Flying winger Ashley Young started out at local club Watford, having previously been turned down by the Hornets’ youth academy, before going on to make his debut in English football’s second tier in 2003/04 as an 18-year-old substitute against Millwall. A scorer in that game, Young confirmed his potential with a tally of three goals from a total of five appearances coming off the bench that campaign.
The Stevenage-born wide-man, usually deployed on the left flank despite being right-footed, was voted Watford’s young player of the season in 2004/05 and followed that up with 15 goals in 2005/06 as the Hornets won promotion via the play-offs under then boss Aidy Boothroyd. On the verge of joining West Ham United in January 2007, he instead made the switch to Aston Villa, where he was a virtual ever-present over the next two Premier League campaigns – weighing in with 16 goals.
Capped on ten occasions for England U-21s, Young made his senior bow when replacing Joe Cole in a friendly against Austria in Vienna on 16 November 2007. A second substitute appearance came against Switzerland in February 2008 in Italian supremo Fabio Capello’s first game in charge, who later handed the Villa star his first start in an August 2009 friendly away to the Netherlands.