines, it would be easy to suggest the Brazilian was the man all Villa supporters are looking to for inspiration as the season continues.

Villa’s Jacob Ramsey
celebrates scoing
against Leeds United
on Wednesday night
Villa’s Jacob Ramsey celebrates scoing against Leeds United on Wednesday night

But perhaps more satisfying for the fans in the stands and the manager in the dugout is the continued progress of a local youngster.

Jacob Ramsey is becoming a key figure in Steven Gerrard’s team and is starting to earn plaudits outside of those fans who have watched him develop on a weekly basis this season.

After his two goals on Wednesday evening, it was great to hear Gerrard stating that he believed Ramsey would soon be in the England set-up.

All too often we hear managers playing down the prospects of their young talent and refusing to be drawn on the potential in front of them.

When asked if Ramsey was following in his footsteps, Gerrard insisted: “He’s not following in anyone’s footsteps. Jacob Ramsey is Jacob Ramsey. He will be a terrific player.

“It won’t be long before the whole country is watching him, I’m sure. He is right up there let me tell you.”

Gerrard clearly believes Ramsey can cope with the hype which will surely come his way if he continues to perform like this. Instead of downplaying the youngster’s progress, he was happy to give credit where it was due.

It made for a refreshing change to hear a manager embrace the moment like this.

“He is a top talent, I’m loving every moment of working with him,” Gerrard continued. “He is getting stronger with each game because we’re giving him the platform to express himself. He is in a wonderful place.”

That must be music to the ears of Villa fans.

Ramsey has been with the club’s academy since the age of six.

His younger brothers – Aaron is in the under-23s and Cole part of the academy – are also coming through the ranks and there is the tantalising possibility of all three playing a part in the club’s first team at some stage, although maybe that is getting ahead of the story.

For now, it is worth celebrating Jacob in his own right.

The 20-year-old is right at home in the three-man midfield as the left-sided player, but he could easily play on either flank.

His current role allows him to get on the ball in deep positions and look to break the lines with his running on the ball or passing.

In recent weeks we have seen he is also finding space at crucial times, with Coutinho perfectly spotting the gaps Ramsey was sprinting into against Leeds.

Ramsey is genuinely comfortable in possession, travelling further with the ball than any other player at the club per game this season, with only Emi Buendia covering more distance overall.

Supporters love to see homegrown talent flourishing and, under Gerrard, Ramsey has reached a level that will surely keep him in the Villa side for many years to come.

He’s a grounded lad, too.

During the Christmas period I was able to chat to him over Zoom for a Soccer Saturday interview and he recalled the sacrifices made by his family to get him this far.

“My mum and dad over the years have travelled the country with me, come to the training ground five or six times a week, I’ve got a lot to thank them for,” he said. “There would be early morning starts and late finishes in evenings, it’s a big commitment for parents.”

The sporting upbringing he received from his dad Mark – a professional boxer who was one of the very few who took Ricky Hatton the distance during his career – has evidently played a part in his own development and competitiveness.

“In some ways boxing and football are very different but in other ways they are very similar,” Ramsey explained. “Growing up in a sporting background with my dad as a boxer taught me little things off the field, like looking after yourself with nutrition.

“Boxing is one versus one, there’s no hiding place, it’s a really tough sport and he pushed me to be tough on the pitch and stand my ground, as that’s what he did on his journey.”

Another pleasing aspect of Ramsey’s journey from the academy is that he is not doing it alone. Carney Chukwuemeka is another of several academy graduates who Gerrard is trusting with minutes on the pitch. Ramsey takes great pride in the development of the young players around him.

“When you see the players you’ve grown up with, for the last five or six years, now training with the first team, coming off the bench for the first team and starting games it’s a proud moment for all the academy.,” he said. “I had people looking out for me when I was in the academy so it’s my job to do the same now.”

Under the guidance of Gerrard and with Coutinho for company on the pitch, Ramsey is in the perfect place to continue his fantastic progress this season.

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