Louie Barry, 17, was in dreamland as he scored a beauty on his Aston Villa debut against Liverpool in the FA Cup third round, as the young talent was praised by both managers and shone with his moment of individual brilliance.
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He was dropped off by his mom and dad before the game, showcasing just how young this Villa side was.
Barry was among the Aston Villa youngsters who were thrust into the spotlight as the entire first team playing staff and squad had to self-isolate after 14 positive COVID-19 cases thrust the club into chaos.
The young lads (the average age of the starting lineup was 18 years, 294 days) didn’t let their club down. Far from it, as U23 coach Mark Delaney beamed about what he called a ‘monumental effort’ when speaking after the 4-1 defeat.
Barry’s goal made it 1-1 just before half time as they went in level at the break. But tiredness kicked in for the youngsters and Georginio Wijnaldum, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah all scored in a quick burst in the second half to make it 4-1, but all of the credit went to Villa’s youngsters.
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Barry couldn’t wipe the small off his face after scoring a wonderful goal on his debut for his boyhood club.
“I knew that I had it, as soon as I saw it,” Barry said. “Put the ball in the back of the net, it is the proudest I’ve ever been. Family were probably screaming at the TV when it hit the back of the net. It all happened so quickly. I was just happy to score – hopefully I score many more… I was working very hard, and so was everyone else. When I celebrated everything came out of me. For the celebration it was relief. It was good.”
🙌 An incredible moment as Louie Barry, 17, scores.
Context: Aston Villa’s entire first team squad/staff not available due to COVID-19 outbreak.
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) January 8, 2021
It was more than good, and the display from what was essentially a mixture of Villa’s U23 and U18 was heroic given the circumstances.
“I’ve never been so proud of a team – from start to finish we gave our all. When I scored, I thought we might have a chance. Obviously that didn’t turn out to be but we were a credit to ourselves and a credit to the club,” Barry added.
Shirt swap and praise, as Villa’s kids are more than alright
Several Villa players cramped up in the final 20 minutes because, well, they are teenagers and they were playing against Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Curtis Jones, Georginio Wijnaldum, Thiago Alcantara, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Takumi Minamino, Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi.
Liverpool did not play the kids, and Klopp praised Barry as he called him a ‘young Jamie Vardy’ and the entire Liverpool team were extremely complimentary of the efforts from the youthful Villa side.
Asked about swapping shirts with Fabinho at the final whistle, then running down the tunnel to get his shirt back from the Brazilian superstar, Barry laughed it off as he thanked the Liverpool star for letting him keep his shirt as a souvenir of a night he will never forget.
“Nearly!” Barry laughed when asked about giving his shirt away. “Then I remembered it was my debut shirt. I got his shirt as well, so credit to Fabinho. I got both of them,” Barry smiled.
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There will be a lot of smiling at Aston Villa about the display their ridiculously young side put in under extremely tough circumstances, and many of these youngsters will surely be lined up for loan moves to League One and League Two clubs in January considering how well they acquitted themselves.
Dominic Revan was superb at center back, so too was Callum Rowe at left back, but it was tough to single out any of the youngsters. They put in a heck of a shift and gave Liverpool a heck of a fright for about 15-20 minutes.