Pacey left-winger, Tyreik Wright, 16, from Ovens, Co Cork, has signed a scholar deal with Steve Bruce’s championship side until he can sign a full professional contract later this year.
“It’s crazy, to be honest,” Tyreik said.
I knew from the age of 12 or 13 that this is what I wanted to do, but playing Sunday football with my local club, Lakewood, over the years, I didn’t really think I’d be where I am today.
“Getting trialled with Aston Villa was probably the best moment of my life. That is until I was offered the contract.
“I hope to push on now and get into the first team within my first year. But my dream is to play in the Premier League.”
Tyreik joined Lakewood’s Academy just outside Ballincollig, aged five. He represented Cork at under 12 and under 13 level and captained Munster later.
He was spotted by a Villa scout when he was 14, and was invited to trial. It went well and two more trials followed as Tyreik became part of the Irish under-age set-up aged 15.
He’s been an integral part of the national squad since, winning the Victory Shield last year and playing in two European U17 Championships, including on Colin O’Brien’s team which lost the quarter-final in controversial circumstances earlier this year to eventual winners, The Netherlands.
The Colaiste Choilm student spent most of his transition year last year with Villa as a trialist, and finally signed last week.
He chose Steve Bruce’s outfit over Birmingham City, who were chasing him too, because of its facilities, its youth academy, its player structure and its backroom operation.
Tyreik paid tribute to Lakewood and to his coaches there, including Peter McGoldrick and Kevin O’Sullivan.
“Lakewood always had my back and always believed in me,” he said.
If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.
But he said Colin O’Brien played a pivotal role in the development of his game and his confidence.
Tyreik’s mum, Nicola, said all the coaches who’ve worked with him over the years have helped get him to where he is today.
But she added: “The experience of playing with the national side has given him great confidence, both on and off the field.”
“He’s worked so hard for it. Soccer is his life and this opportunity is just amazing.”
Villa have placed Tyreik with a retired couple, Angela and David Phillips, who will provide him with accommodation and meals.
Nicola said: “They are fantastic. They treat him as one of their own. It’s home from home.”
A spokesman for Lakewood, where a Fifa-accredited full-size all-weather pitch is due to open next month, said Tyreik’s commitment to the club was always “first class”.
“We would like to wish Tyreik a long and successful club and international career,” he said.