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Ashley Young
Position: Wide midfielder
From: Watford FC Academy
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: In need of a steak or five


In the programme for his second testimonial, Nigel Gibbs tells a story from his early days at Vicarage Road, in which he recounts that Tom Walley and Graham Taylor feared that the future Watford legend would not make it on account of his slight frame. In order to build him up for the rigours of the professional game, those two wise sages, both renowned for knocking decent young players into first team shape, put the teenage Gibbo on a diet of steak and Guinness to build him up.

I know not if Gibbo has passed this advice on to Ashley Young. The wafer-thin winger burst onto the scene with a goal on his televised debut as a substitute at home to Millwall. Not only that, he also followed it with a Johnny-on-the-Spot tap in at Derby and it was clear to see we've found another potential gem. Though niggling injuries and the struggle at the wrong end of the First Division saw Ashley return to the reserves, he burst back onto the scene on the last day with another sub appearance and another goal, albeit slightly fortuitous, against Reading. Three goals and not a league game started is surely some sort of record.

So what's next for Ashley? Though we've been here before with other...erm...young players (you try writing about Ashley Young without actually using the word "young"), the dwindling numbers in Watford's squad mean that a bigger role in the first team seems to be just around the corner. That can only be A Good Thing, based on what we've seen so far, as Young seems to have it all. Happy to run at defenders and able to beat them, two good feet, a sharp footballing brain that belies his age, a willingness to work hard for the team and a pretty well-disguised strength, which all means that if he gets on the Gibbo diet, he could well stake (sorry) a claim on a first team place sometime this season. Get him to a Beefeater, pronto....

Dave Messenger
Last updated: June 2004