I can’t speak for you … well, unless you’d like me too? I mean, this would be a lot easier if we could all just agree, right? No? You’re sure? Okay. Thought not. Good. Great. So, we can all agree to disagree on some things. Great. I mean, it’s not like you have to attend every argument you’re invited to is it? No. Good … you’re sure? Really sure? Yes. Good. Great. Super. I’m glad we’ve had this little chat. So anyway, where was I? Oh yes … I have developed a strong aversion to Ashley Young.
A season isn’t a season for me without singling out a minimum of one player – sometimes a little unfairly, and usually in spite of myself – as an outlet for my more general frustrations with the team. The likes of Mal Donaghy, Paul Parker, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Van Der Sar have all provided me with this much appreciated repository for my ill-feeling and pissoffednessnessness because sometimes there’s only so much introspection you can enter into and besides, they’re not real people, right? This season it’s Ashley Young.
At the start of the season I wrote a piece about the surprising (although at the time I’d probably have preferred to call it stupefying) purchase of Ashley Young. I concluded, objectively, that he would succeed at the club and the basis for this was that I assumed SAF had seen something particularly special in him, that he felt he could mine from the player. I also suggested that if Ashley Young could turn his performance level from one strong game in four, to nearer one in two, then we could soon have a very, very good player on our hands. I added that he was without doubt endowed with the tools, he just needed to mature into a player who understood better how to use them, and that some players need a club that matches their playing ethos in order to reach the pinnacle of their footballing powers, but more than that, they need a club that matches their ambition and ego before they can really flourish. I’m still waiting.
During the pre-season tour and early season posturing, Ashley Young seemed transformed from the inconsistent, occasional star of Match of the Day highlights, to Ashley Young, ‘The Elder’, playing relatively consistently with a measured assurance. It didn’t last. Okay, he’s had a few niggling injuries, but them’s the breaks, as irritating people, including myself it seems, say. This, of course, is how a season plays out for those whose footballing careers are thwarted by paralysing inconsistency: being praised by Alan ‘Alan Shearer’ Shearer on Saturday night one week, then being praised by Alan ‘Alan Shearer’ Shearer on Saturday night the next. Oh, wait a minute … he hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about.
(I’d like to point out that some of this is not really Ashley Young’s fault. He isn’t responsible for managing fans’ expectations, let alone those of individuals, i.e. mine, because at the root of my dislike of him is that I expected the team to be improved upon and not just the squad added to. But I’ve put this point in brackets, so that it doesn’t detract from my dislike of him.)
It’s not as simple as just getting over it and shifting my general discomfort on to An Other next season, no, because Ashley Young is also an irritant. As I pointed out in my ‘rant’ about diving, he, to the detriment of the game, orchestrates and manipulates opportunities to dive. To paraphrase myself, he’s like a human butterfly knife with fishing hook toes and tendrils for legs, (actually that’s pretty much word for word what I said at the time). I’d like to make it clear that I’m not coming at this from the point of view that, ‘he’s tarnishing the name of this great club’, I mean, come on, every player we’ve had in the past twenty years has done that to a greater or lesser degree. Eric used to treat opposition players’ ribs as stickle bricks for his studs. It’s just, for me, his particular brand of cheating, accompanied by those quasi-petulant facial expressions of his, are far more offensive and far more indicative of the moral reprehensibility that is now an accepted staple of our footballing diets *Glug – down in one my son*
I think he’s got one season – if we’re being generous – to become a player, and if he fails we should set him free in some woodland backwater, release the hounds and let nature take it’s course. Or sell him, whichever, he was never worth 16 million, so what we get for him is irrelevant. Yes, he’s an International, but his growing reputation on the International stage says more about the state of International Football than anything about Ashley Young’s ability. Currently, he’s just too much like the player we bought and nothing like the player I was hoping he’d become. He’s too much like the Ashley Young that I already knew wasn’t good enough. *I’m doing that thing with my fingers that means I’ll be watching him closely*