An Oxfam charity event at the Boleyn Ground has been backed by Wayne Bridge
Wayne Bridge has hailed the "brilliant" Hammers fans for the way they have
helped him to settle in at the Boleyn Ground. The left-back, who has made an
immediate impact since arriving in January, was speaking to West Ham TV at a
special event to raise money for a Mali project in conjunction with Oxfam.
It featured scores of children from Keys Meadow Primary School from Enfield
running a mile around the Boleyn Ground pitch. The aim is to help children
and their families in rural communities to improve their literacy skills and
have access to clean water. The idea of running the mile and raising money
for the project was chosen by the children themselves, with the overall aim
to run collaborative marathons around the pitches and tracks of stadiums and
athletic centres across London. Bridge was delighted to get involved, and
paid tribute to the youngsters' commitment. "A mile is a long way for kids,"
he told West Ham TV. "But they seemed to have a lot of energy. They have got
big smiles from meeting me but it is more the other way round to see the
smiles you can put on their faces. It is good meeting fans that appreciate
you and meeting fans that cheer us on week in, week out. "The fans have been
brilliant ever since I have been here. I noticed they do get behind the
team. Even when we were three-nil down against West Brom I was thinking we
would go out after half-time and they would have left. "They were still
there cheering us on and they definitely helped us in that second half. It
would be nice to give them something to shout about on Saturday."
Spence extends City stay
Swift progress for club and country has compelled Jordan Spence to stay out
on loan for longer
Jordan Spence is having the time of his life at Bristol City. Two days after
making his England Under-21 bow, the 20-year-old has extended his spell
until the end of the Championship season on 7 May. Spence has shone in his
first four matches at Ashton Gate, helping the team to three wins in four
matches and making the right-back position his own. He did not think twice
about staying for longer and could still then return to West Ham United with
a chance of figuring in the Barclays Premier League before the top-flight
campaign closes on 22 May. After that could yet be a dream call for the
Young Lions at the UEFA U21 EURO in the summer.
But first, Spence is just delighted to be playing regular football at a high
standard. "Three wins in four matches has been a good start," he told
whufc.com. "When I first signed, they were on the back of two wins but it
was nice to be able to come and keep that winning momentum. "It is brilliant
to be playing games, playing and winning football matches is what it is all
about and when those two things work in tandem there is nothing better."
Living in the south-west has not fazed the homegrown Hammer after previous
successful temporary spells with Leyton Orient and Scunthorpe United in his
"It is a great club, that is why I am here. I had heard good things from
other people. I am living in a really lovely city, there is a great bunch of
lads and a good coaching and managerial set-up. I was really grateful for
Keith Millen giving me the chance to come down and play. Hopefully I can
repay that faith."
With the Hammers first team in a survival scrap, Spence knew chances may be
limited to force his way into Avram Grant's thinking. He was eager to leave
reserve-team football behind and prove his worth in a high-pressure
situation - hopefully with the aim of staking his Boleyn claims in future.
"It had come to the stage of the season where it was important to go out and
play football. I am obviously really thankful for this move. It is a real
challenge, from top to bottom the results are really unpredictable. Like the
Premier League, in the Championship no game is a given and there are plenty
of real quality sides."
Spence is certainly playing alongside quality, with England goalkeeper David
James behind him in the City goal - "he is a great character on the pitch
and in the dressing room" - and the defender was keen to stress he was also
aware of the need to use his loan as a valuable learning curve. He is
relishing being used in a full-back position but will play wherever Millen
chooses to deploy him. "I would say that I am comfortable in both position.
I do enjoy right-back and the opportunity to join in the attacks, it is a
different challenge. I just like to play wherever anyone wants to use me."
Certainly Spence aspires to becoming a starter for the Hammers, having had a
brief taste of top-flight action on the last day of last season. "My
long-term plan is to play for West Ham United and it would be nice to come
back and play. Of course it is up to the manager but this loan move can only
What will also help is if Spence furthers his international experience. He
has long been in the Young Lions set-up, although the jump from U20s to U21s
was the hardest to take before this week's appearance in a 2-1 home defeat
by Iceland. "I give thanks to God that I have been [with England] since I
was 16. It is always special. It added to it for me this time because I
hadn't been involved for a while. I really enjoyed the whole time, being
with the squad and getting the chance to push on. Being part of Stuart
Pearce's plans for the summer finals will be a tough ask, although the fact
that Steve Wigley is the No2 for Bristol City and the U21s could be a
positive. He is also receiving plenty of encouragement from the Hammers
coaching staff, who have kept in close contact with him since he first made
the loan move west on 3 March. "There is a massive pool of players and a
high number of young players in my position around the country. I don't know
what will happen but all I can do is be as good as I can be. I need to
finish the season strongly and see where it takes me. There is so much time
left but, of course, I would love to go to the finals and represent my
Demba takes SBOBET prize
Hammers striker Demba Ba has been named the fans' finest for March - fitting
reward for his superb displays
Demba Ba has won the SBOBET player of the month award for March 2011. The
Senegal striker - away with his national team this week - won after securing
31.6 per cent of the vote, just ahead of Scott Parker on 30.2 per cent.
Robert Green was not far behind in third with 24.7 per cent of the more than
3,000 votes cast by Hammers fans. Parker had won for the previous three
months but Ba edged it for his displays in the 3-0 home win against Stoke
City - when he got the ball rolling with the opening goal - and the goalless
draw away to Tottenham Hotspur. In all, he has scored four goals in five
Barclays Premier League appearances since his January arrival.
The previous SBOBET winners this season have been:
February 2011 - Scott Parker
January 2011 - Scott Parker
December 2011 - Scott Parker
November 2011 - Victor Obinna
October 2011 - Mark Noble
September 2011 - Manuel da Costa
August 2011 - Kieron Dyer
London Olympics: Judicial review threat over stadium
Tottenham Hotspur have demanded answers from Olympics chiefs ahead of
possible court action over West Ham's successful bid for the 2012 stadium.
The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) confirmed it had received written
questions from lawyers for the north London club. The OPLC has four weeks to
respond, after which Tottenham could request a judicial review. A spokesman
for London's mayor defended the stadium bidding process. Tottenham may seek
to challenge the process the OPLC followed in making its decision to choose
West Ham as its preferred bidder for the stadium. An OPLC spokeswoman said:
"We can confirm that a letter before action in relation to potential
judicial review proceedings has been issued. "The Olympic Park Legacy
Company ran a very rigorous and transparent process in its selection of the
recommended preferred bidder. "We have been supported by independent experts
in their field in terms of legal, financial, commercial and technical
The spokeswoman added: "We have been consistent, fair, objective and
entirely equal in our dealings with the bidders from start to finish. "We
are confident that if these judicial review proceedings are pursued, our
approach will be entirely vindicated by the courts." The UK government and
the office of the mayor of London are joint owners of the OPLC and will both
be involved in the court action. The office of London Mayor Boris Johnson
confirmed he had received a letter confirming Tottenham's decision. A City
Hall spokesman said: "We are advised and believe that the decision to choose
West Ham as the preferred bidder was properly taken."
A statement released by Tottenham Hotspur said: "At this stage the club has
not issued any proceedings against the OPLC or any other party in respect of
the decision regarding the award of the Olympic Stadium. "The club's lawyers
have written letters to the OPLC, the Mayor of London, the Minister of Sport
and the Secretary of State for Local Government and a separate letter to the
London Borough of Newham raising a number of concerns with the processes
which led to the award. "The letters also requested - in the interests of
transparency - for the provision of certain information concerning the
processes, which the club considers that it is entitled to. "Tottenham
Hotspur will determine its next step as and when it receives a response to
Judicial reviews allow bodies to challenge decisions on grounds of
illegality, irrationality and unfairness. Reacting to the news, David Lammy,
Member of Parliament for Tottenham, said: "I'm deeply disappointed that
Spurs are still looking to move to Stratford. "A judicial review is a costly
and lengthy process that will only line the pockets of lawyers, leaving the
club, its fans and the Tottenham community in limbo. "We have made real
progress in the last few weeks to kick start the redevelopment at White Hart
Lane. "That is what fans want, it is what Tottenham wants and it is what
Fans' fury at ticket price hike
Filed: Wednesday, 30th March 2011
By: Staff Writer
Sunderland fans are considering boycotting their team's visit to the Boleyn
Ground in May after West Ham announced that the cost of an away ticket was
rising by a third. Fans of the Black Cats were expected to arrive in east
London en masse on May 22nd for the final game of the 2010/11 Premier League
campaign. However many are now threatening to stay away after West Ham
confirmed that away fans would be expected to pay £46 per ticket - up from
£36. Supporter's website, Salut! Sunderland raged: "Be prepared to pass by
the mortgage broker on your way to paying for the West Ham United match. The
appalling rip-off merchants who have charge of West Ham have decided that
Sunderland supporters should be mugged for £46 apiece for the dubious honour
of a seat at the Boleyn [Ground]."
Meanwhile the London branch of the SAFC Supporters' Association confirmed
that they had considered balloting members with regards to boycotting the
game but had since reached the conclusion that "this is a matter of personal
choice and for many members, games in London offer the only opportunities to
follow the team."
West Ham's Premier League future could yet rely on the outcome of the game.
Sunderland are unlikely to be affected although currently sit just six
points clear of the relegation zone (and West Ham) in ninth place, having
already amassed 38 points.
Tottenham OS statement
Filed: Wednesday, 30th March 2011
By: Staff Writer
Tottenham have confirmed that they are considering legal action in regards
to the decision to name West Ham United as the OPLC's preferred bidder. We
reported earlier how the north Londoners were threatening to seek judicial
review over the decision to award West Ham the tenancy of the stadium after
the 2012 games.
And Tottenham have since issued a brief statement confirming that they are
'raising a number of concerns' over the decision, which some have claimed
was a foregone conclusion prior to the decision to award United preferred
bidder status. "At this stage the club has not issued any proceedings
against the Olympic Park Legacy Company (the OPLC) or any other party in
respect of the decision regarding the award of the Olympic Stadium," Spurs'
statement read. "The club's lawyers have written letters to the OPLC, the
Mayor of London, the Minister of Sport and the Secretary of State for Local
Government and a separate letter to the London Borough of Newham raising a
number of concerns with the processes which led to the award. "The letters
also requested - in the interests of transparency - for the provision of
certain information concerning the processes, which the club considers that
it is entitled to. Tottenham Hotspur will determine its next step as and
when it receives a response to these letters."
The OPLC have four weeks to respond to Tottenham's 'enquiry'.
Spurs seek OS review
Filed: Wednesday, 30th March 2011
By: Staff Writer
Tottenham are set to take legal action over the decision to award the use of
the Olympic Stadium post-2012 to West Ham United. It was confirmed today
that the north Londoners - who were defeated in their bid to land preferred
bidder status last month - have informed the Olympic Park Legacy Committee
(OPLC) of their decision to seek judicial review of the process. The OPLC -
who insisted this lunchtime that the entire process was conducted as a
'rigorous and transparent' process - now have four weeks in which to reply
to Tottenham, who will then decide whether to process with legal action in a
bid to overturn the decision. "We can confirm that a letter in relation to
potential judicial review proceedings has been issued," a spokesperson for
the OPLC told the BBC. "The Olympic Park Legacy Company ran a very rigorous
and transparent process in its selection of the recommended preferred
bidder. We have been supported by independent experts in their field in
terms of legal, financial, commercial and technical advice. "We have been
consistent, fair, objective and entirely equal in our dealings with the
bidders from start to finish. We are confident that if these judicial review
proceedings are pursued, our approach will be entirely vindicated by the
Consistency is key
Filed: Wednesday, 30th March 2011
By: Kwame Boakye
As I sat down with my pint to watch our recent draw with Tottenham at the
Lane I was very comfortable in the fact that I knew exactly what the back
four would be, I knew who'd be lining up in our midfield and I knew who
would be leading the line.
The squad is finally around 95 per cent fit and with it the likes of
Faubert, Kovac and Ilunga can't even win a place on the bench these days.
The change in recent performances has been remarkable.
Defensively without accidents waiting to happen i.e. Spector, Faubert, and
Ilunga, (one can only imagine the horrors of what we would've witnessed at
the Lane had any of the aforementioned taken the field) we looked robust,
strong and decisive.
There is little doubt we were under the cosh for large periods but that
inevitable feeling that we were about to concede and that suddenly we would
all be hit with a barrage of texts never really seemed like occurring.
Over the last few weeks our back four has been made up of the same
characters; the tinkering has finally come to an end and it seems we've
stumbled across a back four that can stand up to the scrutiny.
I think I speak for us all when I decree that we all just feel that little
bit safer when any of Tomkins, Da Costa and Upson are at centre half;
Tomkins has matured and improved from last season immeasurably, Da Costa
looks like the no nonsense centre-half we've needed for years and Upson on
his day is still in the upper echelons of Premier League centre backs.
At right back Lars Jacobsen looks positively cultured and assured compared
to the very erratic Faubert and anyone who saw how masterfully Wayne Bridge
shackled the twin threats of Bale and Lennon would surely agree with Mr
Redknapp that he was arguably the signing of the transfer window.
The horrendous errors at the back that have blighted us for the majority of
the season have gradually been weeded out; the stability and consistency of
picking four from the same five has coincided with us just looking far more
The recent victory over Liverpool being the perfect example; just how many
clear cut opportunities did they carve out?
This leads me rather nicely on to our midfield trio of Parker, Noble and
Hitzlsperger…isn't it refreshing to have midfield players who can pass,
tackle and shoot! Remember when we lost 0-3 at home to Arsenal? Parker and
Hitz were injured and Noble went off early with an injury and we were left
with Kovac, Boa Morte and Spector!
It was embarrassing to watch as that midfield three literally couldn't
retain the ball for more than about two passes; that game was a rude
awakening as to how limited as footballers the like of Spector, Boa and
Kovac truly are.
They got completely overran without putting up as much as whimper.
Now as much as it pains me to say it, going to White Hart Lane is just about
as difficult a fixture as you can get in English football these days. So to
see the way our first choice midfield three not only battled and scrapped
but actually passed the ball was a joy to behold. Parker, Noble and Hitz
actually do something that's golden in football (beyond Spector and the
like!) They keep the ball! Keep it ticking over waiting and probing for the
The forward line now falls under my scrutiny and the one man on every
Hammers fan's lips…Demba Ba. With the deal in the offing I took a butcher's
of his finest moments on Youtube and I was very impressed. I know it's easy
to look good on Youtube (Step forward Pablo Barrera) but Ba really impressed
me; always looked sharp, a clinical finisher, good in the air, quick and
powerful. It's no surprise to me the impact he's made, but it's not just his
goals; Ba's arrival has finally seen the perennially frustrating Carlton
Cole show a bit of form instead of the odd sporadic moment of genius.
Add to this Robbie Keane and Victor Obinna returning from injury, as well as
Freddie Piquionne who is just as frustrating and brilliant as Cole at times;
it all leaves Avram Grant with a delightful selection headache…the only
shame is that players like Freddie Sears and Junior Stanislas who did
brilliantly for us when we were short of attacking options have now faded
The challenge now for Avram is to find a trio to lead the line and allow
them to develop a similar understanding to Parker, Noble and Hitz.
There is little doubt, we now have a forward line that's the envy of the
majority of the league and is our best chance for yet another West Ham
United late show; where we sleep through about 90 per cent of the season and
then turn it on when the games start to run out and then in typically
spectacular fashion (Tevez winner at Old Trafford in '07 and Scotty Parker's
winner against Wigan last season) we survive.
The 'decision' to stick with Avram Grant despite the way it came about… I
think we all know what really happened there…for goodness sake the man was
waving goodbye to the fans after the Arsenal game!
Grant must be given credit for turning things around and particularly the
manner in which he has done it. I must confess in my weaker moments, staring
squarely into the abyss I contemplated - I'm ashamed to admit - Sam
Allardyce and his particular brand of 'football' in a desperate bid to get
us out of the squalor.
I pictured a five-man midfield with endless long balls aimed up towards
Coley for flick-ons and knock-downs; I pictured endless what I call 'Stoke
City goals' which are basically really scrappy finishes from set-pieces
inside the six yard box. I pictured a real conflict between the fans who
would be equally relieved to stave off relegation (again) but also disgusted
that in order to save ourselves we had to betray the footballing legacy and
philosophy that the likes of Lyall and Greenwood had put in place.
So the fact we're getting results without resorting to the methods of the
likes of Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce actually makes this whole ordeal
easier to cope with.
The credit must go to Grant and his trusted lieutenant Wally Downes and even
in a strangely obscure way to Messer's Gold and Sullivan and of course
Karren Brady; whatever happened or didn't happen they stuck with Grant and
perhaps now we are starting to see the benefits of that decision regardless
of the way it was reached.
To conclude, once again we've got ourselves in a predicament and our
fixtures aren't the kindest, but if we can keep our current team and system
together I feel we can haul ourselves out of yet another mess. We look solid
at the back, we have a midfield that can all retain possession, tackle and
shoot and lastly we have a forward line the envy of most.
We've given ourselves a chance; but I honestly believe this year's
relegation race will go down to the final day with as many as five or six
Consistency in our team selection is the key to our survival as we simply
have more in the locker than the teams around us.
Spurs to Hammer Olympic move
By PAT SHEEHAN
TOTTENHAM have launched the first steps in getting the decision to allow
West Ham to move into the Olympic Stadium thrown out. The North London
club's legal team have written to the Olympic Park Legacy Committee and
Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson raising concerns that led to the Hammers
getting the vote ahead of Spurs. Among Tottenham's chief points is how
Newham Borough were able to make a £40million loan of local taxpayers' money
to help West Ham move in. The EU and the coalition Government do not like
state aid for private enterprise. Tottenham also feel Newham, the local
council for West Ham's current ground at Upton Park, did not discuss fully
their own proposals to take over the stadium after the 2012 Olympics. It is
widely believed West Ham got the nod as they committed to keeping the
running track around the stadium - but that was never part of the original
criteria for any new tenant. Tottenham reckon there is strong enough legal
opinion for a possible judicial review of the decision. And if any courtroom
move is successful it will mean the original vote in West Ham's favour being
quashed and the bidding process started all over again.
Spurs continue Olympic Stadium fight
Published 14:17 30/03/11 By MirrorFootball
The battle for the Olympic Stadium could end up in court after Tottenham
challenged the legitimacy of the decision to award it to West Ham following
next year's Games. A bitter contest between the two clubs for the keys to
the £537million Olympic showpiece arena ended in February with the Olympic
Park Legacy Company (OPLC) choosing West Ham as the preferred bidder. The
Mayor of London and the Government rubber-stamped the organisation's
decision this month, meaning the Hammers were entitled to move into the
stadium in the summer of 2013.
Reports today suggested Tottenham had already applied for a judicial review
into the lawfulness of the decision, but the club denied that this
afternoon. The north London club did confirm, however, that they had sent
letters to various people involved in the decision-making process demanding
information regarding how the committee came to award the stadium to West
Ham. A Spurs statement read: "At this stage the club has not issued any
proceedings against the Olympic Park Legacy Company (the OPLC) or any other
party in respect of the decision regarding the award of the Olympic Stadium.
"The club's lawyers have written letters to the OPLC, the Mayor of London,
the Minister of Sport and the Secretary of State for Local Government and a
separate letter to the London Borough of Newham raising a number of concerns
with the processes which led to the award. "The letters also requested - in
the interests of transparency - for the provision of certain information
concerning the processes, which the club considers that it is entitled to.
"Tottenham Hotspur will determine its next step as and when it receives a
response to these letters."
The OPLC appear to have been bracing themselves for the prospect of the club
pressing for a judicial review into the decision, despite Spurs' denial that
that was the case. An OPLC spokesperson said: "We can confirm that a letter
before action in relation to potential judicial review proceedings has been
issued." The 14-person strong OPLC board, chaired by Baroness Ford, sought
advice from a number of bodies and organisations before awarding the Hammers
the Stratford stadium, and they are confident that their decision was
correct. The spokesperson added: "The Olympic Park Legacy Company ran a very
rigorous and transparent process in its selection of the recommended
preferred bidder. "We have been supported by independent experts in their
field in terms of legal, financial, commercial and technical advice. "We
have been consistent, fair, objective and entirely equal in our dealings
with the bidders from start to finish. "We are confident that if these
judicial review proceedings are pursued, our approach will be entirely
vindicated by the courts."
Should Spurs initiate a review, a judge will have to decide whether the
process to award West Ham the stadium was legal. Tottenham originally
planned to move to a 56,000 ground next to their current home in Haringey
before bidding for the Olympic Stadium became an option. A number of Spurs
fans bitterly opposed the proposed move to move to East London, insisting
that the club should stay in N17 as part of the original plan, which was
called the Northumberland Development Project. Tottenham MP David Lammy has
always supported the idea of Spurs staying in Haringey and even lobbied for
for the area around White Hart Lane to be part of an enterprise zone in
order to persuade the club to stay there. He said today: "I'm deeply
disappointed that Spurs are still looking to move to Stratford. "A judicial
review is a costly and lengthy process that will only line the pockets of
lawyers, leaving the club, its fans and the Tottenham community in limbo.
"We have made real progress in the last few weeks to kickstart the
redevelopment at White Hart Lane. "We have got a Mayoral Development
Corporation and we want an enterprise zone to boost Spurs. "I'm calling on
both sides - the club and the government - to come back together to work out
how to get the Northumberland Development Project back on the road. "That is
what fans want, it is what Tottenham wants and it is what London wants."
West Ham have yet to make a comment on today's developments. A spokesperson
for Newham Council, who partnered West Ham in their bid for the stadium,
said: "We have received the letter (from Tottenham) and will be considering
our next steps."
West Ham WILL stay up - Keane
Published 23:00 30/03/11 By Darren Lewis
Defiant Robbie Keane insists West Ham will not be relegated. The Republic of
Ireland striker, on loan at the Hammers from Spurs, says he has seen enough
quality in the Upton Park squad to convince him that they will be in the
Premier League last season. Keane, who scored for his country against
Macedonia at the weekend, said: "I think, as a group of players, we
certainly believe we won't get relegated." West Ham were outstanding in
their last Premier League match to hold Champions League quarter-finalists
Tottenham to a point. Keane added: "I think we have to believe that, after a
defensive performance like that - and that we certainly have the players in
the team who can score goals. "The table is so close. If we get a couple of
back-to-back wins, we're right back up there again."
LAST FOUR RESULTS - W W D D
REMAINING FIXTURES - April 2: Manchester United (H). April 9: Bolton (A).
April 16: Aston Villa (H). April 23: Chelsea (A). May 1: Manchester City
(A).May 7: Blackburn (H). May 15: Wigan (A). May 22: Sunderland (H)
KEY PLAYER - Scott Parker. Obviously. The England midfielder has been both
outstanding and inspirational in equal measure. The big tip for Player of
Depleted Man United return to scene of thrashing
By Mitch Phillips
LONDON | Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:03am BST
(Reuters) - Manchester United have already lost 4-0 at West Ham United this
season and, with a patched-up defence, they cannot afford a repeat on
Saturday as the Premier League title race resumes. A second-string United
side crashed out of the League Cup at Upton Park and with Rio Ferdinand,
John O'Shea, Jonny Evans and Rafael da Silva all ruled out, manager Alex
Ferguson will be short of defensive options. The international break came at
a good time for the league leaders and at least they should be boosted by
the return of captain Nemanja Vidic who emerged unscathed from his comeback
game for Serbia. "It has been a bad spell for us," said Ferguson, adding
that injuries were undermining any hopes of emulating the 1999 team who won
the treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. "It is going to
be more difficult than it was in 1999, we didn't have the injuries we do
now," he added. "There is a great desire to do it but we have so many
injuries to defenders at present."
United lead the standings on 63 points, five ahead of Arsenal who have a
game in hand. United still have to visit the Emirates as well as hosting
third-placed Chelsea (54 points) so the league is still wide open. United,
who have won only four of 15 away league games this season, start Saturday's
action with an 11.45 GMT kickoff and will be hoping the game follows a
similar pattern as the 4-0 league win at West Ham last season. West Ham,
however, are above the relegation zone on goal difference only and a third
home league win a row would boost their prospects of avoiding the drop.
Arsenal, who have to wait until 1630 to play Blackburn Rovers at the
Emirates, have won their last seven home games against them, scoring 25
goals in the process.
'It's almost as if I was never a footballer' Ashton taking time out to
rediscover his love of game that once promised so much
By IVAN SPECK
Last updated at 1:53 AM on 31st March 2011
Dean Ashton spent international weekend with his young family in their
Norfolk idyll, kicking a football around with three-year-old son Ethan on
the semi-circular lawn. There was no running, though, because Ashton no
longer can. He was three months short of his 23rd birthday when he was
called into Steve McClaren's first England squad for a friendly against
Greece in August 2006. The day before his debut, a heavy tackle in training
from team-mate Shaun Wright-Phillips shattered his left ankle and re-shaped
his life. In the changing room, pain, shock and fear took hold. Ashton
cried uncontrollably because he knew the injury was severe. He played only
41 more games, including 45 minutes for England in Trinidad. He knew he was
not the same player and his career was over at the age of 26. The same age
Wayne Rooney will reach later this year; they used to talk about Ashton and
Rooney as England's next strike force.
In spite of the occasional punditry for Sky and a visit to his old club
Norwich with family and friends, Ashton has pulled back from football
because he had to. He needs to love the game again and for that to happen,
the resentment over his fate has to subside. 'I'm still bitter about the way
football is for me personally, so I want to give myself plenty of time to
feel comfortable with it again,' he says with a refreshing candour. 'It's
very difficult when you finish playing the game but all of the players
you've been playing with carry on and players who are older than you are
still playing. 'I was in the same Under 21s team as James Milner, Darren
Bent, Carlton Cole, Michael Dawson and Stewart Downing. They are all in the
England squad now. That's what is hard to watch because you feel you would
have been there and involved in matches like the Wales game. That makes it
very difficult to handle.
'I don't feel bitter towards England. I don't sit in my room depressed when
England are on. And I have no grudge towards Shaun Wright-Phillips. It's
just that I'm not comfortable yet with loving football. The worst thing I
could do would be to rush back into football and really dislike it. 'It's
pretty simple. I just wish I hadn't broken my ankle. But I had a good 10
years in the game and the experience I had was fantastic. My best friends
who were at the Crewe academy with me but who never quite made it soon
remind me, "Hang on, we didn't make it and we've got nine-to-five jobs.
You've got to be grateful for what you had".'
There may be no grudge towards Wright-Phillips but ask Ashton whether the
Manchester City winger phoned him with a message of sympathy or apology
when his retirement was finally confirmed in December 2009 and the answer is
a simple 'No'. Ashton prefers to keep his feelings on the matter private
but you feel that if the boot which ended a fellow professional's career had
been on a different foot — Ashton's foot, perhaps — a phone call would have
been the minimum support offered.
Ashton also prefers to keep details of his financial severance from the game
private, but it is safe to say he does not have to find work until he is
ready. A five-year contract West Ham gave him in the summer of 2008, just a
few months before his ankle gave out for good, helped. 'I was lucky enough
that I managed to play in the Premier League for a few years and that makes
me more secure than a lot of players who retired through injury before the
money came into the game. 'I haven't even thought about managing, let alone
coaching at the moment, although the coaching side is something I want to do
when I feel I'm really ready to do it. 'You can't be retired from 26 for the
rest of your life. You need things to stimulate your mind. Although I've got
young kids at the moment, eventually they will go to school and I will need
to test my mind and keep my brain going. I'm not particularly busy but it's
lovely just to be spending time with the family and doing things I want to
do. It's nice to have free time. There are not many people in the country
who get to spend time with their kids like I am at the moment. 'The phone
didn't particularly ring a lot when I retired. I had the odd text message
but not many deep and meaningful conversations with people. However bad
they feel for you, professional players almost want to block it out. They
don't want to think about what it must be like and to think that it might
happen to them.'
You sense that the emotions at work, even within the articulate and
intelligent Ashton, are complex and still a little raw. At least the pain
has subsided from his left ankle and with it the heartache of fighting a
daily battle which he knew deep down would be lost. 'I was really glad to
retire in the end because I had had enough of operations and recovery and
waking up every morning not being able to walk to the fridge. It was a
weight off my shoulders when I did finish because it was just so difficult
being in so much pain. 'Now I can do normal things. I can walk, cycle, row,
although I can't do anything that involves running. My ankle doesn't hurt
but because it doesn't move any more, there's no flexion. I use my knee and
foot a lot to compensate. 'If I really had to run, then I could, but I would
have a terrible limp and I would look really stupid. I played in a charity
basketball match and it was a case that the ball and everyone went up one
end while I just stood at the other end until they all came rushing back. 'I
can kick the ball absolutely fine with both feet and I can mess around with
the kids, which is really nice because before I finished I wouldn't have
been able to do that. And I can play golf and walk the whole course.
'Obviously in later life I'm going to have trouble with my knees, my foot,
my hip, arthritis in the different areas which take more strain than they
probably should do, but I had no choice but to have the operation. It was
the best chance I had to have a normal life of walking and playing with the
Ashton's retirement was also a blessing of sorts for his wife Gemma, who
shared the mental anguish but who could do nothing to ease her husband's
pain through the ordeal. She said: 'It is really hard because you want to be
able to help your husband but there is very little you can do. He has coped
with it amazingly well. I don't know anyone who could have coped with it as
well as he has. I never saw him get upset. 'It's been a different journey
for him to the one the fans have seen. I think he has known himself for a
lot longer than they did that he would have to retire. When it came to it,
he had already dealt with that in his head. It's definitely a change from
when he was playing to have him around all the time, but really nice too,
especially because our children are young.' Being removed from the crowds
and the adulation does have one advantage for Ashton. It takes you away from
intrusion and insinuation like the whispering campaign during his Norwich
days that said that he was gay. He is not, but he wants to see football move
into a position where it becomes a non-issue, so that others do not have to
endure similar treatment. 'When I first came to Norwich, I was 21 and on my
own. Jason Shackell, Ryan Jarvis and Ian Henderson were really nice to me,
showing me around the city, going to the cinema or bowling. Me and Shacks
just went for a meal one night. The next minute it is, "Ashton and Shackell
are lovers". I always wonder who has got the time or the thoughts to do
something like that on the internet. But you can't stop it so why worry
about it? 'We're in such a modern world now that things like that shouldn't
matter any more. I know that football's meant to be a real man's game, as
they say, but it shouldn't be anybody else's business.' There are no
reminders of Ashton's career on show in the living area of the family home,
not his solitary England cap, nor his FA Cup runners-up medal from 2006, nor
any photo of his peroxide blond hair atop a claret and blue West Ham shirt.
Even if there were, he would view them as third-party possessions, such is
the detached perspective he now holds on life in the game. 'Because I've
gone from playing to not playing and not even being able to run, it's almost
like I never actually was a footballer, if that makes sense.
'It's really strange but that's because at the moment the last thing I could
do is play football. And I haven't played for nearly three years now.' When
he does return to football, the likeable Ashton will be an asset, but that
time has not yet arrived.
Tottenham's lawyers seek clarification over Olympic Stadium decision
Letters written to OPLC, London mayor and minister of sport
Tottenham join Leyton Orient in concerns over process
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 30 March 2011 15.46 BST
Tottenham Hostpur's lawyers have written to the Olympic Park Legacy Company,
the mayor of London, two government departments and Newham Council,
regarding the awarding of the 2012 stadium in Stratford to West Ham United.
A statement on Tottenham's website said: "At this stage the Club has not
issued any proceedings against the Olympic Park Legacy Company (the OPLC) or
any other party in respect of the decision regarding the award of the
Olympic Stadium. The Club's lawyers have written letters to the OPLC, the
Mayor of London, the Minister of Sport and the Secretary of State for Local
Government and a separate letter to the London Borough of Newham raising a
number of concerns with the processes which led to the award.
"The letters also requested — in the interests of transparency — for the
provision of certain information concerning the processes, which the Club
considers that it is entitled to. Tottenham Hotspur will determine its next
step as and when it receives a response to these letter."
Barry Hearn, the Leyton Orient chairman, has written to David Cameron and
Boris Johnson regarding the decision. He is concerned that, as Orient is the
club nearest to the stadium, it may be unduly affected by West Ham moving to