'They didn't know if I'd live' - stab victim Young

Brad Young......
Brad Young has scored 31 goals for The New Saints since joining the Cymru Premier champions in September [FAW]

Local parks can be where dreams of playing in cup finals are forged.

Brad Young would have been no different to countless others as he spent a sunny evening with friends close to his Solihull home.

He may now be Welsh football’s leading scorer, but back then he was a 17-year-old striker with Aston Villa’s academy and just starry-eyed ambitions of silverware and showpiece occasions.

But Young’s hopes that night in May 2020 turned into something far more immediate and instinctive than dreams of trophies.

He had been stabbed three times.

“The hospital didn’t know if I was going to live or survive.”

Sunday - when Young walks out for The New Saints looking to add the Welsh Cup to their Cymru Premier league title - will be a month and a day shy of four years since the incident.

He has been a revelation for the Welsh champions since his arrival eight months ago.

His 31 goals, including a golden boot-earning 22 in the league from just 25 appearances, have helped the Oswestry-based team dominate the Welsh domestic scene with only two draws spoiling an otherwise perfect record.

An invincible season for a player who once experienced how life is far more vulnerable.

Brad Young playing for Aston Villa U18s
Brad Young scored the winning goal for Aston Villa against Liverpool in the 2021 FA Youth Cup final [Getty Images]

He had been at the nearby Elmdon Park with three friends enjoying the relaxation of Covid restrictions when others had attempted to snatch some of his possessions.

Having been with West Brom as a junior before heading to Villa’s youth set-up, Young – now 21 – admits to his sporting streak of competitiveness kicking in as he refused to let go without a struggle. “I was punched and I ended up fighting back,” he told BBC Radio Wales Sport. “I didn’t even see the knife.”

Young says the pain was not obvious, being almost oblivious to what had happened, before looking down and seeing his grey tracksuit bottoms soaked with blood.

“I called 999 and was screaming that I’d been stabbed before I collapsed,” he said, with it soon emerging one of the wounds to his buttocks had caught an artery. “My friends had taken their coats off and were holding the wound when the ambulance came.”

The real worry, the real danger, Young says, came when he turned bright white and began sweating “as if I was under a shower” while in the hospital.

“They said then to my family ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen here’,” he added, with a three-litre blood transfusion eventually easing the concern.

And yet, with those local park dreams, Young admits even on the hospital bed before the surgery and explanations of the possibility of needing a colostomy bag, it was football that came to mind.

“I can remember actually asking if I was going to be able to play football again,” he recalled. “When they said they didn’t know, that’s when I looked at my mum and burst into tears.”

Yet, fortunately, incredibly, Young was back pushing to be fit for the start of the new season, a campaign where he would help Villa to an FA Youth Cup triumph.

It prompted loan moves to Carlisle and Scottish Championship side Ayr, before his release in the summer of 2023 saw him leave the West Midlands for the Welsh champions - albeit he admits to not knowing much about the league he was joining.

The league certainly knows about Young, his lightning-quick pace and prolific marksmanship complimented with a football intelligence willing to link play as well as finish it.

He earned the accolade as the division’s top scorer despite not joining until a month into the season, and – although happy with his tally – he argues he perhaps should have scored even more.

“I didn’t have a pre-season so I struggled for weeks as I got my fitness up and I was cramping up everywhere,” he insisted, adding that the switch from grass to the artificial pitches the majority of Cymru Premier clubs use also caused problems. “I had to adapt to everything but I got there in the end.”

The journey now takes him to Newport County’s Rodney Parade, the venue for Sunday’s final against Connah’s Quay Nomads in football's the third oldest cup competition.

The league title – won by a record-breaking margin of 33 points – and a League Cup trophy safely secured, a treble is on offer.

And rather than be affected by his nightmarish experience, Young says it fires him.

“I’ve used it as motivation,” he said. “There’s a lot of haters in the world but I’ve used what happened as fuel, to push on and do better. I’m healthy, I’m fit and doing well and I want to kick on again.”

Listen to the interview with Brad Young on BBC Radio Wales Sport, Friday 27 April from 19:00 BST, and later on demand with BBC Sounds.