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Dean Smith backs ‘bright young kid’ Louie Barry to become a star at Aston Villa

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith is excited by the potential of teenage striker Louie Barry and is confident the new signing will be a hit at the club.

The 16-year-old joined Villa from Barcelona last week, just six months after the former West Brom youth-team player had moved to the Catalan club having opted to spurn a senior contract at The Hawthorns.

Academy manager Mark Harrison, who also left Albion for Villa last June, claimed the signing of Barry was “a powerful message of ambition” from the Premier League club.

Although Smith declined to suggest how close Barry is to working with the first team, he has no doubt the boyhood Villa fan will one day become a star.

“Louie is an academy signing, first and foremost, but he is one with an awful lot of potential,” Smith said.

“I saw him for 20 minutes in a game last week for the under-23s. He has really good movement and is a bright young kid.

“I am sure he will be a hit at Aston Villa, but we can’t forget he is only 16. I am excited by the potential he has got, that is for sure. That is why we have gone and got him.”

Smith has also confirmed defender James Chester has a future with the club despite recent speculation linking him with a switch to the United States.

Following knee and hamstring injuries, the £9million 2016 capture from West Brom made his first appearance for 11 months in the 5-0 Carabao Cup win in mid-December over a reserve Liverpool side.

Club captain Chester was hoping his performance had “planted a seed”, yet he has only made one further appearance, in Villa’s FA Cup third-round defeat at Fulham.

Smith, though, is adamant the 31-year-old is going nowhere.

He said: “James is a great character and captain to have around this football club. He is well respected within the dressing room, and within the coaches’ room as well.

“Ever since he played in the FA Cup against Fulham he’s been in the squad and on the bench because I thought he was our best player against Fulham, and that shows how highly we think of him.

“Without a shadow of a doubt he has a future here.”

Outcast striker Scott Hogan, meanwhile, again stands at another crossroads in his career.

Sent on loan to Stoke at the start of the season, Hogan has played only an hour of football across three appearances since the arrival in mid-November of new manager Michael O’Neill, who recently suggested it would be in the player’s best interests if he moved on.

Asked as to what the future holds for Hogan, Smith said: “I don’t know. That is a conversation between our sporting director and Stoke.

“We wanted Scott to go out and play regular football, and he isn’t doing that. Players need to be going and playing regularly. It is tough for Scott but all he can do is work hard and try and change people’s minds.”