It’s been ten years since Ashley Young was last part of a starting eleven at Aston Villa. Where are the players he appeared alongside?
Words: Adam Holt | @HoltJourno
Ten years have passed since Ashley Young last donned an Aston Villa shirt, and after successful spells at Manchester United and Inter Milan, the Englishman has decided to return ‘home’ in a move that has delighted fans.
There are, of course, parallels between the situation at Villa now compared to his time at the club which saw them continually challenge for European football with Young and company coming so close to achieving Champions League football for fans at B6, but were unsuccessful. Now, a decade on can Villa now mount a challenge for European football and can Young play a part in finishing what he started all those years ago?
We know the successful career that Young had after leaving Villa but what happened to the players who played with him in his last game before his move to Old Trafford?
Ashley Young’s last game with Villa was a 1-0 win against Liverpool where Stewart Downing scored the winner.
Brad Friedel (2008 – 2011)
The American goalkeeper joined Aston Villa from Blackburn Rovers back in 2008 for a fee rumoured to be in the region of £2,500,000. Friedel also has something in common with Villa’s current stopper Emiliano Martinez – they both saved a penalty on their debuts for the club. Friedel was able to save a penalty against Reading.
Friedel was sent off against Liverpool at Anfield, but as a result of this dismissal being rescinded, he went on to break the record for consecutive Premier League appearances, standing at 250. Friedel also broke the record for the oldest player to ever play for Aston Villa when he played in a 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United.
The American goalkeeper left the club at the same point as Young by joining Tottenham on a two year deal, following the expiry of his Villa contract.
He spent the rest of his playing career at White Hart Lane and became the oldest player to play in the Premier League during his time in North London. Friedel’s record of consecutive appearances in England’s top flight ended in October 2012, being named on the bench behind Hugo Lloris in a match against Aston Villa. His final record for consecutive appearances stood at 310.
Friedel announced his retirement from football in May 2015, and currently serves as an ambassador for Spurs in the United States.
Luke Young (2008 – 2011)
Luke Young signed for Villa back in 2008, joining the club from Middlesbrough. He made his Villa debut in the club’s opening day 4-2 win over Manchester City and went on to score his first goal for the club in a 3-2 success against Blackburn Rovers shortly after.
The following season, he saw his playing time at B6 plummet after the arrival of Carlos Cuellar in a season in which he turned down an offer from Liverpool.
Regular game time returned for Young in the 2010/11 campaign scoring another goal before leaving the club for Queens Park Rangers at the end of that season.
Young spent three years with the London side, becoming a regular member of QPR’s starting XI during the 2011/12 Premier League season under manager Mark Hughes. However, he found his playing time drastically reduced the following year and was frozen out of the squad.
Following Hughes’s departure things looked up, with Harry Redknapp suggesting his career at the club was not over. However, the defender suffered a major injury which meant he was not registered as part of the squad for the remainder of the 2012/13 season.
He made one last appearance for the club two years later against Blackburn in 2014 before being released by QPR.
Richard Dunne (2009 – 2013)
Dunne came to B6 from Manchester City following the Citizens’ capture of Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure. According to then Villa Manager Martin O’Neill, Dunne signed for a fee of £5,000,000.
The defender made his debut for the Villans in the Second City derby at St. Andrews where a strike from Gabby Agbonlahor secured Villa all three points and the bragging rights. Dunne scored his first goal for his new club in a match against his former employers, in a 1-1 draw against City.
The ex-Everton man was also part of the Villa backline in THAT League Cup final defeat against Manchester United, a game that was most certainly not without some controversy. Dunne went on to play in claret and blue for another three years before he left following the expiry of his contract in 2013, joining QPR a few months later.
In his first season with the London side he helped the club secure promotion to the Premier League when they saw off Derby County in the play-off final with a last-gasp Bobby Zamora goal. He then went on to play a key role the following season, but could not stop the Hoops from being relegated. He was released by QPR in 2015 and retired from football the same year.
James Collins (2009 – 2012)
Collins joined Villa in the summer of 2009, signing from West Ham United. Like Dunne, he made his league bow for the Villans in a 1-0 Second City Derby win over Birmingham City at St. Andrews.
The defender also played a part in the controversial 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the 2010 League Cup final. Collins stayed with the club until he re-joined the Hammers during the 2012 summer transfer window.
His first game since returning to West Ham came in the 2012/13 season opener against Aston Villa, where he helped his new team defeat the Villans 1-0. Collins scored his first two goals for the club in a 2-2 draw with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils in the FA Cup. He spent a further five years with the club before being released by the club following the conclusion of the 2017/18 Premier League season.
Collins did make a very brief return to Aston Villa when Dean Smith’s Villans took him on a five week trial. However, this particular return was brief thanks to a calf injury he suffered in his first training session, with the defender reportedly tearing up his trial contract shortly after.
Following his unsuccessful bid to return to Villa full time, Collins signed for Ipswich Town in 2019 on a one year contract, making his debut for the Tractor Boys in a 1-0 win over Rotherham United. Collins retired from football in 2020, following the expiry of his Ipswich contract.
Kyle Walker (2011)
Current England and Manchester City right back Walker was on loan at Aston Villa in the second half of the 2010/11 Premier League season from Tottenham Hotspur, spending the first half of the season on loan at Queens Park Rangers.
Walker made his debut against former club Sheffield United in the FA Cup, where he was able to mark his debut for the Villans with a goal in the early stages of the match. He also found the back of the net against Fulham in the league. He went on to make a total of eighteen appearances for the club, before returning to North London following the conclusion of the season. There were rumours that he could return the following season, but he stayed with Spurs.
He went on to become a key player at White Hart Lane, spending a total of eight seasons with the club before joining Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the summer of 2017. Walker is, of course still playing his football at the Etihad where he has had a very successful few years at the club, winning three Premier League titles, four League Cups, two community shields and an FA Cup win to boot, as well as recently appearing for England in the Euro 2020 Final. Not too bad.
Stewart Downing (2009 – 2011)
Downing was Martin O’Neill’s first signing as manager of Aston Villa. He joined from a Middlesbrough side that had been relegated the previous season. His Villa debut came as a late substitute for Steve Sidwell in an away match against Burnley, scoring his first goal for his new club in a League Cup tie that season against Portsmouth at Fratton Park in December 2009.
His first and second goals for the club came in a 5-2 win over Burnley in February 2010. He scored Villa’s first goal of the following season in a 3-0 win over West Ham United at Villa Park. Downing’s winner in this game against Liverpool was his eighth of the season. Downing made a total of 63 appearances in his time at Villa Park, scoring on nine occasions before joining Liverpool.
Downing spent two years at Anfield, scoring his first goal for the Reds in an FA Cup tie against Oldham Athletic. He made numerous notable contributions, including scoring a penalty in Liverpool’s 2012 League Cup win, as well as the winner in a 2-1 FA Cup Quarter Final win over Stoke City. He left Merseyside for London when he joined West Ham United in the summer of 2013.
His debut for the Hammers was as a substitute in a 2-0 win over Cardiff City at Upton Park on the opening day of the 2013/14 season. His first goal came in a 2-0 win over Tottenham in May 2014.
The winger spent two years at West Ham before re-joining his boyhood club Middlesbrough with whom he got promoted to the Premier League. However, the following season he was unable to prevent the Teesiders from getting relegated. He joined Blackburn Rovers in 2019, before leaving the club in 2021.
Fabian Delph (2009 – 2015)
Fabian Delph joined Aston Villa in the summer of 2009, from Leeds United, following their failure to secure promotion back to the Championship from League One. Delph’s full debut for Villa came against Wigan Athletic in August 2009, the opening day of the 2009/10 season, before scoring his first goal for the club against Brighton in an FA Cup win in January 2010.
Following a loan spell back at Leeds, Delph became a regular at B6 and had a great season in 2013/14, where his efforts in midfield earned him the player of the year award as voted by Villa fans at the end of that season.
Delph’s Villa highlight was his participation in the run to the FA Cup Final in 2014/15 which included a stellar 2-1 win over Liverpool in the semi-final. Unfortunately, it was humiliation under the arch, with Villa losing 4-0 to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
Then came his somewhat controversial move to Manchester City, despite his statement that he was going to stay at Villa Park.
He joined the Citizens in 2015, where he had a very successful spell which included winning two Premier League titles and was part of the City team that stormed the league to win the title with a staggering and record-breaking 100 points. He then left to join Everton in 2019.
Stiliyan Petrov (2006 – 2013)
Petrov began his playing career with second tier Bulgarian side Montana before joining CSKA Sofia in Bulgaria’s top division. He was there for three years making forty-five appearances for the club before departing for Scottish Champions Celtic, under the management of future Villa boss Martin O’Neill.
In his time in Glasgow, he won four consecutive Scottish Premiership titles, three Scottish League and FA Cups as well as a UEFA Cup runners up medal in Celtic’s defeat in Seville against Porto in 2003. Petrov was also the first foreign player to win the young player of the season award in 2001.
He left the club for Aston Villa in 2006 and was O’Neill’s first signing as Villa manager. He made his B6 debut in a 1-1 stalemate against West Ham United and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-2 draw against Sheffield United. Petrov’s first real highlight for the Villans came when he scored a goal from the half way line in a 6-0 win at Pride Park against Derby County, it was the record for the longest goal in Villa’s history.
The Bulgarian became a regular in the 2008/09 campaign and captained the club for the first time in a UEFA Cup match against Bulgarian side Litex Lovech. At the end of that season he was name the fans’ and players’ player of the season and became Villa’s captain full time following the retirement of Martin Laursen, leading the team to sixth in the Premier League the following season.
He was forced to retire following his leukaemia diagnosis and a match including the likes of Hristo Stoichkov and Dimitar Berbatov was organised in order to honour Petrov’s achievements in his football career. In what was great news for everyone, it was announced that Petrov’s leukaemia had gone into remission and he made one last appearance for Villa in an 8-0 friendly win in Austria against GAK.
Nigel Reo-Coker (2007 – 2011)
Reo-Coker joined Aston Villa in the summer of 2007 from West Ham United, who he had been with for three seasons. He scored his first goal for the club in a 5-0 win over Wrexham in the second round of that season’s League Cup competition. He captained the club on a couple of occasions, once against Liverpool in place of Gareth Barry and again in the latter rounds of the 2009 Peace Cup in place of Stiliyan Petrov.
He scored his first goal in the Premier League in a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, and again in a UEFA Cup tie against Litex Lovech. Reo-Coker left the club for Bolton Wanderers in the summer of 2011, following his departure from Villa following the expiry of his contract at B6.
Reo-Coker joined Bolton for a season, but was unable to prevent them from being relegated from the Premier League before signing for Ipswich for the following season. He spent a year with the Tractor Boys before leaving for Vancouver Whitecaps.
He spent the majority of his remaining career in the United States in the MLS, with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Chivas USA, Montreal Impact and then joined Norwegian team Start before a brief spell at MK Dons before retiring from football in 2018.
Darren Bent (2011 – 2015)
Darren Bent joined as the then record signing for Villa as a club, joining for a fee of £18,000,000. He joined Aston Villa from Sunderland. He had a great start to his career with the Villans, scoring on his debut for the club in a 1-0 victory over Manchester City and scored what would be his second goal in three games at B6 in a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford.
He became Villa’s joint top scorer that season, with Ashley Young on 9, despite only signing for the club halfway through the season in January. Overall, Bent spent four years as a Villa player, making a total of 61 appearances and scoring 21 times in that time. He left the club on loan to Derby County in 2015, scoring 12 times in 17 appearances before signing permanently for the Rams.
Bent was then loaned out to Burton Albion for the remainder of the 2017/18 campaign where he scored against his former club Sunderland which helped to condemn the Black Cats to relegation to League One.
Darren Bent announced his retirement from professional football in July 2019 following his departure from Derby County following the conclusion of the 2017/18 campaign.
The bench: Andy Marshall (GK), Ciaran Clark, Robert Pires, Marc Albrighton, Michael Bradley, Gabriel Agbonlahor & Emile Heskey.