Academies of Europe's most esteemed football clubs will not have the opportunity to participate in this season's NextGen series after its latest incarnation was suspended due to a lack of funding.
Aston Villa were crowned champions in youth football's most prestigious European tournament last season, defeating Chelsea in the final of a contest that received widespread acclaim for introducing the continent's most revered talents to the rigours of European competition.
Co-founders of the series Mark Warburton and Justin Andrews were left bitterly disappointed over the failure to secure a financial partner in time for their deadline which ensures the tournament's suspension in just its third year.
"The level of support we have received from the football industry, media and fans has been magnificent and for that we are truly grateful," the founders of the series said.
"It is hugely disappointing that an event of this nature, designed to assist with the development of Europe's elite players, should have to take such action but we hope to back next season with an even better tournament."
A failure to command the sponsorship investment required to keep the burgeoning beacon of youth football going ensures academies must wait another year for its next instalment, a development that Aston Villas's academy director Bryan Jones described as "shameful."
"We're bitterly disappointed by this and we feel let down," Jones said. "The organisers have worked hard to secure a sponsor for the tournament but the deadline has passed without success and therefore we're left with this highly unsatisfactory situation."
In the same season where first team manager Paul Lambert threw his faith into a largely unrecognised group of youngsters, the academy side proved there was much more where that came from in their NextGen success.
The young Villains defeated Sporting Clube de Portugal, Olympiakos, Ajax and PSV Eindhoven on their way to securing the title in a competition that also featured the flourishing talents of Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Tottenham, Paris Saint Germain and Celtic.
Exposure to the competition has already fast tracked some of its young stars into their respective first teams following its inception in 2011. Celtic's hero from their memorable Champions League victory over Barcelona last season Tony Watt cut his teeth playing in the youth tournament, in addition to Liverpool's Raheem Sterling and Ajax prodigy Viktor Fischer.
Jones added: "The competition is one of greatest development tools for young professional players in this country, providing as it does elite competition against some of the best clubs around Europe, and it will be lost to us this season. It's shameful and it's hugely disappointing."
Aston Villa's own Gary Gardner represented his academy in 2011 before going onto make 16 first team appearances until injury side-lined him for most of last season.
Stars of last season's triumph in Janoi Donacien, Jack Grealish and Mikey Drennan may find themselves in Lambert's plans ahead of the new season, but another set of hopefuls will miss out on their European experience until at least the 2014/15 season.
The introduction of the UEFA Youth League ensures that academy stars with have some platform to compete at European level this season. However, only players registered to clubs competing in the group stages of the Champions League can complete, denying the Premier League trio of Villa, Tottenham and Liverpool the chance to expose their young talent to competition against European rivals.
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