Villa brothers strain for glory

Aston Villa’s Aussie youngsters, Ryan and Thomas Strain, are out to earn national representation as they chase their footballing dreams.

The England-born brothers, who moved to Australia as kids, both signed with Villa in 2012.

When the talented teens relocated back to the UK with their parents several years ago they were snapped up by the club's academy. Both feature in Villa's Under-18s youth side and have also been drafted into the Under-21s on occasion.

“It’s going good,” Ryan said.

“I’ve got a two-year scholarship. I’ve been starting every week for the youth team and I’ve been on the bench a few times for the Under-21s.”

Sixteen-year-old Ryan is an attacking midfielder while 18-year old Thomas is a striker and the leading goal scorer for the youth team.

As juniors they played together for the Modbury Jets in Adelaide and for the South Australian state representative team before heading back to England.

Ryan was with Coventry City’s youth set-up before the family moved to Australia.

“We just went for a holiday and thought it was better over there,” he said.

Sporting genes run strong in the family. Their grandfather, Jerry Baker, and his brother Joe are famous footballers. Jerry was a forward who played in the 1950s and 60s in Scotland and England, and for the United States national team while Joe, also a forward, represented England eight times and played for the likes of Hibernian, Torino, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland.

“He played for a lot of good teams,” Ryan said.

“They were pretty good.”

Ryan and Thomas’s mother Lorraine also competed in the 800m final at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

The brothers have been joined in the Aston Villa Academy by fellow Australian Jordan Lyden, who moved to the club in 2012 from Perth outfit ECU Joondalup.

Young Socceroo Lyden, a defensive midfielder, often partners Ryan in Villa’s Under-18s midfield. Thomas has also featured in Young Socceroo calculations and Ryan is keen to join them.

The Strain brothers have Australian citizenship but are also eligible to represent England, Ireland and Scotland.

“I’d like to play for Australia,” Ryan said.

His aim is to turn professional soon. Whether that is at Villa, or elsewhere, the dream of both brothers to play together and for Australia remains strong.

“I’m looking to go pro with Villa, or go on to play in Australia for Adelaide or something,” Ryan added.

“I played behind Thomas when we were at Modbury and I like playing with him - we’ve got a good chemistry.

“We both want to play for Australia. That’s the dream, to do it together, we’ll see what happens.”

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