Date: 21st August 2008 at 7:50am
Written by:

I have often pondered the genesis of terrace chants in honour of footballers. Who gets to play superstar DJ and decide which tune and lyrics fit the bill for a recent signing or a new boy up from the youth team?

Perhaps a few of the more vocal of the support decide in the pub beforehand and repeat it relentlessly until it has diffused through the assembled masses on the Holte. Or maybe someone is brave enough (or harder than anyone else who tries) to take the decision, and is noisily seconded by his peers. Might it be the invisible hand – the accumulated preferences of the Villa crowd picking a winner from many competing versions, each creator nursing a long-held ambition to join the ranks of football’s troubadours? I also remember once seeing a Sky Sports News interview with a fat bloke in a pub who apparently was writing songs for Liverpool fans – the Scouse listened for his words and revered him like a big fat Scouse prophet. However, I’m not aware of any Astonian equivalent (song writers that is, not fat blokes in pubs).

Whatever the process, we seem to have gone through a bit of a creative renaissance recently. After about ten years in which pretty much everybody who possibly could got given ‘there’s only one Gareth Southgate / Ian Taylor / Mellberg’, to the extent that we even shoehorned Juan Pablo Angel’s name into it the format, our current front two have fine tributes rolling forth from the stands (though I would have loved my brother’s suggestion of ‘Doctorin the Tardis’ to have caught on for John Carew. It would have sounded great on the pre-match tannoy, and comes with added fan-friendly grunty ooh-ah quality. But the current ‘bigger than me and you’ choice does just fine, not least because at least one of the lines must be factually accurate at least 99.9% of the time, an unusual achievement for the genre).

It is also noteworthy that usually only the biggest players get a chant straightaway. Collymore was one that springs to mind, and he came with ready-made effort. It’s possible the above processes have to run their course before a song takes hold for a less well-known new boy. But there also seems to be a performance-related element, whereby, quite rightly, a player has to prove his worth before being honoured with the Holte’s voice. Again, the means by which this assessment of merit is made is beyond me. Scoring and making goals of course provides obvious impetus.

Which brings me on to my reason for writing. WHERE THE HELL IS ASHLEY YOUNG’S SONG???!!!

Ashley is without doubt the best winger I have seen at Villa (in my view he is better than Daley, and I am a bit too young for Morley). At present he is our team’s most exciting and potent creative force. As valuable as Barry is to the way that Villa play, I can’t help but be thankful that Liverpool can’t have noticed Ashley’s performances, since he seems to be far more what Liverpool need right now. His delivery is superb. He also seems to be getting better and better, and is increasingly a goal threat in his own right. He also has a great attitude – he puts the work in – and when Man City, showing in typical ‘Sparky’-style, tried to kick him out of the game, he got back up, kept going, and planted a superb ball onto Carew’s head for the opener.

And yet, on Sunday, from where I was sitting in the Holte, Salifou had his name chanted more times than Ashley. I have nothing against Salifou, but I can’t help but feel this is an injustice. And we pinched that idea from Liverpool’s song for Harry Kewell, probably from that fat scouser in the pub.

So what is the problem? Indecision? Writer’s block? Lack of consensus? ‘There’s only one Ashley Yo-ung’ doesn’t quite work, so the obvious contender is ruled out. It’s not as though his moniker doesn’t offer a host of pop songs to plunder – for example, we might consider continuing Villa Park’s Gabby-inspired 80’s pop revival by doctoring Young Guns by Wham. It can’t be a rhyme thing – Young is hardly Agbonlahor, and we managed at least a half-rhyme there (sort of – in any case it’s funny so it’s fine).

I must confess that while I think an awful lot of Ashley – as is obvious – there is a part of me that is scared to get too attached for fear of later hurt. Not sure whether this says something about me, modern football, or Villa’s place in the order, but I am haunted by Aidy Boothroyd’s comment when we signed Ashley – that if he continued to progress as he expected Villa wouldn’t hang on to him for long anyway. A self-consoling crumb of comfort, understandably motivated by frustration at losing his one talented player perhaps, but it is hard to disagree with him. News of a new contract and associated ‘love this club’ noises are of course welcome, but I think you would have to be born yesterday to think that contracts guarantee a thing in modern football, apart maybe from a transfer fee, and even then, I wouldn’t put my mortgage on the current system lasting too long (sadly, the contractual arrangements underpinning mortgages seem eminently enforceable).

But one thing I most certainly do not want to happen is that we hasten Ashley’s departure by failing to show him due adoration and respect. Yes, I know this got us nowhere with Barry, but we have do something, otherwise we supporters would be totally insignificant wouldn’t we? Maybe don’t answer that.

Maybe he’ll read these words – we all know Ashley likes to look for love on the internet. But if not, Holte, hear my plea – I don’t care how it happens but just get Ashley a song!!
And finally…

One way I’m pretty sure songs aren’t popularised is by circulation on the internet (unless you’re Sandi Thom, and surely no-one thinks that was a good idea). But, just as a starter for ten, I thought I would pen a tribute of my own. I’m not sure whether this might be self-defeating, given that 40,000 people singing about him getting caught in the act might not be the best encouragement to stay true to the claret and blue. But I amused myself, which I take as good enough reason to share. Further verses welcome.

The skill, the pace
He’s big in cyberspace
Ashley Young, Ashley Young

He’s small, he’s quick
He loves to point and click
Ashley Young, Ashley Young

He plays, left wing
Webcams are his thing
Ashley Young, Ashley Young