For the sixth match running, young midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka has sat amongst the substitutes at Aston Villa having failed to come off the bench. Instead, Steven Gerrard has turned to fellow 18-year-old Tim Iroegbunam, a player the manager continues to wax lyrical about.
“It’s only a matter of time before he becomes a regular in this team,” Gerrard said of Iroegbunam while, for Chukwuemeka, it appears his Villa chance has passed him by after contract negotiations continued to break down, first in October and again in January. Gerrard, 41, spoke of his frustration at Chukwuemeka following Villa’s 3-0 win at Leeds back in March, outlining how he and the club had “done everything” to convince him to sign a new long-term deal.
BirminghamLive understands that Chukwuemeka is keen to leave and wants first-team football. The England under-19 international will sit down with Villa and his representatives in the summer before a final decision – whether he stays or goes – is reached. He’ll have less than 12 months remaining on his contract when pre-season begins, while European giants Borussia Dortmund are keeping close tabs on his situation.
It’s strange then to know that Chukwuemeka’s biggest England hero growing up was in fact his manager, Gerrard. “Obviously he’s a midfielder, his finishing from outside the box, he’s a leader, he could win games by himself so, yeah, I’d say Steven Gerrard,” he said, during a recent interview with Rising Ballers.
Gerrard had continued to stress how “there’s a big road map” for Chukwuemeka to establish himself in the first-team at Villa Park for many years, yet the ex-Northampton Town trainee isn’t ready to commit. Don’t forget, Gerrard wants his players to be “all-in” and Chukwuemeka simply isn’t.
In Gerrard’s first 12 games, Chukwuemeka made eight appearances from off the bench and, at times, was the first change in a bid to change the game. However, since Newcastle in February, Chukwuemeka hasn’t played a single minute which tells you all you need to know about the teenager’s future.
With six games to go and not too much to play for, it’ll be intriguing to see if Chukwuemeka is afforded much game time – if any – as the season draws to a conclusion. One thing is for sure, though, and Villa fans will be seeing more of Iroegbunam. “We believe Tim’s ready,” Gerrard said of the youngster who, last month, did what Chukwuemeka is reluctant to do and penned a big contract extension to 2027.
Gerrard gave Iroegbunam his debut at Brighton previously while, this season, Chukwuemeka’s mate, Jacob Ramsey, has continued to flourish under the manager’s guidance. Chukwuemeka doesn’t have to look too far to see what can be achieved under Gerrard at Villa.