Former B6 favourite Ashley Young re-signed for the Villans this summer, after spending 18 months in Serie A with title-winning Inter Milan.
After seeing out his contract in Italy, Villa were quick to respond to Youngs’ desire to return to home shores.
At 36 years old, this is possibly his last stint in the professional game.
Why it makes sense
Dean Smith is an advocate for having members of the squad below the age of 30. However, the opportunity to bring veteran Young into the team was clearly incredibly important to the manager. So much so, he was willing to breach his own principles in order to attain the player.
The thinking behind the move is clear. Young brings a wealth of experience, know-how, and leadership to help guide a young team. Importantly, he has a flexible skillset meaning he can play a variety of positions.
With Neil Taylor departing, signing cover at left-back was a necessity. Adding bodies in the wide areas was also desired due to Trézéguet’s ongoing injury, and the need for increased competition for starting places.
Smith’s plan to draft several of the youngsters in this season is also a benefit of the move.
Jacob Ramsey – a player long admired by the manager – was given his breakthrough year in the season gone. Carney Chukwuemeka, Brad Young, and Louie Barry are amongst those from the academy on course to play growing roles in the fortunes of Villa’s coming season.
For such players, training alongside a player of Young’s pedigree will benefit them no-end as they enter the professional game. With the Premier League, FA Cup, and Europa League just some of the trophies on Young’s mantelpiece, his presence around the place was key in bringing him in.
More than a man
For those thinking Young has been signed on the basis he can inspire the next generation of Villa youth, think again.
Despite his age, Young continues to play regular football. Between January 2020 and May 2021, he started 29 times for Inter.
Matt Target will still be Smith’s first-choice left-back, however, he will face strong opposition from the new arrival.
As will the players in Villa’s winger department. Notching 13 goal contributions from his spell on the continent, Young is still a menace to opposing defences. Upon his arrival in Milan, Young scored four, and set up another four, in just half a season!
The manager has spoken of Young’s desire to progress Villa this season. After last years successes, 2021/22 is about closing the gap between European football and Villa Park.
“I know he is determined to make a real impact with us this season,” said Smith on the signing.
Young knows this place well. Having played in Villa’s last European fixture, he has personal ambitions to restore Villa back to their place at the top.
“The club wants to be pushing and challenging to get back into Europe. Aston Villa for me is a massive club which should always be in Europe.
“Look at the squad – a lot of the players who were there last season are young, but they’ve got that hunger, ambition and desire to play football and break into Europe”
Villa have a recent history of breathing new life into the embers of experienced football careers.
Although eventually unsuccessful, John Terry had a memorable final season in the game at Villa Park. As did Mile Jedinak and Glen Wheelan during the 2018/19’s promotion.
The signing of Young has magic about it. For Villa fans, this is far more than the stereotype of signing an older player on a free.
Ashely Young came to Villa for football – a game he’s still very good at.
Don’t be surprised to see him rolling back the years in the claret and blue next season.