Lyden shining at Villa Park (Courtesy of the Birmingham Mail)

Lyden shining at Villa Park (Courtesy of the Birmingham Mail)

Posted on February 20, 2016 in 'News'

Former ECU Joondalup Academy product Jordan Lyden might be the youngest member of the Aston Villa first-team but by no means is he just making up the numbers.

In a great piece in the Birmingham Mail it told of the rise of the defender from ECU Joondalup to the Premier League – via Chelsea – There’s no awkward search for a place on the bus when he travels to away games and in the canteen he mixes with the seniors like a fully-fledged pro. Out on the Bodymoor Heath practice pitches the Perth-born prodigy oozes confidence past his tender years. And when Remi Garde eventually integrates him into his preferred central midfield role the manager expects him to thrive. “I admire his attitude, it’s among the best we have here at the club,” said Garde.

Not a bad compliment for a player who was a teenager only last month and remains, like on many occasions during his upbringing, a small fish in a big pond. Make no mistake, Lyden is as gifted as they come. It’s his lion heart that continues to help him cut it with bigger boys, though. In Australia, academies only take on kids when they reach the age of nine. Lyden was signed up at seven at ECU Joondalup, and by ten he was training with both Villa and Chelsea.

At 11, coaches in London said he was almost as good as 14-year-old Josh McEachran – the midfielder tipped as the next best thing back then. And after choosing Villa as his preferred destination at 12, he was promoted through the ranks by youth team manager Tony McAndrew who played him out of position just to get him in the U18 set-up when he eventually made the permanent move to the Midlands. Similar patterns have emerged this term, Garde handed Lyden his first senior start against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup at right-back. He was thrilled with the call-up but anyone who’s watched him play will know that he can only truly shine in the middle of the park.

Back in his homeland, the academy graduate used to ‘demolish teams single-handedly’ according to one ex-coach. His goals and silky skills got him noticed but since moving over to England he has adapted. Lyden reads the game superbly and appears to be one step ahead of the action. He has the air of the man of the group when he captains the U21s. As an organiser and leader you’ll often see him mopping up the danger to allow the more attack-minded players the freedom to create.

National team selectors have been aware of his qualities since his time at ECU Joondalup, the top academy in Perth, where Lyden used to train with Willie Herd, father of ex-Villa midfielder Chris. So far he’s only turned out for Australia’s U20 group but senior coach Ange Postecoglou is known to be keeping an eye on his progress in the Premier League.

As his parents Kevin and Donna were born in England, the 6ft ace could elect to represent the Three Lions but there will be no big debate like that of Jack Grealish. Lyden sees himself as a Socceroo. He’s also determined to re-pay Villa for the faith they have shown in him. Last season he was sidelined with a hamstring injury but now he’s making up for lost time. A loan move won’t be considered as Garde reckons his development will be aided with regular first-team training sessions and U21 games to maintain his fitness.

Like Grealish, the rising star has moved all through the age groups and was a part of the 2013 NextGen Series success. Ex-academy chief Bryan Jones played a pivotal role in convincing him that Villa was the better option ahead of Chelsea back in 2008 and there are no regrets. Ben Petty and Kevin MacDonald have also worked closely with him over the years and the latter speaks highly of his progress.

Lyden, a top-performing all-rounder at school who excelled in athletics, too, is living the dream. He’s on the brink of breaking into a team that will soon be under-going major surgery as an inevitable relegation into the Championship looms. These are big times for a player with big potential and if his attitude is as good as his manager suggests he shouldn’t be too far away from fulfilling it.