In purely statistical terms Young’s defenders would argue that in total he scored one less and created one more than the 2008/09 season, when he was acclaimed as the PFA’s Young Player of the Year. However, the perception this season has been that Young has, to use the knowing phrase, ‘been found out.’ He has not, on the face of it, dominated Villa matches in the way he previously did and has seen himself overshadowed at club and international level by midfield dynamo James Milner, who became an England squad regular, picked up the PFA’s Young player award, scored 12 goals and grabbed a further nine assists.
Internationally, as is clear by the decision to leave him kicking his heels on a tropical beach somewhere this summer, Young has failed to convince Capello that he is the man to make the left midfield spot his own. Admittedly it is a daunting task given that England vice-captain Steve Gerrard plays in that position, but Young has now seen Adam Johnson and an injury-plagued Joe Cole leap in front of him in the pecking order and into the provisional 30. The wide-man has only seven caps to his name and received a call up to just two of the seven international squads over the course of the campaign – making substitute appearances on both occasions – to illustrate he is not at the forefront of the England boss’ thinking.
It would be a mistake to write off the 24-year-old’s international prospects just yet. Young possesses incredible accuracy from set-pieces and has been crucial in making Villa sixth in the table for set-piece goals. He is also that rare thing in English football, that is, a wide-man that likes the ball and his feet and to take his full-back on. His direct running is a massive part of the Villa game plan which essentially involves counter-attacking football, with the ball quickly transferred to Young on either the right or left flank. His ability to play down either flank is a massive advantage in an age when you can count the number of two-footed players on two hands. His first touch also buys him valuable time in making space for himself in which all good players thrive.
As with any player part of Martin O’Neil’s squad, Young works hard and provides his full-back on either flank with great protection. However the feeling remains that as Villa’s limited style of play eventually ran out of puff, so did Young. With his team relying on swift counters, Young has been all to peripheral as disappointing outings against Manchester United in the Carling Cup final and Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final. With his 25th birthday due next month, Young still have time to make his mark on the international stage. A change of scenery or at the very least position might just give fresh impetus to his career. And if an example of how to reinvent himself was needed, a glimpse at how Frank Lampard responded to missing out on World Cup 2002 should provide the template.