Birthday Boy Dean Ashton – “The Hero Of Upton Park”
He made over 240 appearances as a forward in the Football League and Premier League for Crewe Alexandra, Norwich City and West Ham United, and was capped by England. He was highly praised as a talented centre forward but had a career frustrated by injury. Dean Ashton, England’s silent hero. Today he is 34.
Early Life :
Born in Swindon, Wiltshire and raised in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, Ashton spent his youth career playing at both Stoke City and Crewe Alexandra. He was a product of Crewe’s renowned youth development policy under manager Dario Gradi. He signed scholarship forms as a 16-year-old in 2000 before making his first-team debut on 28 October as an 83rd-minute substitute in Crewe’s 1–0 win at Gillingham and became one of the youngest players to represent the club.
In the 2003–04 season, he scored 19 league goals in the First Division, including his first Football League hat-trick in a 3–2 win at the JJB Stadium against Wigan Athletic on 6 March 2004 – a match in which he converted two penalties. Ashton scored 18 times for Crewe in the 2004–05 season prior to becoming Norwich City’s record signing at £3 million. He scored on his home debut for Norwich City against Middlesbrough in an exciting eight goal thriller, Norwich came back from 4–1 down to draw the match 4–4. With Norwich out of the top flight there was much speculation surrounding Ashton’s future at the club, with some people believing a player with his qualities merited a place in the Premier League. Many clubs, including Manchester City and Charlton Athletic, considered him; the Addicks manager, Alan Curbishley, was reportedly prepared to axe six of his players to buy the Norwich youngster.
Norwich accepted West Ham’s bid after apparently having been in negotiations with them for a few weeks. On 22 January 2006, the day the transfer was announced, Ashton agreed personal terms with the club and underwent a medical later in the day. He was unveiled at a press conference prior to West Ham’s match against Fulham on 23 January. Ashton said “The chance of a swift step up to the Premiership is too good to turn down. I’m really delighted to join a massive club like West Ham. When West Ham came along I jumped at the chance to be back and playing in the Premiership. My ambition has always been to be playing in the Premiership regularly and hopefully the club can make the best of my ability. I spoke to Norwich manager Nigel Worthington and the board and told them I wanted to pursue this opportunity. I’d like to thank Norwich for understanding that and allowing myself and my representative to talk to West Ham.”
In January 2011, West Ham, seeking compensation for Ashton, prepared a writ against The Football Association for £10.5m. In 2013, Ashton started his own claim for work injury compensation for loss of future earnings following his 2006 injury while playing for England.
Ashton progressed through the England youth set up, racking up an impressive goal-to-game ratio. In August 2006, Ashton was first called up to the England senior team for their friendly against Greece, part of new manager Steve McClaren’s team. However, just a day before the match, the striker suffered a heavy tackle from Shaun Wright-Phillips which resulted in a broken ankle in training and missed out on a chance to make his England debut against Greece. He then later was ruled out for more than a year and missed the whole of the West Ham season. He was recalled to the England squad and was fit to face Estonia. He finally made his debut, more than two years after his first call up, in the match against Trinidad & Tobago on 1 June 2008.
After Football :
After retiring from football, Ashton worked as a commentator for televised football matches. On 28 March 2016, he played in Mark Noble’s testimonial at Upton Park, scoring with an overhead kick.
Football League Second Division runner-up: 2002–03
West Ham United
FA Cup finalist: 2005–06
Most of his good times wasted in injuries. A poacher who scored 93 goals in his club career. Happy Birthday Ashton!
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) November 24, 2017