Aston Villa’s fall from grace in 2015-16 was so precipitous that the once proud English Premier League club was considered a sure-fire relegation (dropped down to the second tier) victim months before the end of the season. All those doubts were correct, with the Villains now scrambling to find a way to rebuild the club and work toward a quick return to England’s top flight. That one of the club’s first moves aimed at promotion was signing a 16-year-0ld California prospect may speak to the club’s need for a top-to-bottom shakeup, a realistic appraisal at how far away a return to the Premier League truly is or, perhaps, both.
The 16-year-old in question is young defender Callum Stretch, a star at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame who gave up his senior year of school and final scholastic soccer campaign to sign with Aston Villa and move to Birmingham.
As noted by the Los Angeles Times, Stretch, an Encino, Calif. native, previously played for the L.A. Galaxy youth academy since 2013 and has competed for the U.S. U-18 National team. But Stretch passed on competing over the summer for FC Golden State, his longtime club team, in favor of a move to the UK. Stretch has dual citizenship, and he faced no eligibility hurdles to employment in Britain.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for me, and I am honored to be a part of Aston Villa’s great history and heritage,” Stretch told the FC Golden State website.
Now, Stretch will bank on Aston Villa’s history of producing and promoting young talent as a means to help him reach the promised land of European top-flight football. He’s expected to compete for the Villa’s U-18 squad in 2016-17, though no one is willing to wager a guess on where his future may move from there.