Young: Surviving Kevin Muscat made me fearless
Ashley Young is not nervous about stepping out for England - he hasn't been scared of anything on the pitch since Kevin Muscat told him he would break his legs as a teenager.
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Aston Villa winger Young, who could start England's Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro on Tuesday, revealed former Australia international Muscat warned him there would be violent consequences if he got past the former Wolves defender when making his Watford debut.
Now 25 and one of the Premier League's most potent wide men, Young said his legs are covered in scars from the punishment dished out by his markers over the years. But Young insists surviving his early encounter with Muscat, now playing probably his final season with Australian club Melbourne Victory, helped him develop the resolve required to be a successful winger.
Young said: "As a winger, you get kicked all the time. I am one of those players who have many scars up and down their legs from being kicked. It is whether you have the character to get up again and say 'I am going to beat you' - or whether you crumble and don't want to play. I remember by first game for Watford. When I came on Kevin Muscat's first words to me were 'don't go past me or I will break your legs'.
"From that day the nerves left me and I concentrated on playing. I scored and I also didn't say anything to him at the end. When someone says that to you, when you are 18 and you are coming on for your first game, it is not the nicest thing to hear. You just have to get on with it. He just said it to wind me up. Whether you bite the bait and take it is down to each individual player. I don't think any player goes out to try and hurt their opponents.''
Young, who has switched to a more central role under new Villa boss Gerard Houllier, added: "Wingers are the most fouled. But you have to concentrate on getting yourself up, brushing yourself off and going again. You have to be aware (of challenges) but you can't concentrate on it too much. If you are thinking about people tackling you, then you are not thinking about the game. I know I have a job to do. I have to concentrate on beating my opponent. It is the goal I have to get to.''
Young could make his first England start at Wembley in the wide role as his former Villa team-mate James Milner is suspended. He is not reknowned for making rash predictions but has never lacked confidence in his ability and wants to force his way into the starting XI under Fabio Capello.
Young said: "Everything is challenging. I have had different challenges throughout my career. This is another tough one. But I have every confidence in my own ability. I am a very confident player. Fingers crossed, I can hold down a spot in the team. It is important for me to play for my country. When I have applied myself and got a cap, I have done it in the right manner. If the chance comes, I intend to grab it with both hands.''
Young believes Houllier can bring the best out of him at club level in the same way as his predecessor Martin O'Neill.
He said: "I always said Martin O'Neill is a great manager. He brought me to the club. He was fantastic to me. But things change in football. Now I am working under Gerard Houllier, who looks like another one who is looking to get the best out of me. For a manager to tell me to go out and play is all I need to hear. I am just doing the best I can. I see myself as a versatile player. Wherever the manager tells me to play, through the middle or right or left, I'll do it. Even if he tells me to play up front, I definitely know I can go out there and do a job.''