Former Barclay School team-mate Chris McCarthy discusses what the future may hold for Stevenage s in-demand footballer Ashley Young ROONEY, Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard and Terry – names that spring to mind when considering England s multi-million pound foot

Former Barclay School team-mate Chris McCarthy discusses what the future may hold for Stevenage's in-demand footballer Ashley Young

ROONEY, Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard and Terry - names that spring to mind when considering England's multi-million pound footballing elite.

You could shortly be adding 21-year-old Ashley Young from Stevenage to that list.

Young, who is a former pupil at both The John Henry Newman and Barclay schools, currently plays for Premiership strugglers Watford and yet is one of the most sought after players in the Premiership.

Reports this week have linked the Hornets striker with a host of other Premiership clubs including east London outfit West Ham United and Spurs for a fee thought to be around the £10m mark.

His manager at Watford, Aidy Boothroyd, has said: "He can score goals, and gets them from different areas of the box, he can make goals, he can play with his left and right foot, and in four different positions.

"He's athletic, extremely quick, he's a dead ball specialist and will do exactly what you tell him to do.

"Players like him are an absolute premium. Outside of the top four clubs, he's probably the best prospect out there."

It is a glowing testimony for Young, who as a boy was released by the club's academy as it looked as if he would not make the grade.

Young went away, worked on his game and earned a second chance.

And as the transfer speculation illustrates, his perseverance, and Watford's willingness to offer him a second chance, has paid off spectacularly.

Ray Lewington, who gave Young his debut in March 2003, recalled: "Ash was always the jewel in the crown at Watford's academy and we couldn't wait for him to be ready for the first team.

"He is a genuinely two-footed player with great awareness, which set him apart from all the other kids.

"But we worried about his slight build because he did not have an ounce of meat on his bones."

Such fears swiftly banished as Young breezed into the senior team scoring on his League debut.

"We needn't have worried," continued Lewington, who is now part of Fulham's coaching staff.

"Because he is never fazed by anything, even big defenders kicking him.

"He scored on his debut and never looked back.

"He started out as a central striker but can play on either wing, because he has two great feet.

"I'm not surprised so many top clubs are after him."

Young quickly earned the accolade of the club's young player of the year but it was not until last season that the striker really made his mark.

Being used in both wide and central roles, Young was a key figure in earning Boothroyd's men promotion from the Championship through the play-offs, scoring 15 times for the Hertfordshire side.

Young then won representative honours, getting the call-up to Peter Taylor's under-21 side to meet a select XI from Italy's Serie B.

He has since earned himself a further four under-21 caps and should be in the Netherlands this summer for the European under-21 Championships.

This season has seen Young's talents displayed in the Premiership even in a struggling Watford side who look set to take the step back down to the Football League. Notably scoring a quickfire brace against Chris Coleman's Fulham.

Young, as a youngster, played for local youth side Stevenage Colts in the same side as promising young goalkeeper Ross Flitney, who is now plying his trade for League Two club Barnet after spells at Fulham and Arsenal.

Flitney became the recipient of the quickest red card in history when he was sent off after 80 seconds for handling the ball outside his box in a league cup tie against current Premiership leaders Manchester United at Old Trafford back on October 26, 2005.

Young, a lifelong Arsenal fan, looks almost certain to depart Vicarage Road before the end of the season.

He will be leaving the club that he grew up with after joining them as a 10-year-old boy.

However his association with Watford will continue through his brothers Lewis and Kyle who are both on the books of the club.

Ashley said recently: "Lewis is playing for the under-18s and is a wide midfielder, and Kyle, who's a forward, plays for the under-11s.

"Some people say there are similarities between us but we're different in the way we play.