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Ashley Young

Ashley Young“I would definitely recommend the coaches who are delivering this opportunity to the many players who perhaps feel they have been forgotten, or who have been through a similar experience to myself as a young footballer. I will be following the fortunes of those players with Forward Football in future years.”

Ashley is fully supportive of the Forward Football programme as he wants to put something back into the game that has given him so much enjoyment.

Indeed, Ashley Young is just ONE of many players who was informed at 16 that he would not be big enough to compete in the professional game. With help from Chris Cummins, now Coaching Director at Forward Football, Ashley showed determination and strength to continue his development and become one of our leading players. We asked Ashley to provide a fact file:

Ashley Young

Ashley Young Factfile


Playing position
Wide Right and Left Midfield and Support Striker

International honours
England Under 21 10 caps
Full England International 8 caps (so far!) made full England debut v Austria in Vienna on 16th November 2007

Other honours
2003-04: Professional debut, Watford FC v Millwall. Scored as a substitute!
2005-06: Championship Play Off Winners medal for Watford FC, Selected in the PFA Championship team of the season
2006-07: Transferred from Watford to Aston Villa £9.6m
2007-08: Selected in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year
2008-09: Won PFA Young Player of the Year, Selected in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year
2008-10: Received 3 Premier League Young Player of the Month Awards,
Received 3 Premier League Man of the Match awards (Sky Televised games)

Professional clubs
Watford & Aston Villa

Favourite all-time player
Ian Wright

Greatest goal of all time
Ian Wright Arsenal v Leeds (chipped goal against John Lukic)

Funniest Football memory
Too many to remember, however there were many funny experiences during my time at the Watford FC Academy

All-time greatest 11
4.3.3. Buffon (Italy); Cafu (Brazil), Paolo Maldini (Italy), Rio Ferdinand (England), Roberto Carlos (Brazil); Zinedene Zidane (France), Clarence Seedorf (Netherlands), Lionel Messi (Argentina); Pele (Brazil), Ronaldo (Brazil), Maradona (Argentina)

Football mentors
My Mum (Sharon) and Dad (Luther) have really been fantastic mentors. They have both put so much time and effort into me and my brothers (Martin, Lewis and Kyle). Their help, support, advice and guidance has been invaluable to our bringing up and their endless driving up and down motorways, and wisdom has been such a huge influence on my life.


Ashley started at Watford, where he was one of a couple of trainees that only played part-time.

“Eventually, they said they were going to test me. I was 16, and they threw me into a game against Blackburn Rovers U19s. I don’t think I’ve been as nervous because I knew it was make-or-break. I played decently and set up two goals. We ended up winning. That helped turn it around for me.”

Ashley’s experience confirms that you can reach the top with the right determination and application. But it was still not easy and he then had to be patient to get a regular 1st team shirt at Watford, making substitute appearances before breaking through.

Ashley Young

“Physically I worked hard to strengthen and get quicker, but I never lost confidence and belief in my own ability.”

Ashley has won a £9.6m transfer to Aston Villa and is plying his trade at the very top level of domestic football in the Premier League, has won the 2009 PFA Young Player of the Year and has represented his country at Under 21 and full international level.

Many people have asked Ashley how he developed in the early years.

“It has been quite a journey. I was kicking a ball about from the age of four or five. All I did was either play, or watch, football. My Dad, Luther and my older brother Martin, were into it, so I just followed them. And wherever Martin was playing football I’d be on the side of the pitch running up and down with my own ball.

It was Saturday morning football for me, a side local to where I lived in Stevenage, called Stevenage Colts. I was playing as much as I could. It varied from week-to-week. I was playing morning and afternoon sometimes. We had a green at the front of our house and were there non-stop in the summer. We would go out at 10am and come back at 10pm. We set up games against other streets. We always played against the men. It kept us out of trouble. I had a great upbringing from my parents but you get so much from sport. You build lasting friendships, have a laugh and keep fit. I’d encourage any youngster to take up a sport.

I think you need that dedication, and you need to love the game as well. For me, until my legs have gone, totally, I’ll always play!”

“You have to keep going and show people what you can do, and never stop believing. I wouldn’t have changed anything because it has been a terrific time, but I have targets to reach for the very top over the coming years.”