“If people play outside and enjoy the experience, we won’t interfere, they will continue to progress and develop,” was Steven Gerrard’s message when discussing the Aston Villa stars currently on loan.
That very statement seems to correspond to a certain Kaine Kesler-Hayden who excels at Swindon Town in League Two.
The 19-year-old, who signed a record-breaking five-year contract at Villa in August, made 16 starts for the Robins this quarter and scored his first senior goal in the FA Cup second round victory over Walsall.
Kesler’s 67th-minute winner at Banks’s Stadium has set up a tantalizing FA Cup third round clash with Man City which will be broadcast live on ITV 1 on Friday January 7 (8 p.m. kick-off).
Kesler, a huge success in Villa’s FA Youth Cup triumph last season, had two assists in Ligue 2 and played both right-back and right-wing manager Ben Garner.
Right here, BirminghamLive Checks in with the Swindon Town reporter Jonny leighfield ( JL ) from Advertiser Swindon for a description of the Kesler-Hayden development at County Ground.
Q: How has Kesler been for the first half of this season and how would you rate him out of 10?
JL: He has consistently been one of the most successful performers of a very strong team, which gives you an idea of the impact he has had since his arrival. His debut against Scunthorpe United on Matchday 1 has been one of the many highlights of this season. Having already been impressive in the first half, Kesler-Hayden came in between three defenders before being shot down for the penalty which ultimately helped give Swindon some momentum. It was the kind of moment that has happened in several games elsewhere as well. I would qualify his first half of the season as an 8.
Q: What did his manager Ben Garner say about him?
JL: Garner was impressed with him, like all of us. The only thing Garner said Kesler-Hayden needs to brush up on is his end product. In the winger’s defense his cross is often quite good, but in the end the goals and assists columns are a bit more sparse than expected.
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Q: How do Swindon Town fans rate it?
JL: He’s an extremely popular member of the team among fans, and they invented a song to the tune of David Bowie’s Star Man – which is a personal favorite to hear on a game day. One of the reasons he’s a fan favorite could be because he often plays better when the opposition crowd gets on his back. He gives it his all regardless of the score, and he’s obviously a very practical player as well, which helps.
Q: What is its best quality and what does it need to keep working on?
JL: His best attribute is probably his dribbling combined with his desire to push forward at every opportunity. His pace isn’t far either – a few ingredients that make him one of the most feared wingers in the division. One thing he probably needs to work on is standing. At times he was guilty of diving, although once again in his defense he was often sent off the field. Recently, he had to be substituted towards the end of a game due to the damage a team had caused him. Other than that, his defensive positioning also needs a bit of tidying up, as he has been caught off guard a number of times so far this season. More often than not, his remarkable pace helps him.
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Q: Are there any great moments from Kesler that come to mind?
JL: There are a few, one of which was obviously his debut as I mentioned. But the most recent was probably the most remarkable so far. With Town drawing 1-1 at Walsall in the FA Cup second round, Birmingham-born Kesler-Hayden appeared at the far post to score his first goal for the club. Seeing him score the game-winning goal against Walsall in front of 2,000 traveling fans in the second round of the FA Cup was an incredible moment to be there. He later told me that it was a moment he will never forget, and he spoke with real humility about that goal.
Q: What’s in store for Kesler in the New Year? Will he start against Man City in the FA Cup?
JL: Hopefully more starts and a few more goals! If he can stay fit and shoot, Town has a chance to sneak into the top three. As for the Man City game, I have no doubt that it will start if it is in good shape and without Covid. I’m sure he can’t wait to put Jack Grealish in his back pocket.
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