Goal.com's countdown to the greatest player of 2008 begins with promising English winger Ashley Young. The no 7's never-ending assists and goals have been pivotal to Aston Villa's European qualification, as well as their top four charge in the Premier League this season.
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill is fast developing a fine knack for spotting and nurturing young English talent and turning them into potential world-beaters.
Many scoffed at the then club record fee of £9.75 million that the former Leicester and Celtic boss shelled out on Young when he was a 21-year old Hornet causing a buzz at Hertfordshire-based club Watford, but within a year and a half there would be constant calls for his inclusion in Fabio Capello's England eleven, relentless match-winning performances, together with transfer speculation linking him with Juande Ramos' Real Madrid, and premature analogies to Argentine international Lionel Messi.
Young And Fab
He takes players on (and beats them), is a sound passer of the football, is not averse to tracking back and does not neglect his defensive duties. He has electric acceleration and can run with the ball at feet at pace, is as lethal in front of goal as he is from the wide areas of the pitch looping in a box-bound ball, and his ability from dead ball situations sees him top efficiency charts for free-kicks and set pieces.
Former Valencia targetman John Carew and fellow England hopeful Gabriel Agbonlahor have revelled on his service, and by the end of the 2007-08 season Young was only second to Arsenal's lynchpin midfielder Cesc Fabregas in the assist's charts having played provider 17 times.
He possesses a great attitude to the game. His workman-like attitude and never say die spirit for instance were prevalent in Villa's recent win over Everton, where Joleon Lescott seemingly scored a stoppage time equaliser for the Toffees, by bringing the scoreline to two goals a piece, only for Young - who had already scored once already - to spoil the Merseysider's parade by swiftly attacking the Gwladys Street net, beating Tim Howard, and insodoing wrapped up maximum points for a team who, at the time of writing, sit third in the Premier League table.
His form of last season has been replicated this term. He vastly contributed to his team's qualification for continental football, and he has not disappointed on the European stage. In the Villan's first Uefa Cup game, against Dutch giants Ajax, Young's cross found Martin Laursen in the eighth minute to give the Midlander's the perfect start to the group stage. Then, after the break, England international Gareth Barry was the latest player to capitalise from Young's superb service and Aston Villa had defeated one of world football's most famous names.
The Stevenage-born 23-year old is fast becoming a sensation, and who knows, it may not be long before he replicates the success of former school-mate and world F1 champ Lewis Hamilton in the footballing arena. He has his admirers, of that much there is no doubt, and the world could well be at the fleet-footed winger's feet. So long as he keeps them grounded.
Premier League Team of the Year (2007-08)
Premier League Player of the Month (April)
Premier League Player of the Month (October)
Alan Dawson, Goal.com