The decision to send him on loan to Leeds – from whom Villa signed the young midfielder in August 2009 – in January, was made with the intention of giving Delph some much-needed playing time in an environment he felt comfortable in.
A confidence-boosting exercise, if you will.
That loan spell ended prematurely with the confirmation, earlier this week, that an ankle injury Delph picked up while playing for Leeds against Coventry, will keep him on the sidelines for some time. Indeed, it’s believed that Delph’s season is effectively over, and we haven’t yet reached March. Not for the first time, injury has scuppered the player’s hopes of making progress.
Back to that video highlights package, which features Delph in the kind of form that convinced Martin O’Neill to convince his bosses to pay £6m for the player in the summer of 2009. Delph looks electrifying, exciting. True, Leeds were in League One at the time of the 2008-09 season, but even so, the quality of the goals Delph scored were worthy of a higher level.
Delph’s effort against Brighton in January 2009 won ‘goal of the season’ – he ran from deep inside his own half, practically box to box, before finishing with a low shot – but it’s the two he scored against Walsall which impressed me the most.
For the first, Delph, standing unmarked and in space, receives the ball squared to him from a free-kick. He’s 20-25 yards out but, despite having time to take at least a touch, instantly strikes the ball, which flies off in a vicious swerve and into the top left-hand corner. His connection with the ball reminds me a little of the kind of power and direction the Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos used to conjure up.
His second finds the same top-left hand corner but is an entirely different kind of goal, demonstrating a different set of skills. This time, Delph is running towards the Walsall penalty area, a defender on his heels: from 20 yards, slightly to the left of central, he all but passes the ball into the net. Great composure. He was 18 at the time. It was his first full season in Leeds' senior squad.
Delph caught Villa's eye; we weren't the exclusive admirers of his ability (Manchester City reportedly also made a bid, declined by Leeds), and the player was signed a couple of weeks before the beginning of the 2009-10 season. That campaign was Villa's first for over a decade without the services of Gareth Barry, and though Delph wasn't an immediate replacement for the departing captain (both left-footed midfielders, but there the similiarities end), there were suggestions the lad from Yorkshire could, in the long term, emulate Barry's influence.
Early signs were encouraging. Delph oozed promise during a pre-season friendly against Fiorentina, earning covetous praise from the opposition. A week or so later, surprise: Villa manager Martin O'Neill picked Delph in the season opener at home to Wigan. He started in central midfield, alongside Stilian Petrov, with James Milner wide right and Ashley Young left. The more experienced central midfield pair, Steve Sidwell and Nigel Reo-Coker, were confined to the bench.
It was a gamble from O'Neill that didn't pay off. Whatever Delph's contribution on the day was overshadowed by Villa's 2-0 defeat, but he'd already made his mark by being selected in the first place. Villa fans were excited. Perhaps this wasn't a player for the future, after all. Delph could play a role during the season.
And he did, albeit a marginal role. Such were Villa's midfield options that season - Milner excelling in a central role, Stewart Downing coming into the equation - that O'Neill was able to pace Delph's development and plot his appearances carefully. He made 15 Premier League appearances in that first season, plus several games in the cups, scoring his first Villa goal, in the FA Cup third round win against Brighton in January 2010.
But the last of his league appearances that season would prove to be his last senior game for Villa for eight months. In a training session shortly after April 2010's game against Bolton, Delph was stretchered off with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
By the time he was fit to return, the landscape at Villa had changed. O'Neill had gone. So, too, had Milner. When Villa played Spurs on Boxing Day 2010, the threat of relegation was beginning to linger, and the team, under Gerard Houllier, was in the midst of an injury crisis. Delph had to grow up quickly.
The remainder of the season saw Delph featuring on and off, popping up at left-back on a couple of occasions. After his return against Spurs, he played again two days later (Villa beaten 4-0 at Man City) but then didn't feature for the first team until a solitary appearance in February 2011. He played three times in two weeks in March but, typially, just as he appeared to be making progress, he was interupted again and wasn't used until May, and the final two games of the campaign.
He played 89 minutes of Villa's win at Arsenal, and started again in the season closer, at home to Liverpool, but lasted just 28 minutes before injury forced him off.
Delph approached his third season as a Villa player under a third different manager - Alex McLeish. McLeish paired him with Petrov from the start of the campaign, and Delph held onto the shirt for a run of matches. He appeared to be cementing his place in the side. But he also seemed a different kind of player to the exciting talent that had emerged at Leeds, the talent that had persuade Villa to pay £6m for him.
Because, while Petrov was revelling in the freedom of his new role - given license to get forward - Delph was struggling in a more defensive requirement. It was he who sat and covered when Petrov went through the gears, and it was quickly becoming obvious that the younger player's willingness to make a challenge and enthusiasm to put himself about did not always equal effectiveness. There's a difference between making a challenge and making a good challenge or the right decision, and too often, Delph was culpable with a rash lunge. A quickfire yellow card in the early stages of a game was a common sight.
And, while he was surrounded by experienced, seasoned midfielders in his debut Villa season, and able to adapt his game at his own pace, throughout this season, the responsibility sat heavy on Delph's shoulders.
It wasn't long before he lost his place to the energetic Chris Herd. And when Herd was injured, McLeish turned to Ciaran Clark to fill that midfield minder position.
Which brings us full circle to McLeish's decision to loan Delph out. It was the right decision. Delph needed games, and he needed to rediscover himself. With Herd still injured and then Clark succumbing to injury recently, I was hoping Delph would return to Villa. But not this way. Not injured, and facing another struggle to firstly rehabilitate and then restablish himself.
It's not over for Delph at Villa; at least I hope not. He's 22 years old. He needs to stay injury free for a season, and he needs the benefit of a strong midfield player alongside him, one who will allow him to concentrate less on the physical side of his game, and more on the technical.
But whether he'll get that chance, whether this Villa team will wait for him, remains to be seen. Outstanding young midfield talent just waiting for the right time to blossom, or bright lower league prospect not quite up to Premier League standard? The question, for now, remains unanswered.