Last December West Ham and England forward, Dean Ashton, was sadly forced into early retirement at the young age of 26. An injury plagued career having finally taken its toll. His ankle was to never fully recover a break sustained during training with the England squad in 2006 and 14 months after he played his last game for West Ham in September 2008 he retired.
It seems that his brief time at Norwich City had a profound impact on Ashton, as he has moved back to Norfolk with his wife and family despite only being with the football club for a year now living within 5 miles of Norwich City’s Colney training ground. Although having received an offer of help with training to be a coach from his former Manger at Crewe, Dario Gradi, now Director of Football and Caretaker Manager. Ashton has been reluctant to step back into the game immediately. He states that “I haven’t been to a game since I retired, but I really want to get back. It sounds really bad, but I wasn’t bothered, but I definitely will try to get to as many Norwich games as I can and start taking my little boy, Ethan, as well.” Certainly it must be tough for him to bring himself back to being associated with football. Especially whey you consider the constant reminder of what could have been with regards to his career, he would get when watching a game particularly any involving former colleagues.
Despite receiving a pay off to the tune of £3 million by West Ham, costs the insurance company would not cover as his retirement resulted from an existing injury when the insurance was negotiated. There had been rumours that Ashton would sue former England team mate Sean Wright-Philips for inflicting the injury that ultimately led to the end of his career. Fortunately these have proved to be nothing more than rumours as it would be a sad day for football if what is an extremely unfortunate but occupational hazard was taken to the courtroom. Also the pain of not being able to play again and fulfil what was evidently tremendous potential, would not be healed for Ashton with vast amounts of money won through a tribunal.
It is clear that Norwich is where his loyalty now lies as a supporter, not only does he want to start taking his son to their games he is also keen to make peace with fans who fill resentful following the manner in which he left for West Ham. He says that “Definitely I would’ve stayed. I wanted to stay at Norwich but the main reason I left was because I think we were mid-table at the time. Mid-table – we would’ve had to have gone on an incredible run to go up and that’s another year without Premier League football. At that stage of my career and my age I thought I had got to move on.” He also claims he was genuinely injured when he withdrew from an F.A cup game which had he played would have made him cup-tied and was unaware of interest from West Ham at that time.
After retiring for the sake of his health so he would still be able to walk in later life. And now having spent time with his young family away from the game I would be surprised to see him not return in some way to football. Most probably in a coaching role as offered by Gradi which could be the best way of putting the tragic end to his playing career behind him.