“I think some would say I’m the senior member of the team,” Ashley Young said exclusively. sky sports“…or some would say, the grandfather of the team!”
After all, at 37, Young is Aston Villa’s oldest player.
But the Villa veteran belied his age against Manchester City when he came off the bench to replace injured Matty Cash in the 27th minute to keep Phil Foden – 15 years his junior – quiet and help his side to a 1-1 draw at home against the champions.
Young’s performance was described as “magnificent” by Villa boss Steven Gerrard, who said he “embodied everything” he needed from his side.
“Of course it’s always nice for a player to hear the manager come out and congratulate you,” Young said.
“I’m old school so there’s probably a lot of talk on social media, but for me as long as my teammates, my family and the staff that are here give me positive feedback, that’s all that matters. for me.”
Young’s appearance against City was the 651st of his 19-year career, during which he won five major honours, including the Premier League with Manchester United and Serie A with Inter Milan.
Now in 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 determined and I always want to succeed – no matter how old I am,” he says.
“The team we have here is a young team that the players will ask questions and I’m always there to help them, to answer them.
“It’s leading by example, that’s who I am, that’s how I was raised down to earth and want to succeed and be the best person that I am.
“Day in and day out, I’m going to set the standard and treat people with respect, and I hope to get that respect too.”
Young’s character, reliability and experience are exactly why Gerrard offered him a one-year contract this summer, which he signed in July despite interest from other clubs.
“It 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 to take this club forward – it should be back in Europe.
“I bought into that and, as soon as I was told the club wanted to give me an extra year, I literally said to myself, give me the pen, where do I sign?
Part of Young’s enthusiasm to stay at Villa was to continue working for his former England team-mate Gerrard, who is only five years his senior.
“He played a big role in that,” Young reveals. “I played with him as a player, and he has the same ambition as a manager.”
Young worked under big-name bosses, having been coached by Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho at United, while spending a spell under Antonio Conte at Inter Milan.
So how does Gerrard compare to them?
“He has this winning mentality,” he says. “He obviously worked under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
“I think he spoke, as I always call him, ‘The Boss’, Sir Alex (Ferguson), so I’d say he took little bits of it – but he’s got his own ways too.
“He knows how to treat players the right way, whether they need an arm around them or a subtle reprimand. His man management skills are very good.
“Sometimes you can laugh and joke, but when it comes to training it’s serious and that’s where it’s at.
“He has this aura in him, which of course he had as a player, and now he has it as a manager as well.
“He knows where he thinks he can take the club, and I think all the players have bought into that, and know we can move higher and higher in the table.”
Gerrard and his team must certainly aim much higher than their current position in the Premier League.
Villa are 17th and only above the relegation zone on goals scored. In fact, it’s their worst start to a Premier League season after six games, with just four points.
But the draw with City – which ended a three-league losing streak – must now be a turning point for Villa, according to Young.
“We talked about things before the [City] game internally,” he reveals, “and I think you could see that in the way the boys came out and played with bodies on the line and the way we celebrated after the game.”
When asked if there is now more positivity in the squad, he replies: “Yes there is, especially with the way things went ahead of the game against City.
“I think we can take a lot of confidence from City’s game and continue from here and look to build on that.
“We’re not even at the end of September yet, so there are plenty of points and games to make sure those first six games are forgotten.”
But Villa’s momentum was halted after last Saturday’s game at Leicester was postponed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
The postponement gave Young and his family the chance 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’re able to do things like that, it’s just nice to do that. I think they enjoyed it – it was a bit of a history lesson for them and probably for me too to be honest. “
The Premier League resumes this weekend, with Aston Villa looking for their second win of the season as they host Southampton on Friday night footballlive of sky sports.
Young could be set for his first Premier League start of the campaign against Saints, with Cash likely to be injured.
“I’m always ready to play,” says Young. “I’m ready to play in any position the manager wants me to play.”
If he does make the roster, Young will become the third-oldest outfield player this season to start a Premier League game.
Young, who is set to take up his UEFA B and A licenses throughout this season, turns 38 in July – is he thinking of retirement?
“I haven’t thought about it, just because I think I can still play, I still feel fit,” he said. “People talk about age, especially in this country, but to 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 might take me a few more days to recover after games, but I know how to treat my body and I know what to eat and drink.
“Obviously I have to think about when I’m going to retire, but I don’t think I’m ready to retire any time soon.”
Watch Aston Villa v Southampton live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm Friday; kick off 8 p.m.