“You’ve always got to play with a smile on your face,” says Brad Young. “If you do that, you play your best football.”

This is the kind of wisdom you expect to hear from older footballers but Young, at 18, has already learned important things about life in the game.

The Aston Villa striker, who is on loan at Carlisle United, talks about a time when the sport wasn’t quite so much fun. It refers to the time he was on the books of Villa’s Midlands rivals West Bromwich Albion, who released Young in his early teens.

“It was my own fault that I got released,” he says. “I kind of had behaviour issues back then. The next day I had a couple of clubs ringing me, but I fell out of love with the game at that point. I felt like it was too serious. I was just a young kid at the time.

“I went back into Saturday and Sunday league football for a year, smashed it there, and ended up getting scouted for Villa and a couple of other clubs. But Villa was local and I supported them.”

Young says he returned to the professional scene with Villa as a happier young player. Being involved with local football for that 12-month spell was the period when he started appreciating it as a game again.

“It was too easy [the standard], but I was just enjoying football, scoring loads of goals, it made me fall back into love with it. I realised this is what I want to do for my future.”

Young, who is from Chelmsley Wood, Solihull, describes why he had initially chosen West Brom over Villa and other clubs at a tender age. “I was just six years old, playing Sunday league, kids’ football, scoring loads of goals," he says. "West Brom, Blues [Birmingham City] and Villa all wanted me and I chose West Brom in the end. I let my dad take control because training was better at West Brom and I thought they’d develop me better as a player. Before that, back in the day at Villa, they just played games as a kid, not proper sessions.

News and Star: Young battles with Hartlepool's ex-Carlisle defender Gary LiddleYoung battles with Hartlepool's ex-Carlisle defender Gary Liddle

“But when I found out Villa wanted me [the second time] I went straight there – didn’t bother going to another club.”

Young says he went to Villa Park as a “more mature” boy. “At West Brom, loads of stuff was going on at school, behaviour problems, but then I just focused myself, got back into it and mainly just stuck to football.”

That approach has led Young onto a promising path with the Villans. Last season he starred in their FA Youth Cup winning side and also made his first-team debut, when a glut of academy player stood in for the club’s Covid-hit seniors in a valiant FA Cup showing against Liverpool.

Carlisle, where he is on a season-long loan, is the latest step in his progress. Young was a regular scorer for Villa’s development side last season and his bustling, hard-running style has lent comparisons with a young Jamie Vardy.

He has also shown his competitive edge in his handful of United outings so far, but is keen to learn much more about the hard nature of lower-league football.

“I’ve got to get used to the football,” he says. “The football in League Two, compared to Aston Villa 23s, is very physical, long balls. It’s not really like playing out from the back, tiki-taka, get to the halfway line and put a good ball in behind. Now it’s just smack it and you’ve got to run onto it, pin defenders, get flick-ons, second balls.

“That’s what I’m hoping to learn – the physicality, learning how to play against big defenders, experienced defenders. Some of the defenders in this league have had 200-odd games, sometimes more. It will be good experience for me to play against them and see how I do.”

With this in mind, Young drew praise from United boss Chris Beech when, a few minutes into a substitute debut at Port Vale last month, he left a feisty challenge on the home side’s seasoned defender Leon Legge.

He says: “All the lads were saying that the gaffer likes it when the physical lads leave a challenge on someone, so I thought I might as well on my debut…”

Young had caught Beech’s eye with an energetic performance for Villa’s Under-21s at Brunton Park in last season’s Papa John’s Trophy. A few weeks later he was involved in a rather higher-profile experience, when Dean Smith’s senior players were downed by coronavirus and an academy side had to step up at short notice to face Liverpool in the FA Cup third round.

They performed bravely, losing 4-1 against a Reds side containing the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum. Young came off the bench on the hour mark and produced one impudent moment of skill to evade visiting sub Xherdan Shaqiri.

“That was a mad couple of days,” he says. “We found out a couple of players had Covid, and the next thing you know our academy manager was saying a couple of [academy] players might be playing in the game – and then he called us in again and said the whole team’s playing!”

Was he nervous when warming up to face Jurgen Klopp’s megastars? He shakes his head. “I don’t get nervous before a game, I don’t know why. I think it’s because I’ve been doing this that many years, it’s just normal. I just wanted to get out on the pitch and play.

“It was amazing, a dream come true. I did alright. It was one of those games where they [Liverpool] were just popping the ball. Literally a running session…”

News and Star: Young celebrates scoring for Aston Villa against Liverpool in last season's FA Youth Cup final victory (photo: PA)Young celebrates scoring for Aston Villa against Liverpool in last season's FA Youth Cup final victory (photo: PA)

Villa overcame Liverpool's Under-18s to win the FA Youth Cup later in the season. Young scored a penalty in the final. “Amazing, that was. The biggest youth trophy that you can win. A year ago, we were talking about it at Villa as a group: ‘Imagine winning that cup’. Then we went and done it.

“There were 5,000 Villa fans there and it felt like 20,000. They were loud. That got us going and got me going.”

Young picks out academy coach Sean Verity as a key influence in his time at Villa. “He was 15 and 16s manager, now he’s with the 18s. He had a big effect on me as a coach. When you’re training with him, it’s all serious but outside of football you can go to him for anything.”

Young said those at Villa in charge of loan moves for highlighted Carlisle as a worthwhile destination. His agent called him early in the season to alert him to United’s interest and he was brought up to speed on the Blues.

“I had a couple of conversations with the loan people at Villa, and they were telling me about Carlisle’s football, showing me through the stats, how they counter-attack – they said this was the perfect move for me because that’s my type of football.

“I like the ball in behind, to rat about, press, everything. Before I came, the gaffer [Beech] was talking to me about how he likes to play it in behind. I can come and get it to my feet and I don’t mind that, but the majority of the time I like running in behind. When I saw the football they played, I thought it was the perfect move.”

News and Star: Young scores for United in the Papa John's Trophy shoot-out against HartlepoolYoung scores for United in the Papa John's Trophy shoot-out against Hartlepool

Young started for United in the Trophy against Hartlepool last week, scoring a Jorginho-style penalty in the Blues' shoot-out win, and has had two sub outings in the league. He hopes to press his claims further whilst learning from older heads around him at United.

“The gaffer called me for a chat yesterday and said, ‘Just be patient, and when you get your opportunity, take it’,” he adds. “I’ll be patient, hopefully get into the starting team soon and when the opportunity comes, try to grab it with both hands.

“I’ve just got to earn his trust, really. When he puts me on or starts me he’s got to know I’m gonna run about and get the job done. I’ve got to earn that trust from now.

“It’s a great group of lads here, everyone’s technically good on the ball, and physical. It’s a good challenge and good for my experience to be here. I just want to show everyone that I’m at this level in my career, still a young lad, but I can score goals in League Two and can play men’s football.”

Young knows there is lots of interest from Villa supporters in his progress at United. “It’s amazing I’ve got so many Villa fans and even Carlisle fans behind me, keen to see me achieve good things,” he says. “It’s a good feeling and I want to show them that when I get the opportunity.”

Life at Carlisle is a learning curve in other ways. Beech has already spoken about Young’s difficulties in adapting to certain domestic tasks and the striker laughs when this comes up in his first United media session.

“When I first came here I was cooking for the first time in my life,” he says. “I’d normally get my mum to do it all. But I’m getting there. I made fish and noodles, but to begin with I couldn’t work the oven. I had to phone my mum and ask her. It took about half an hour to get it done. It tasted alright in the end. Not as good as my mum’s though.”

So Young won’t be having guests over for dinner parties just yet? “Only if they’re cooking…”

This weekend brings another first for Young, for United’s long trip to Crawley will oblige the forward and various other team-mates to perform a time-honoured initiation ritual. He intends to carry out this task with the same smile he wants to bring to his football in a blue shirt.

“Just before I came in here for this interview we were all talking about it,” he says. “There’s about 10 lads that have got to sing…but I don’t mind it.

“I ain’t got a song in mind. Every time I sing it’s normally something different. I like to have a laugh about it so it ain’t just a boring singing song. I like to get everyone going a bit…”