“I think some would say I’m a great member of the team,” Ashley Young said exclusively Sky Sports“…or some might say, team grandfather!”
After all, at the age of 37, Young is the oldest player at Aston Villa.
But the Villa veteran lied his age against Manchester City when he came off the bench to replace injured Mattie Cash in the 27th minute to keep Phil Foden – 15 years younger than him – calm and helpful. His team to an important 1-1 draw at home against the champions.
Villa coach Steven Gerrard described Young’s performance as “fantastic” and said he “embodies everything” he needs from his side.
“Of course it’s always good to hear the manager come out and praise you,” Young says.
“I’m old school, so maybe a lot is talked about on social media, but for me, as long as my teammates, family, and staff here give me positive feedback, that’s all that matters to me.”
Young’s appearance against City was the 651st in his 19-year career, during which he won five major titles including the Premier League at Manchester United and the First Division with Inter Milan.
Now on his second spell at Villa, having joined them last summer after four and a half years at Villa Park from January 2007, Young was given the role of club captain in July.
“I’m a leader, I’m ambitious, I’m determined and I still want to make it happen – no matter my age,” he says.
“The team we have here is a young team that the players will ask questions and I am always there to help them, to answer them.
“She leads by example, it’s just who I am, it’s just the way I grew up with my feet on the ground and I want to achieve and be the best person I am.
“Day by day, I will set standards and treat people with respect, and I hope to get that respect too.”
Young’s personality, reliability and expertise were exactly the reason why Gerrard offered him a one-year contract this summer, which he signed in July despite interest from other clubs.
“This was probably the easiest decision I made,” Young says. “I know my love for the club. The size of the club; it’s growing, the ambition and the owners want this club to advance – it has to come back to Europe.”
“I bought that, and as soon as I was told the club wanted to give me another year, I was literally like, ‘Give me the pen, where do I sign?!'”
Part of Young’s enthusiasm for staying at Villa was to continue working with former England teammate Gerrard, who is only five years his senior.
“He was a big factor in that,” Young reveals. “I played with him as a player, and he has the same ambitious approach as a coach.”
Young has worked under the supervision of some famous chiefs, having been coached by Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho at United, while he enjoyed a stint under Antonio Conte at Inter Milan.
How does Gerrard compare to them?
“He’s ambitious, he has a winning mentality,” he says. “Obviously he worked under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
“I think he spoke to him, as I still call him, ‘The Chief’, Sir Alex (Ferguson), so I would say he took little bits of them – but he has his own ways too.
“He knows how to deal with players the right way, whether they need an arm around them or a subtle telling. His human management skills are very good.
“Sometimes you can laugh and joke, but when it’s training, it’s dangerous and that’s when it comes to work.
“He got this aura about him, which of course he had as a player, and now he has that aura as a manager as well.
“He’s an ambitious person; he knows where he thinks he can take the club to, and I think all the players are convinced of that, and we know we can go higher and higher in the table.”
Gerrard and his squad certainly need goals far above their current position in the Premier League.
Villa is in 17th position and is just above the relegation zone with goals scored. Indeed, this is the worst start to the Premier League season after six games, with just four points.
But the draw with City – who ended a losing streak in three league games – should now be a turning point for Fia, according to Young.
We talked about things before [City] He reveals an indoor game, “And I think you can see that in the way the boys came out and performed with their bodies on the line and the way we celebrated after the game.”
Asked if there was now more positivity in the group, he replied: “Yes, especially in terms of how things are going before the City game.
“I think we can take a lot of confidence out of the City game and move forward from here and look to build on that.
“We haven’t made it to the end of September yet, so there are plenty of points and matches to make sure those first six games are forgotten.”
But Villa’s momentum was paused after last Saturday’s match in Leicester was postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The postponement provided an opportunity for Young and his family to pay their respects to Her Majesty.
“I took my kids to London around Green Park, around Buckingham Palace over the weekend,” he says.
“When you are able to do things like that, it’s a good idea to do it. I think they had fun – it was a little history lesson for them and maybe for myself too to be honest.”
The Premier League resumes this weekend, with Aston Villa looking for their second win of the season when they host Southampton in Friday Night Footballgo on with your life Sky Sports.
Young could be ready to start his first Premier League game against the Saints, with Cash likely injured.
“I’m always ready to play,” Young says. “I am ready to play in any position the manager wants me to play.”
If he does make up the squad, Young will become the third oldest player on the field this season to start a Premier League game.
Young, who is due to have his UEFA B and A licenses all this season, turns 38 in July – is he considering retirement at all?
“I didn’t think about it, just because I think I can still play, I still feel fit,” he says. “People talk about age, especially in this country, but for me it’s just a number.
“If you’re fit, I think you can play as long as you want and I think that’s my ambition.
“It may take a few more days to recover after matches, but I know how to treat my body and I know what to eat and drink.
“Obviously I need to think about when I retire, but I don’t think I’m ready to retire anytime soon.”
Watch Aston Villa vs Southampton live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm on Friday; Kick-off is at 8 pm.