Fabio Capello must have been impressed. The England coach had the chance to assess the form of several contenders for places in his World Cup squad at Villa Park on Saturday but nobody will have caught his eye more than Ashley Young.
On a day when some of Aston Villa's attacking play looked ponderous and unimaginative, there could be no criticism of their flying winger. Young, who has had an excellent season, was at the heart of nearly all of Villa's most threatening moves, running at defenders and delivering a succession of damaging crosses.
Several players have attempted to fill David Beckham's boots on England's right flank but none have made the position their own. On club form alone Young might have a stronger claim than the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Theo Walcott, but the Villa man has yet to perform consistently at international level. Capello, nevertheless, clearly wants to believe in the former Watford player, who made a substitute appearance in his first game in charge and was given his first start against the Netherlands last August.
Martin O'Neill, Villa's manager, talked in glowing terms about Young's "wonderful performance" here and his overall contribution to the team. "He's the very first one to get back into position," O'Neill said. "He does more than his share of work for us. He will help in the left-back and the right-back position and his overall game is absolutely terrific. I don't think there are too many players playing out wide at this minute who are shining as much as he is."
O'Neill did not know whether it was true that Young lacked confidence when away with England but could understand the difficulties in joining a squad of established internationals who regularly play Champions League football. "It doesn't mean that you should desert your own character," the manager added. "He doesn't have to go and show off with England. All he has to do is go in and try and perform in the manner in which he has for the club, because Mr Capello is picking players on club form."
While this result maintained Villa's unbeaten league run in 2010 it was a missed opportunity to strengthen their challenge for a place in the Champions League next season. Villa were rampant in the first 20 minutes, during which Young set up John Carew's opener, but Wolves, responding admirably, were in front by half-time. David Jones was at the centre of their best work, setting up Jody Craddock's close-range goal with a well-flighted free-kick and prompting a move that ended with James Milner stabbing the ball past his own goalkeeper.
Carew's late equaliser, at the end of a route-one move that followed Brad Friedel's upfield punt, was just reward for Villa's second-half pressure, but Wolves deserved the point that strengthens their challenge for survival.
Mick McCarthy's team, like others at the bottom of the table, have proved in recent weeks that on their day the stragglers can be a match for the Premier League's big guns. "I think generally that there's a bit more belief that if you have a go at them you might get something out of them rather than letting them dictate everything," McCarthy said. "Perhaps we've all shown a little bit more ambition and tried to attack teams."
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne (Albrighton, 72), Warnock; A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing (Sidwell, 77); Carew, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), L Young, Delfouneso, Beye, Clark.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-4-1-1): Hahnemann; Zubar, Craddock, Berra, Ward (Mancienne, 64); Foley, Guedioura (Elokobi, h-t), Henry, Jarvis (Iwelumo, 89); Jones; Doyle. Substitutes not used: Hennessey (gk), Ebanks-Blake, Keogh, Milijas.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear).
Booked: Aston Villa Petrov; Wolverhampton Wanderers Guedioura, Zubar.
Man of the match: Young.
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