Ashley admits to big ambitions

With a year left on his contract and a number of top clubs said to

be showing an interest, Young deliberately avoided any in-depth

discussion of his future at England’s Watford training base on

Tuesday. The 25-year-old confirmed he intends to meet the Aston

Villa hierarchy on Monday to talk through his plans, although that

situation has been made even more complicated given manager Gerard

Houllier is likely to have left the club by then. However, Young’s

assessment of Manchester United’s defeat to Barcelona gave the game

away, with subsequent statements reaffirming a desire to take his

career to a level Villa simply cannot reach at the moment. “I

watched Saturday’s game as a player that wished I was out there

playing,” he said. “As a kid you always want to play in the biggest

competitions. I was no different. “Of course Barcelona are the best

team but, for Manchester United to get to the Champions League

final as well, it must mean that we have got teams in this country

that can match the best in Europe.” Sir Alex Ferguson would have

been heartened by those words if he is intent on following up his

initial interest by making a firm offer for the former Watford

star. Young insists his focus remains on England. Yet he is clearly

not oblivious to the swirl of gossip going on around him. “I have

always said I am going to talk to the chairman and manager after

this game,” he said. “I have given 100% in every game I have played

for Aston Villa. I am away with England now and my focus is fully

on Switzerland. “We know it is going to be a massive game but it is

always nice to have speculation.” Liverpool are also in the hunt

for Young’s services following his most consistent club season yet.

That form has been transferred onto the international stage too.

Young’s last three performances have been his best in an England

shirt, which, given the lack of strikers available to coach Fabio

Capello, should ensure he starts this weekend. “The last 12 months

have gone really well for me,” he said. “It has been a weird season

and a lot has happened but I feel I have progressed. “I always set

myself goals and targets from the start of the season and I have

reached quite a few of them. “I prefer to keep them to myself and

tick them off in my head. “But one aim is to be a regular starter

in the national team. Hopefully I will be in the team again on

Saturday.” A year ago, Young was coming to terms with the

disappointment of being one of the players axed from Capello’s

provisional World Cup squad. The heartache was enormous. Yet at no

stage did it affect his confidence, nor did Young concur with the

Italian’s belief that he lost an edge to his game when he pulled on

the Three Lions. “I didn’t feel that,” said Young. “I have never

doubted my ability. “There will always be people who do and

everybody is entitled to their opinion. “But my opinion is that I

can play in the biggest and best competitions. “I always want to

challenge myself. To challenge myself is to play in them big

competitions – hopefully one day I will be able to do that.” More

bad news for Villa it seems, with Young confirming he expects to be

hitting the highest points of his career during the time his next

contract will cover. “That is right,” he said. “I have grown as a

man every season. “I am getting older and am starting to become

wiser. “You see a bigger picture. I am 26 soon. As long as I keep

continuing to take the work I am putting in during training onto

the pitch I am sure I can keep growing. “Fingers crossed I can

start peaking at the right time.”