Cameron Archer has a big future in the game — and he has already made his mark on Aston Villa’s first team.
The 19-year-old striker is the club’s top scorer in all competitions after firing in four goals in the Carabao Cup this season.
Recently rewarded with his Premier League debut, we turn the spotlight on the Villa academy product.
Under the radar
After Villa’s Under-18s triumphed in the FA Youth Cup last season, many of those youngsters have been earmarked as potential first-team stars.
But while Louie Barry, Carney Chukwuemeka and Kaine Kesler-Hayden have become household names among Villa fans, Archer has gone under the radar.
After being a year too old to play in that triumphant team, he went about cutting his teeth in men’s football on loan at Solihull Moors — scoring four goals for the National League side.
Despite it being cut short by injury, it looks a smart move, with Archer now making his mark on the first-team with a hat-trick on his full first-team debut against Barrow and a goal against European champions Chelsea.
Villa’s assistant manager Craig Shakespeare said: "He’s a lad who came in in pre-season and we went to a camp in London.
"All of a sudden, he caught everyone’s eye and his enthusiasm to run in behind. All of a sudden he gets an opportunity, and he’ll really enjoy that. Cameron’s come from nowhere really."
Living the dream
While Archer will have been determined to make a name for himself at Villa in the 2021-22 season, he could hardly have envisaged the dream start he has made.
Three fine finishes made it a dream debut on the Cumbrian coast at Barrow.
His second was the most impressive, as Archer showed experience way beyond his years to lift the ball over the keeper for a finish the likes of Ollie Watkins or Danny Ings would have been proud of.
It was a special moment for the Walsall-born striker, who has been with Villa since the age of six.
Archer said: "It’s an amazing feeling. Since I was a young boy, I’ve dreamt of this moment. To get my first professional hat-trick, I’m delighted. I can’t wait to go again."
Goals, goals, goals
While it is hard to beat a hat-trick on your first start, his second outing against tougher opposition in Chelsea was arguably more impressive.
With the Midlands outfit 1-0 down against a Blues side packed with first-team stars, Villa’s No35 leapt highest to guide a wonderful header into the top corner to level the game.
It was a deserving moment for the young forward after causing the European champions’ backline problems for much of the evening with his pace and clever runs in behind.
It prompted the travelling Villa faithful to sing: "Cameron Archer, he’s one of our own".
Villa eventually lost that tie on penalties and Archer has missed out on further starts he no doubt would have got in the competition but that has not stopped him impressing elsewhere.
While other youngsters were away with their international sides, Archer grabbed his second hat-trick of the season for Villa’s Under-21s in the EFL Trophy against Burton Albion’s senior side.
Archer has now netted 10 goals across his eight starts in the EFL Cup, EFL Trophy and Premier League 2, with the stunning display at the Pirelli Stadium further proof that Archer is ready for senior football.
That was certainly the opinion of Burton manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who said: "The boy that scores, Archer, is a quality player.
"He’s with the first team, he’s a Premier League player and you see the difference."
Part of the furniture
Smith has been tight-lipped about Archer but his actions have spoken much louder.
Archer now appears to be firmly part of Smith's plans after featuring in Villa's last two Premier League outings.
With the game poised at 0-0 away against Manchester United, Smith trusted Archer to make a difference as Villa chased the victory — which they eventually got. A further appearance at Tottenham also followed.
Though he is still behind Watkins and Ings, the youngster has leapfrogged £22million striker Wesley in the pecking order — he was sent out on loan to Club Brugge following Archer’s emergence.
Former Villa striker Kevin Phillips said: "He is an amazing young talent. I know they have Ings and Watkins but if one of those gets injured, you would bring him in.
"The kid is a huge talent. What a performance he put in against Burton Albion. I know they’re a League One side but to score three goals in any game is brilliant."
Villa view Archer as one of the club’s brightest prospects, and reports say they are working hard to tie him down to a new contract, with his current deal expiring in the summer.
With another certain Villa academy graduate leaving the club for a British-record £100m this summer, they would be smart to secure Archer’s future as soon as possible.