One To Watch - Ashley Young
Vital QPR has singled out Ashley Young as The One To Watch going into this evenings clash against Aston Villa.
Young born in Stevenage alongside fellow sporting talents Jason Shackell from Wolverhampton Wanderers as well as high flying Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton.
The England international started out life at Watford where he rose through the academy to make his name in the first team. Things weren`t always so straight-forward for the winger as he was turned away by the Watford academy - but persistence was the key in being offered a permanent deal.
Young made his first appearance in Division 1 as he replaced now QPR winger Lee Cook against Millwall. He made an immediate impact on proceedings - scoring a well taken 90th minute strike to confirm the three points for the Hornets back in September 2003.
His impact as super-sub led to a growing reputation for Young as scored a further two goals from bench that season. Once again replacing Lee Cook at home to Reading in the first period, Young bagged the winner shortly before half-time.
This led to Young making much more of an impact on proceedings the following season, as budget cut-backs forced Watford to blood their youngsters - and Young relished the opportunity, making 34 appearances without scoring, but nevertheless was involved in the side that beat QPR comfortably 3-0 at Vicarage Road on their return to the second tier.
With Ray Lewington biting the bullet for a poor season in difficult circumstances, Adrian Boothroyd took the helm at the Vic, and inspired belief and confidence in a young side, and Ashley Young was beginning to get the freedom he desired, deployed as forward.
In a role he relished, Young was the spearhead for Watford`s unlikely promotion charge as he bagged 15 goals from 41 starts for the Hornets. A 76th minute goal against QPR at Vicarage Road was added to later on in the season by one of the more stranger goals you`ll see.
Watford hero Paul Furlong delightfully chipped Manchester United loanee Ben Foster but somehow the ball skipped up off the turf and came back off the bar - within seconds as was a Watford trademark, the ball was down the other end, and a truly sublime curling, dipping strike from Young gave them the lead, and the victory in W12.
Young also scored in the play-off semi-final against Crystal Palace to help send them to the final where Watford overcame Leeds United. The Premier League beckoned for Ashley Young, as the player would have a chance to showcase his skills at the highest level.
Ashley bagged a brace against Fulham to hand the Hornets a much needed point in a topsy-turvy game at the Vic. He also scored against Championship side Hull City in the league cup, before scoring in Watford`s first victory of the campaign against Middlesbrough in November 2006 - nevertheless Watford looked doomed even at this early stage.
January came round and Watford received a plethora of offers for the starlet`s services rejecting three £5,000,000 offers. Eventually they accepted an offer from West Ham United for a fee believed to be in the region of £10,000,000, but Young declined the move - not wanting to play in a relegation battle.
Eventually Watford succumbed to the inevitable and Aston Villa made an £8,000,000 approach for the youngster, and he moved to Villa Park. He made 98 league appearances for Watford in total, scoring 19 goals. He scored on his debut against Newcastle at St. James` Park, but couldn`t prevent his new side from losing out on that occasion.
He went on to bag another goal that season in the 3-0 win over Sheffield United at Villa Park. The following season he got off to another good start as goals against Fulham and Derby County and he was rewarded with a call-up to the full England squad for the game against Austria, then Switzerland. He rounded off a thoroughly successful campaign by grabbing two goals in Villa`s 5-1 mauling of local rivals Birmingham City.
Young also came on as a substitute for Stewart Downing in England`s friendly victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
As ever, Young has started the season well, scoring Inter-toto and UEFA Cup goals against Bruce Rioch`s Odense and FH Hafnarfijordur respectively, before doubling Villa`s advantage against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Line to help place Villa in fourth in the Premier League shortly before the encounter tonight.
A tricky winger by trade, young has fashioned himself as a goalscorer in his time at Watford and carried this reputation through into the Premier League and on the international stage. His impeccable movement and trickery, as well as versatility will cause the Rangers rearguard untold woe if he features at Villa Park tonight.
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