What were you up to most Friday evenings when you were 17?
Were you scoring against the Premier League Champions on your debut for the club you’ve supported your whole life, scampering down the Villa Park tunnel after Fabinho to ask for your shirt back or being told by Jurgen Klopp that you look like a young Jamie Vardy?
That’s what 17-year-old Aston Villa forward Louie Barry got up to on Friday.
The teenager was already a big noise in Midlands footballing circles, having progressed through the youth system of West Brom. Such was his talent, Barcelona came calling when he was 16, and Barry spent five months training in the club’s esteemed La Masia academy.
In January 2020, he moved to Aston Villa for £880,000. West Brom are still a little bit annoyed.
Understandably, there has been a buzz around Barry in Villa quarters for a good 12 months – as there would be when you pay a little short of £1m for a 16-year-old from Barcelona. There were calls for him to be parachuted into the first team towards the back end of the 2019/20 campaign as Dean Smith’s side battled the drop, but the club were keen to temper expectations and he remained at Bodymoor Heath, Villa’s best kept secret.
He’s not so secret anymore.
A COVID-19 outbreak among the Villa first team on the eve of their FA Cup third round clash against Liverpool resulted in the Under-23 and Under-18 squad being drafted in.
Villa’s youngsters turned in a spirited performance, going toe to toe with the Premier League champions for the best part of an hour before ultimately succumbing to a 4-1 defeat. There were noteworthy performances across the pitch; goalkeeper Akos Onodi made a number of superb saves, while the central defensive partnership of Dominic Revan and Mungo Bridge really caught the eye.
But it was Barry who stole the headlines with a fabulously taken goal to level the scores in the first half, and a wholesome post-match interview at full time.
The young forward – leading the line on his own – latched onto a wonderfully weighted through ball from 21-year-old ‘veteran’ left-back Callum Rowe, scampered in behind the Liverpool backline, shook off Rhys Williams and then stroked the ball past Caoimhin Kelleher with all the composure in the world.
His diminutive stature coupled with his pace in behind and the instinctive, curling finish was a teenage Michael Owen-esque.
Barry was a thorough nuisance up top. Prior to finding the net, he had already gotten the better of Fabinho and embarked on an adventurous foray forward to earn Villa a corner.
“Little Jamie Vardy was a proper threat,” a grinning Klopp told TalkSport at full time.
When Barry was born, Vardy had just been released by Sheffield Wednesday and was beginning life in the Stocksbridge Park Steels youth team. We don’t reckon Barry will have to wait quite as long for his big break at the top.