Ashley Young's first real taste ofprofessional footballamounted to quitean introduction.
'Kevin Muscat said he wouldbreak my legs if I went pasthim,' said Young.
Their meeting occurred as theywere warming up for an encounterbetween Watford and Millwall backin September 2003, but the notoriouslyphysical Muscat was sent offbefore he could intimidate Youngany further.
Unleashed from theWatford bench 31 minutes later,Young then marked his FootballLeague debut with a goal.As someone who neverappears short of confidence,Young says it was the only timein his career he has suffered fromnerves.
But this is an important couple ofdays for the Aston Villa winger. Anopportunity to demonstrate thatthe considerable talent he so oftenshows for his club can be put togood use for his country.His club managers clearly likehim.
Martin O'Neill was often gushingin his praise. Young was 'worldclass', 'a genius'.
And GerardHoullier has been quick to echo thesentiment since taking charge atVilla Park, even moving him into amore central role to exploit fully hisattacking threat.
To date, however, Fabio Capellohas not been quite so impressed,restricting Young to eight internationalappearances since he madehis debut in Steve McClaren'spenultimate game at the helm ofthe England team.
Tomorrow, though, he couldwell get another chance. WithJames Milner suspended, AaronLennon injured and Theo Walcottnot considered fit enough to earninclusion, a place in the sidemight well be within Young'sreach.
Star turn: Ashley Young is a big player for Villa
Especially when Capellopraised the 25-year-old for hisperformance against Hungaryin August.
'The manager spoke tome before I went on andjust said go out there andplay with confidence,'said Young.
'I am a veryconfident player and Ihave confidence in myown ability. But justto be told by a managerto go out thereand play as a winger iswhat you want to hear.
'I was delighted with my performanceand the way it wentand I have just kept adding towhat I have done this season.Fingers crossed I will keepimproving.'
He does seem to make the rightnoises but there are times whenyou almost feel there's a touch ofover-confidence withYoung.
On the spot: Ashley Young answers questions at Sunday's press conference
Take, forinstance, his assessmentof the 256 minutesof internationalfootball hehas played so far.
'I have aspirationsand ambitionsto play for my country,'he said.
'Andwhenever I haveapplied myself, andgot a cap, I have doneit in the right manner.I think I have donemyself justice.'
And then, of course,there is the responseto the question ofwhether he ever getsnervous. He fixes hisinquisitor with anicy stare and simplysays: 'Never.'
Challenged, he then elaboratesby telling the Muscat story.'Every player is different,' he said.
'Some players get nervous evennow. I'm just one of those whodoesn't.
'When I made my debut forWatford was the only time. KevinMuscat said what he said but thenerves just left me and I concentratedon playing well.
'I did go past him and I scored aswell. And I didn't say anything tohim at the end.'
Hard man: Kevin Muscat (right) lives up to his no nonsense reputation by grabbing Milan Baros by the throat
His memory did not servehim that well, given thatMuscat had alreadywalked for a tackle onDanny Webber that was so badthe Australian's colleagues evencriticised him.
But Young was informed of thisshortly before joining team-mateson a hospital visit in Watfordyesterday and he rememberedthat the exchange with Muscat didin fact take place during thewarm-up.
In fairness to Young, he seems asunmoved by the praise he receivesas he does by the threats.
'As I've said, I have confidence inmy own ability,' he said.
'But therehas been a lot said from MartinO'Neill to this manager and youtake it all with a pinch of salt andinstead just concentrate on whatyou are doing on the field.
Friendly foes: Ashley Young takes on injured England team-mate Aaron Lennon
'As long as I am playing well andthe manager says I am playing well,that is all I have to concentrate on.
'I don't think those comments arethere to put any pressure on me. Iknow what I have to do whenever Istep out over the white line.
'I have to concentrate on doingthe best I can, whether it bethrough the middle or out wide. Iknow what job I have to do and Iam full of confidence knowing I cango out there and do it.'
It seems his failures are somethinghe also prefers to ignore. Hemissed out on last summer's WorldCup but when the subject israised he moves the conversationon quickly.
'It was a disappointment,' he said.
Listen up: Fabio Capello talks to his players ahead of the clash against Montenegro
'But that is in the past and I amlooking to the future and concentratingon what is happening atpresent.
'You have to put it to the back ofyour mind and have the strength ofcharacter to say it is a disappointmentand build on that.'
He cares not where he playsagainst Montenegro, only that hefeatures in the team.
'I am aversatile player who can play left,right or through the middle,' hesaid.
'I just have to keep on improvingand working hard in training. Thenit is down to the manager to decideand I will see what comes of itwhen the team is picked onTuesday.'
Not that he's nervous.
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