Baker: Young Villa side coming of age
Nathan Baker believes Paul Lambert's policy of youth is starting to prove wrong all the doubters who tipped Aston Villa as relegation candidates this season.
Lambert's high-risk strategy of filling his side full of youngsters from the start of the season has taken time to reap rewards and has led to criticism, especially with his decision to leave out record signing Darren Bent.
But Baker feels the policy is now starting to pay off after a week which has seen Villa progress to the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup and record a memorable 3-1 victory against Liverpool at Anfield.
Baker feels it has been a "coming of age" week for the young talent at Villa Park, which ended with Lambert fielding the club's youngest ever Premier League side on Merseyside and he has played a vital part alongside fellow academy graduates Ciaran Clark and Chris Herd in a defence which has conceded just three goals in six games.
"It has definitely been a bit of a coming-of-age week for us, reaching a cup semi-final and then beating Liverpool," Baker said.
"Liverpool are one of the biggest teams in the Premier League and to get a win there was special. A lot of the young lads have won the reserve league so hopefully we can do it with the first team now.
"We have been on a great cup run and it's great to transfer some of those performances into the league games. There are some big games coming up now in a busy festive period but we're definitely up for it.
Villa travel to face Chelsea on Saturday before facing Tottenham at Villa Park on Boxing Day, but the manner with which they dealt with Luis Suarez last Saturday will give them added confidence to continue to climb the Premier League table.
"We did well and there is a bit more security with three at the back and I grew up with Ciaran and Chris throughout the academy so we know each other's game pretty well and like to play with each other.
"We are young lads who are still learning the game but because we came through the academy we already have an understanding. I think all three of us have different qualities and it makes quite a nice blend for us overall. If you combine the three of us there is great chemistry there."
Baker is eager to maintain his recent form and win himself a key role in the side and knows under Lambert he will continue to get chances, because of the manager's determination to involve younger talent.
"We started a bit slowly but are starting to settle into our rhythm now," he said. "Hopefully I'll keep getting opportunities under the manager and impress him whenever I am able to get myself into the starting line-up."