An outstanding full debut from Keinan Davis has filled Aston Villa fans with genuine hope and excitement

Saturday’s game at Villa Park was one of firsts for the home side. The 4-2 win over Norwich was, crucially, their first of the season, marked not only by Conor Hourihane’s first ever hat-trick but also youngster Andre Green’s first competitive strike for the club - and some strike it was too.

It was also a first senior start for striker Keinan Davis, and while the teenager failed to find a way onto the scoresheet like his aforementioned teammates, his display was a real talking point from a much improved performance from Steve Bruce’s side.

It was an outing that the manager admitted was enforced. While Scott Hogan was included in the squad despite an ankle injury, Gabby Agbonlahor - who had been expected to start - was ruled out with a back problem. He may not be able to claim the inclusion of the 19-year-old as an inspired selection on his part, then, but Davis’ role was an extremely encouraging one.

Villa entered the game with understandable concerns given the absence of key attacking players, with Bruce bemoaning the fact that, without Jonathan Kodjia, they’ve lacked that spark in the final third. Hogan has shown some bright moments this season but has failed to capitalise on the few chances he has had, but Davis proved that he can offer a significantly different threat, and one that the club has lacked for some time, even with their star striker in action.

He bullied the Norwich defence all afternoon, not giving them a moment’s peace, which was key to disrupting the Canaries' developing game plan under new boss Daniel Farke. The German is attempting to encourage a new philosophy at the club, urging his defenders to play patiently out from the back, but the hosts were wise to it, employing a high press with Davis leading the charge.

His work off the ball didn’t end there, however, making intelligent runs that saw him twice put through on goal only to be denied by the onrushing Angus Gunn. The Norwich stopper also pulled off a fine save from a Davis header that looked destined for the net but could do nothing about a dipping volley that he was relieved to see strike the top of the crossbar after the youngster had bustled his way through the Norwich defence.

It was a showing that deserved a goal, of that there is no doubt, and while a return of four shots without scoring may appear wasteful on paper, the teenager couldn’t be accused of snatching at his chances. Aside from the effort that hit the woodwork he tested Gunn with all of his attempts, but what was perhaps most crucial to Villa’s victory was Davis’ ability to bring others into play.

With the more diminutive Hogan or Agbonlahor up front, Villa have struggled to get midfield runners in and around the opponent’s box as the ball simply doesn’t stick, so they have appeared isolated. Davis’ physicality made the difference at the weekend, just holding the ball up for that extra one or two seconds that allows any side to get numbers forward. It was no coincidence that Hourihane in particular thrived, with the striker picking out the former Barnsley man for the opener, while completing an excellent 86.4% of 22 passes.

To put that accuracy into perspective, it’s the best of players to start a league game for Villa this season, which is unheard of for a striker, even after just one game. A tally of 19 accurate passes is also seven more than Hogan had managed in 197 minutes of action to the youngster’s 86.

Brought off in the final minutes on Saturday, Davis exited the field to a well-deserved standing ovation and left the Villa faithful wanting more ahead of their Carabao Cup tie with Wigan on Tuesday night.

The 19-year-old is likely to start once again, and may just have done enough to convince Steve Bruce that he does have the options he needs in attack having stated a desire to add to his ranks in that department prior to the win at the weekend. Davis, after all, is not even the striker from the academy that has created the biggest buzz, with Rushian Hepburn-Murphy also waiting in the wings to impress having come up through the Villa ranks.

Davis was dropped by Stevenage in 2015 by comparison, and found himself playing non-league for Biggleswade Town before Villa took a chance on him later that year. It’s been a meteoric rise then, and his manager is understandably enthused that he may have just stumbled upon a diamond in the rough.

It’s one start, of course, and caution should be taken with putting too much pressure on the youngster’s shoulders. However, while injury problems threatened to curse Villa’s start to the season, Bruce should now have faith in the kids that could yet offer a bright future. These kids, after all, are more than alright.