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Ashley Young
Position: Winger and occasional Striker
From: Youth Team
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: A Premiership footballer in every sense.
Past Profiles: June 2004


Apologies now, because this profile might tell you more about me than it does about its intended focus, but I have a bit of a problem here. Ashley Young is the epitome of everything I love about football and footballers. Unlike ig, I have no problem with wingers. In fact, I love them; sod your grafting rock in front of the defence, stifling the opposition's supply line, marking their creative fancy-dan out of the the game. For me, there is no finer sight in football than a winger, rushing down the flank, frightening the life out of a slow, aging full back who he waltzes past with a flick, a step over or some other outrageous display of skill. So what if they don't do their bit defensively. So what if they have a girl's hairdo. So what if their motivation is the next piece of bling they can buy with their win bonus. Wingers are great. And Ashley Young is an excellent winger. Not a bad striker, either.

So what's the problem, then? Well, nothing much. It's just that Ashley Young is the epitome of everything I hate about football and footballers. See, for every burst of speed that leaves a sluggish defender in his wake, there is a pathetic stumble over a stray blade of grass, theatrically executed and generally quite successful in achieving its purpose. For every twenty-five yarder into the top corner, there is a volley of abuse at the referee. Oh yes, Ashley Young will have no problem settling into his new surroundings this season, you suspect.

Usually, I'm as guilty as anyone of wearing yellow-tinted spectacles. Heck, it was some time before I woke up to the fact that Mark Gavin was not, in fact, the perfect replacement for John Barnes. But perhaps more than most people - perhaps more than is healthy - I am so completely disillusioned by the cheating in the game at the moment, and being Watford's chief (or only?) culprit, Ashley Young bears the brunt of my frustration. Basically, I want to take the moral high ground on this issue, but that's hard to do when one of Watford's players conducts himself in this way.

But I'm not allowed to talk about him like that, am I? He plays for us, so I can't talk about how I cringe every time he cheats, manages the game or whatever you want to call it. I'd better not express my view that every time he pulls one of his stunts he should be banned for twenty games.

Instead, I'll focus on the positives. Not in itself a problem; positives are not in short supply where Ashley Young is concerned.

It's all come as a bit of a surprise really. At the start of last season, it was unclear how much of a role he would have in the team. He'd been largely used as a substitute under Ray Lewington, to disappointing effect. Within weeks of last season starting, it was obvious that we had a hell of a player on our hands. He really announced himself with two superb strikes against Plymouth, his waif-like proportions not seeming to tally with the at times Johnno-esque power (and accuracy) he could generate with his shot.

Young's versatility is a great asset, but I would contend that he is at his best on the right in a 4-4-2. The media, sensing an opportunity to jump aboard a bandwagon, talked up the King/Young partnership. They rarely played together as a front two, but their understanding - whatever role Young plays in - has been crucial to the success of Boothroyd's Watford. You sense it will continue to be, too. As will Ashley's accuracy from free-kicks on the edge of the area. He's not dissimilar to Beckham in this regard, other than the fact that Young actually scores quite often, never more crucially than in the play-off semi-final at Selhurst Park. His was the goal that gave the supporters the same level of belief that the players had held all along.

There is so much to admire and enjoy about Ashley Young, not least his passion and enthusiasm for playing and succeeding for Watford. A fabulous player, and a potential all-time favourite. Just cut out the crap Ashley, please.

Mike Smart
Last updated: August 2006