Aston Villa Paper View (a)

Last updated : 23 January 2007 By Gary Holmes

Young ready to complete record move

With more than a third of the Premiership trying to woo him, Ashley Young will finally settle on Aston Villa today, when he completes the formalities after a medical. In return, Villa will compensate Watford to the tune of around £9.65 million, the highest figure they have paid for a player.

The fee will also represent the most Martin O'Neill has spent in his managerial career. "I have always been pretty careful, primarily because my clubs haven't had much," he said.

"But at my age I have earned the right to spend. World-class players cost a lot of money, but potential is a different issue. And I believe that he has got potential."

Young's potential was spotted long ago by Watford. Gavin Mahon, his captain, said: "You could always tell he had ability. The gaffer said to me a year ago, 'Sum Ashley up', and I said, 'Future international', because he has two good feet, he is quick, he can go either way."

Aidy Boothroyd, his manager at Watford, has no qualms about the size of the fee for the attacking midfielder with four England Under-21 caps. "Time will tell whether he's worth it or not, but my opinion would be yes, he is. It's not as if one club were in for him; I've had seven inquiries about him from Premiership clubs."

Boothroyd recognised he could no longer hold on to the player. "We're not a big club, and sometimes I find that difficult because I want to be part of, and build a big club at Watford. I've found the whole thing with Ashley difficult because I know it is the best thing for the club in terms of the future, for tomorrow, but I want to live for today as well."

Young, 21, was conspicuous by his absence at Villa Park, not even in the crowd to watch employers past and future; he would have had his hands over his eyes if he had been. Sometimes you have to win ugly just to win at all, and there was nothing beautiful about Villa's first victory for more than two months.

However, patience usually pays off against Watford. This was the seventh time this season they have conceded late goals that turned draws into defeats.

The beginning of their downfall was typical of a struggling side. Gavin McCann's fierce drive was going nowhere until he hit Malky Mackay's shins, then Mahon's knee, and diverted past Ben Foster. "That's the way things have been going for us," Mahon shrugged. Now they haven't even got Young to help bale them out. The Telegraph

O'Neill thinks top-six as Watford mind Young gap

Little is known about Randy Lerner's true motives at Aston Villa but the club's reclusive American owner hardly needs to make public statements when he is prepared to provide Martin O'Neill with £8m to sign a player with only 20 Premiership appearances and three top-flight goals to his name. Ashley Young is expected to be confirmed as a Villa player today and O'Neill hopes the Watford forward can be the catalyst for an assault on English football's elite.

Patience is likely to be a key asset for the fans, something that they needed in abundance against Watford. It was not until four minutes from time that Villa scored and even then the home side needed two deflections, Gavin McCann's wayward shot ricocheting off Malky Mackay and then Gavin Mahon to leave the excellent Ben Foster stranded. Villa should have wrapped up the game long before, only for Milan Baros to give a masterclass in the art of dreadful finishing.

The Czech Republic international was booed when he was subbed and, with Lyon's interest gathering and O'Neill's attacking options increasing, his departure appears imminent. There is a similar inevitability about Watford's relegation. They battled valiantly, forcing two fine saves from Thomas Sorensen through Will Hoskins and Hameur Bouazza, but another defeat was confirmed with Gabriel Agbonlahor's injury-time strike.

That, combined with Young's departure, seemed to drain the normally sanguine Aidy Boothroyd. "I've found the whole scenario with Ashley difficult because I know it is the best thing for the club in terms of the future, for tomorrow, but I want to live for today as well," said the Watford manager. The Guardian

O'Neill banking on Young talent

It was ironic that the chief protagonist in this story was not even at Villa Park on Saturday, but everyone who did attend concurred that Aston Villa would be better off for Ashley Young's presence after they struggled to overcome Watford, the club he is due to leave in a £9.65 million deal today.

The England Under-21 forward's medical will be finalised today after he agreed to become the most expensive player Martin O'Neill has signed. “At my age, I have earned the right to spend,” the Villa manager, 54, said. “José Mourinho can spend, Sir Alex [Ferguson] can spend. Am I supposed to stay down for ever?

“I want to try and build a decent side here, one that is going to compete. I believe we will have the ability to compete in the not-too distant future.”

Adrian Boothroyd, selling his prize asset to give his own club a better chance of competing in the future, offered the ultimate testimonial to someone who has played in the top flight for only five months — but five months more than Theo Walcott had when Arsenal signed him from Southampton for £12 million last year.

“I think it's about talent and it's about being thrown in at the deep end and being able to cope with it. He's certainly proved he can do that,” the Watford manager said. “They are going to get a player who can play in four positions, who is two-footed, who can score goals from dead-ball situations, who can deliver terrific set-pieces for others. He's quick, he's very athletic, he's got a wonderful work ethic and he's extremely disciplined. He's a wonderful asset.”

Gavin Mahon, the Watford captain, said: “We've got to make sure we use the money wisely and bring players in we need now and for the future of Watford.”

Mahon had the misfortune to give Villa the goalscoring breakthrough, getting the last touch to Gavin McCann's deflected cross-shot. Gabriel Agbonlahor raced on to McCann's pass to score his sixth goal of the season in the final seconds. The Times

O'Neill sees Young as key to brighter future

Martin O'Neill spoke of Ashley Young's "enormous potential" rather then of his being the finished article, yet the endorsement of Watford's Adrian Boothroyd was more likely to excite Aston Villa supporters about their manager's most expensive buy.

The 21-year-old striker's £9.65m transfer was formalised yesterday - the fee will be confirmed after a medical - and Boothroyd's response was rather like that of Jock Stein when he was asked where Kenny Dalglish's best position was. "Och," he snapped, "just let him on the park."

Young, said Boothroyd, could play in four positions, use both feet and was lethal on set pieces. "Ashley is very quick and athletic. He has a wonderful work ethic and he's extremely disciplined - he'll do whatever you ask. He began wide on the right, but with his intelligence and technique he can play up front on his own. You've just got to get him on the pitch."

Villa betrayed a dearth of confidence before sealing their first win in 13 matches in the final five minutes. Gavin McCann's shot was then diverted into goal by Gavin Mahon and Gabby Agbonlahor ran clear to score a second.

The Villa manager sees the arrival of Young, who struck up a rapport with Agbonlahor when the latter was on loan to Watford last season, as an important step in his challenge for a place among the elite group of Premiership clubs. "The strong are getting really strong and it is lessening the chances of other clubs," he said. "In my playing days it was more of a level playing field. For instance, Nottingham Forest could sign Trevor Francis and Peter Shilton. Now you've got your top-four teams, with Tottenham trying to break into that and Everton having spent some money. The Independent