Houllier backs Young's England claims

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom, Feb 27, 2011 (AFP) - Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier has told England coach Fabio Capello that Ashley Young can give his side the creative threat needed to make an impact at Euro 2012.

Capello was at Villa Park on Saturday to see Young operate in a withdrawn role behind Darren Bent and score twice in a 4-1 victory over Blackburn which moved Villa away from the Premier League relegation zone.

For some time since Houllier's arrival at Villa Park there has been a debate as to whether Young should continue playing as a left-sided midfielder or operate in a free role off a main centre forward, but the debate will be over after the performance he conjured up in front of the England coach.

Houllier himself felt Young should play wide when he first arrived to replace Martin O’Neill, but he is in no doubt now after Young won and converted a penalty, scored Villa's final goal and played a part in the third for Stewart Downing as Villa moved five points clear of the bottom three.

"He is an inspiring leader when he is on the pitch. His effort is excellent and as he goes on in the game his work rate goes up and up and his level of influence," Houllier said.

"I like him in this position just behind the striker. He can be a striker himself and he can also link the play between defence and midfield. It is good that Ash has added goals to his game.

"More important than the result is the quality of the play we did in the game. We made some mistakes, but I want the team to play with confidence and to be entertaining. What I liked about this performance is we dared to play.

"The movement that brought about that last goal for Ashley and that includes the assist from Downing for the last goal which was very good."

Rovers boss Steve Kean admitted he set his Blackburn team up to try to cancel out the threat of Young in his free role, but they totally failed and are now just four points ahead of the relegation zone.

They will be further hampered in their bid to beat the drop by the loss of New Zealand defender Ryan Nelsen, who faces a suspension for his straight red card from referee Martin Atkinson in second half stoppage time for a foul on Young.

Kean felt Nelsen and his young defensive partner Grant Hanley, who was unfortunate to concede the own goal for Villa's third, were two of his side's best performers.

But the suspension for Nelsen will offer the defender a chance to return home to New Zealand and his relatives, who have been caught up in the earthquake in Christchurch.

"It was an unfortunate end to a very difficult week for Ryan and now we are looking at another suspension. Fortunately we'll have Christopher Samba back soon, when he gets over his virus," Kean said.

"Even though we conceded four goals I thought Nelsen played really well. It has been a tough week for him with all the commotion back home.

"But he has shown true professionalism and he has been in training every day, despite all that. He has conducted himself admirably and that sending off rounded off a bad week.

"I have already told him if he wants to go back he just has to let me know, but he is obviously concerned about the aftershocks. At least he knows all his family is ok."

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