Ashley, the boy who wanted to play football. Who desperately wanted to make it as a pro. Who was willing to make sacrifices to get there. And he came a long way: from Stevenage Colts to Watford, Aston Villa, Manchester United... and Inter.
January 2020 was the start of a new adventure. At the age of 34, having won a Premier League, an FA Cup, a League Cup, three Community Shield and a Europa League, he wanted a new challenge – and more silverware.
He joined Inter with bags of experience and the desire to prove himself. And he wasted no time putting his skills to good use on the flank, notching an assist on his debut. In 18 months at Inter, he racked up 59 appearances, with five goals and nine assists to boot. Few will forget his stunning curling effort against Atalanta last summer. He even rubber-stamped his final appearance against Udinese with a goal.
"Paul Ince was a legend. I would be happy if I could follow in his footsteps. My message for the fans is that we'll win again. I'm here for this.”
That's how Ashley introduced himself to the Nerazzurri faithful. More than a promise, it was a certainty. And so it proved as he became the first Englishman to win the Scudetto with Inter, achieving what Ince and Gerry Hitchens before him had not been able to do. Young was a key figure not just on the pitch but also in the dressing room. Always there for his team-mates, ready to dispel tensions or offer a word of advice. He developed a sense of belonging, a bond with the club, the team and the fans. Which he made clear in his farewell message:
"Thank you Inter, the players, the staff and of course you, the fans. The welcome from day one until the last day was incredible. You welcomed me into the Inter Family with open arms and I can’t thank you enough. You will always have a place in my heart as I watch from afar.
“Winning The Scudetto made my time at Inter so special and I really have to thank my teammates for that, what an amazing dressing room, amazing group on and off the pitch, you all helped me in your own way and we shared the best, most incredible moment by winning the title
“To the staff, all of you helped me along my journey and I really do have friends for life in you all, so thank you.
“The Club, The President, The Directors, The Manager, everyone who made it possible for me to come to this fantastic club and be part of history, I owe you so much and can’t thank you enough.
“The Fans, before the pandemic hearing you singing in the stadium, memorably the match against AC Milan when we were 2-0 down at half time and we came back to win 4-2, that was because of the support and backing you gave us.
“The players and staff won The Scudetto but you were there with us all the way and we won it for you. The last few games of the season, seeing you outside the stadium, the scenes were incredible and they are memories that will stay with me for life.
“I wish the Club, the players, the staff and you, the fans, the best for next season. FORZA INTER.”
For us Interisti, it was an honour and a pleasure to celebrate with you, Ashley. And we wish you the best of luck as you return to Aston Villa. With a song ringing in your ears: "Siamo noi, i campioni d'Italia siamo noi [We are the champions of Italy]...”
Good luck, Ashley!