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Five-year deal at West Ham was surprise - Dean Ashton

Dean Ashton
Ashton was forced to retire at the age of 26

Former West Ham star Dean Ashton admits the club's new owners will be angry he was given a five-year deal just 18 months before he was forced to retire.

David Sullivan and David Gold took over West Ham last month and criticised the way the club had been run.

Ashton, 26, missed the whole of the 2006-07 season after a broken ankle, but signed the lengthy deal in 2008.

"I'm sure in hindsight they are ripping their hair out," Ashton, who retired in December 2009, told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Ashton broke his ankle in an England training session in August 2006 but recovered sufficiently to play again for the Hammers in the 2007-08 season, after which he put pen to paper on a long-term deal at Upton Park.

"Five years seemed a lot but I felt like I had got back and was playing really well - I deserved it," said Ashton.

"I felt like I had got to somewhere near my best and obviously they thought that as well. I did not decide on how many years."

Ashton's misery began when he suffered the broken ankle ahead of England's friendly against Greece.

"The injury came as a shock because everything was going so well," he said.

"People feel sorry for me because I have had to retire but doing that all the time, trying to get back when it is so bad - there is no fun in that. There is no joy in playing if you are like that.

"In the end I was glad to finish because I was in a lot of pain and I'd had enough. They said if you carry on you will do yourself a lot of damage. It was like a weight off me."

Ashton had spells at Crewe and Norwich before he joined West Ham at the start of 2006.


His performances for West Ham, including a goal in the 2006 FA Cup defeat against Liverpool, caught the eye of then England manager Steve McClaren and Ashton was tipped for a long and successful career at international level.

But the injury, picked up in a challenge with Shaun Wright-Phillips, ruled him out for the rest of that season.

He returned in 2007, scoring 11 goals in 20 league appearances, and won his only England cap in the 3-0 victory over Trinidad & Tobago under current England manager Fabio Capello in June 2008.

Ashton started the 2008-09 season with two goals in the victory over Wigan but the injury problems soon returned and he managed to play in only four more games - his final appearance coming against West Brom in September of that year.

"The last three-and-a-bit years have been tough. It was a battle to get back first of all even though I played a season once I got back," added Ashton, who scored 19 goals in 56 appearances for the Hammers.

"I thought I was over my troubles and my ankle was slowly getting better although it was very stiff. I started the 2008 season well.

I could have happened to anybody, it just happened to be me

Dean Ashton

"But then I started to feel strange feelings in my ankle. I knew something was not right and in a training session I just had to stop because of the pain."

Ashton's retirement was officially announced in December and he is still using crutches after undergoing another operation to fuse his ankle bones together.

"The pain and suffering was from the bones rubbing together and by early December I was really struggling just to walk and do normal things," he said.

"So the decision was made to fuse my ankle joint which means it won't move at all but it will be pain free. So I should be fine to walk normally and play golf.

"I will be able to have a kick around with the kids in the garden but I will not be able to play football, tennis or badminton - anything that requires a lot of movement."

Ashton says that he has not yet thought about the future as he is more focused on recovering from from his latest operation.

Dean Ashton (left) and Gareth Barry
Ashton played under Fabio Capello against Trinidad & Tobago

"Because I had retired and straight away had another operation, everything is still about my ankle," he said. "That's all I think about.

"Once I get over that then I can think about what I want to do next. It's something that I will look at but I don't know whether I would enjoy it."

Ashton revealed his retirement will not hit him financially even though he lost out on an insurance payment because of his attempts to make a comeback.

"As a Premier League player, if you can't amass enough money to be financially secure then there is a problem," he said.

"I saved really well and I feel like I am in a good position at the age of 26 that I can go out and try to do something that I really want to do."

Despite all his tribulations over the last three years, Ashton is philosophical about the incident that caused the initial injury.

"I feel proud of what I achieved and to play as much as I did," he concluded.

"I don't really remember what happened in the tackle. It's a long time ago now.

"I don't have any resentment to Shaun Wright-Phillips because there is no point thinking like that. I am sure he did not want to break my leg.

"That was three years ago and there is no point dwelling on that. I could have happened to anybody, it just happened to be me."

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see also
Injured Ashton forced to retire
11 Dec 09 |  West Ham
A career cut short
11 Dec 09 |  West Ham
Ashton's playing career in doubt
10 Nov 09 |  West Ham
Ashton signs long-term contract
04 Jun 08 |  West Ham
Ashton breaks ankle in training
15 Aug 06 |  Internationals
Hammers complete Ashton transfer
23 Jan 06 |  West Ham
Norwich secure 3m Ashton signing
10 Jan 05 |  Norwich

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