Laursen: Awesome Ashley has wow factor for club and country
17th Feb 2011
It was great to see a number of Villa players performing so well for England in Copenhagen last week - even though it was against my own country.
I watched the Three Lions' 2-1 win over Denmark on TV and it was pleasing to see Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Darren Bent, as well as my former team-mates James Milner and Gareth Barry in action.
But, for me, one man stole the show - Ashley Young.
Ashley has proven many, many times for Villa that he is a top Barclays Premier League player. Now he is doing it for the national team as well - and there is no reason why he cannot play like that for England on a regular basis.
Having spent most of his Villa career on the wing, he has adapted well to a new role playing behind the striker this season.
But his success in the central position has come as no surprise because he is so skilful technically, works very hard, he has got a lot of ideas and his vision is very good.
England's other goalscorer, Darren Bent, has also stood out since making his move from Sunderland and I hope he continues to be an excellent signing for Villa.
I look at his goalscoring record and it is fantastic. The good thing is when you buy a player like him, he is used to playing in the English top-flight so he does not need a year to adapt.
He was ready to come in from day one and he did that by scoring on his debut against Manchester City.
An arrival like that really does give the dressing room a huge lift.
Speaking of new signings, I am very impressed with the business Gerard Houllier was able to do in the January transfer window.
I have watched Jean II Makoun play for Lyon many times when commentating on Champions League game for Danish TV.
There are some players you see that stick out and I remember his great, great goal against Real Madrid.
He is a midfielder that you see and really take notice of. I was very happy about that signing, it was an excellent piece of business.
I didn't know a lot about Kyle Walker until he joined the club but he has made a terrific impact and I was very impressed with Michael Bradley for the USA during the World Cup.
Both players look as though they will be excellent signings.
The arrival of Walker has added further to the tremendous options Villa have defensively.
Ciaran Clark is somebody who has caught my eye. I didn't get to train or play with him during my Villa career but everyone spoke highly of him when he was captain of the youth and reserve sides.
Since breaking in to the first team, he has played as a midfielder, a centre-back and a left back. It takes great quality to perform as well as he has done in such a variety of positions.
Carlos Cuellar has not been playing regularly but to me he has real quality both as a central defender and a right-back.
There are a lot of options there and that is always a positive for a manager.
You know that everyone is on their toes and is very focused on doing well - if they are not they will be on the bench. It is always positive for a squad.
He was one of my best friends when I was at Villa and I remember him being a breath of fresh air when he joined.
Brad just makes his presence felt straight away on and off the pitch. He trains hard and he communicates very well.
As a goalkeeper you want somebody who speaks to you. When he first came I was delighted to have a goalkeeper who communicates clearly as well as having amazing ability.
He works so hard in the gym before and after training. He is a fit lad, which is why he has been able to continue playing so many games.
After a few disappointing results at the start of his reign, Gerard Houllier is beginning to see his methods come to fruition.
It always takes time when a new manager comes in and speaking to people I know at the club he has made a lot of changes - new people around the place and new methods of training.
It takes time for the players to see what he wants to do and also for the manager to make his ideas rub off on the squad.
It is not something that you can just have a meeting about then the players just do it.
You have to train, you have to practice, talk about it and have a lot of meetings - everything takes time.
He had a difficult start but the results have been really good recently. The squad is good, the players are good so hopefully he can lead Villa to some more victories and oversee a surge up the table.
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