That was the weekend that was: Life after Villa for John's juniors

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The Independent Online
ASTON VILLA manager John Gregory, hailed for flying in the face of foreign fashion in the Premiership, is finding that to keep a squad of Englishmen happy is no easier than it is for others to maintain multi- cultural harmony elsewhere.

Like Manchester United, Villa have a production line of homegrown talent to underpin the future, but while youngsters such as Lee Hendrie and Gareth Barry have reached the senior ranks, others have found the frustration of waiting too much.

Defender Ben Petty, a Villa fan through and through, stepped into a personal dreamworld when the club took him on as a 17-year-old. Four years later, however, the dream has ended. He rose to the rank of reserve team captain but the senior side refused to beckon, and last week he left on a free transfer to join Stoke, making his debut at Wycombe on Saturday.

With Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, Steve Staunton and Riccardo Scimeca ahead of him in the pecking order, Petty had to be patient. But when Barry was given the nod to replace the departing Staunton, he concluded reluctantly that he had waited long enough.

"It was a wrench to go," he said. "I wanted to give myself as long as possible to make it with Villa, but I am nearly 22 now and you cannot hang around forever."