Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Ashton Grounded Until Next Season

Today brought the news that every West Ham fan feared but secrectly expected- official confirmation that Dean Ashton will not play again this season. The Hammers striker had a further operation on Monday night to remove an area of scar tissue emanating from the original broken ankle he suffered while training with the full England squad back in August last year. Speaking on the club website, physio Steve Allen said: "We have left no stone unturned in our attempt to get Dean back out on the football field as soon as possible, but it was clear that he had gone as far as he could with the methods that had been used. We sought the opinions of the leading ankle specialists in the country and, following their advice, the decision was made to operate. It will be six weeks before he is back running, and we felt that the timing was right, in order for Dean to make a fresh start with the rest of his team-mates when the squad returns for pre-season training in the summer." Ashton has made just one appearance at the Boleyn Ground this season in a pre-season friendly against Olympiakos.

When Ashton does eventually return to football he will do so in a West Ham shirt. That is the opinion of chairman Eggert Magnusson who is quoted in the Newham Recorder as saying: "Dean is here to stay as I see it. He hasn't played all season, so I have no doubts that he will be a West Ham player for years to come. He has to start playing games before he can interest other clubs, then you can start to speculate, but he has to reach the level he was at before." There was no such positive news over Carlos Tevez. Magnusson admitted: "I'm sorry, but I have no control over whether Tevez goes or stays, I thought everyone knew that, it is no secret, so how can I control that? When I first held a press conference here I said that I would never enter into a contract where the club doesn't own the player - it is out of the question for me. So I am sorry, it is out of my control, it is for his owners to decide where he goes."

Also in the Newham Recorder are further quotes from Magnusson concerning the club's move to a new stadium. "My vision is to build a new stadium and to build a successful team slowly but surely," confirmed the Icelandic businessman. "I hope to have a new stadium for West Ham before the Olympics. It will be close to here, that is all I can say, and it will have a capacity of 60,000 plus because we have the fan base for that sort of figure." The article also confirms plans to develop the Academy as well as upgrading the training ground either at Chadwell Heath or somewhere bigger.

In other news, The Telegraph has picked up the Danny Gabbidon quotes from yesterday to claim West Ham's demise and potential relegation is down to complacency from the players and an inability to recognise the warning signs. The Guardian follow the same story, with Jeremy Wilson claiming fingers have been pointed in most directions when attempting to explain West Ham's startling decline but the problem lies largely within the dressing-room.

Finally, Guardian columnist David Conn predicts the Hammers face a pounding over third-party player agreements. The author of The Football Business and The Beautiful Game claims sympathy for West Ham's struggles will not soften the Premier League's probe into the deals for Tevez and Mascherano and the consensus around football is that the club, to compound an awful season, could have the book thrown at them. It is an informative and quite sobering read that suggests our increasingly desperate season could be just about to get a whole lot blacker.

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