‘My life’s never going to be the same’ - ex-Norwich City star

Dean Ashton celebrates after scoring for Norrwich City against Manchester United Picture: Archant

Dean Ashton celebrates after scoring for Norrwich City against Manchester United Picture: Archant - Credit: NATHAN CLARKE

A former Norwich City striker has spoken about the pain that still lingers following his enforced retirement.

Dean Ashton scores the winner for Norwich City against Newcastle Picture: Archant

Dean Ashton scores the winner for Norwich City against Newcastle Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant © 2005

Dean Ashton was forced to calls it quits in December 2009 – three years after sustaining an ankle injury during an England training session.

Ashton - who had a year at Norwich after signing from Crewe in January 2005 for £3m – was at the peak of his powers, playing in the top flight with West Ham, but he was never able to reach his full potential. And the thought of what might have been is difficult to shake off.

“There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about still wanting to play and what ifs,”, said Ashton, 35.

“I never got to actually get to the end of my career and think I’ve given it everything. I’ll always have that.

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“I’ve always got a reminder with my leg too. My life’s never going to be the same, not only in terms of football but also what I can do in my day to day life. That’s always a reminder.

“Everyone I ever speak to that loves football wants to talk about what happened and how sad it was. You never forget it.”

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Ashton, in an interview with the Mail On Sunday, admits it was hard to fall back in love with the game.

“I didn’t watch football for about two years because I was too bitter and twisted to,” said Ashton, now working as a TV pundit for Quest. “I was thinking Andy Carroll got a move to Liverpool and I felt as though I was doing better than him when I retired.

“You look at other players that you know. Some players don’t even like football, it’s just a job to them. They just do it. They don’t give their all. It’s hard to watch them play and have a good career.

“That’s a natural feeling for any player who had to finish early. If you’re not bitter that’d be strange. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like that. It was just too difficult.”

Ashton said the injury was “torturous”.

“You are known as Dean the footballer, you are not known as Dean the normal person who loves football and this is his job. That’s what you’re seen as,” he said.

“If you can’t do that, you feel pressure from family and friends who come and support you all the time, from the club because they’re paying your wages, have maybe put a huge transfer fee on you, from the players, especially if you’re a key part of the squad and the team isn’t doing well.

“The big one is the supporters. Everywhere you go you’re asked about it and you just want to repay the faith by going out and producing and you’re not able to do that.

“You feel very inferior and that shouldn’t be the case – it is effectively a job and something you enjoy doing, and if you can’t do it, that’s what’s really difficult.”

Ashton says during his time at Norwich a psychologist would speak to the players “really really well”, but said it was “all seen as a bit of a joke”.

He said: “It was seen as a weakness and you wouldn’t want to show any weakness, certainly to the coaching staff because you wanted to play every week.

“That is changing – managers are changing in terms of their mindset. The pressures are exactly the same. Hopefully players have that different outlook because they need to. Looking back, in hindsight, I probably should have spoken to a psychologist a bit more frequently. That could have at least helped me.”

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