Monday, 6 August 2007

Ashton Muscles In

Sam Allardyce has hit back at Alan Curbishley over the breakdown of Kieron Dyer's move to West Ham United. Curbishley criticised Newcastle officials for the way the deal collapsed at the 11th hour on Friday, insisting he had never seen anything like it in football after the price for the 28-year-old was pushed up late in negotiations. In several of today's papers, Allardyce has blamed West Ham officials for the farce. "If Curbs started it, then we are more upset than they are, that is a fact," he said. "Why? That is confidential. He is not as upset as we are about West Ham. In the end, we decided he was undervalued. We escalated the valuation to what we thought was realistic and West Ham did not want to roll with it. "Kieron is back with us, a top player with a squad who are growing. Will it be difficult for Kieron? It's life, isn't it? He has got a contract. You sign it. The length of the contract means you are employed by an employer, something happens, it doesn't work, you come back and get on with it. If anything else happens in terms of West Ham increasing their offer, then great. If they don't, then clearly they don't value him as highly as we do."

Dyer’s house and car were vandalised after last week's friendly with Juventus by angry Magpies fans. Allardyce added: "The attacks on his car were out of order completely, that is the first thing. Nobody should have allowed that to happen, certainly not the parents of the people involved. He has got to put that behind him and get on with his football." To that end, the club expect Dyer to return to Tyneside to pick up the pieces of his Newcastle career. The player missed yesterday's friendly victory over Sampdoria and is said to be deeply unhappy at the recent turn of events. The Times claim Allardyce held weekend peace talks with Dyer but the England midfield player remains furious with Mike Ashley over the Newcastle United owner’s involvement. While Allardyce pleaded with Dyer to "get on with it", on Tyneside, the article insists it is a deeply unlikely prospect. Dyer had explained to Allardyce that he wished to leave Newcastle for “family reasons” and is understood to have told his two children last week that he would be moving south. One possible escape route could be Portsmouth after Harry Redknapp last night revealed a previous interest. He said: "I was interested in him before but he was on big money. On his day is as good as anyone."

Another player under fire is West Ham's very own pants model. The Arsenal forward Robin van Persie has described his former team-mate Freddie Ljungberg's recent criticism of the Gunners as "a bit weak". Ljungberg accused Arsenal of lacking ambition in the wake of his move to West Ham United, citing the departure of Thierry Henry. And Dutchman Van Persie admits his comments were not well received in the Emirates Stadium dressing room. Speaking in The Independent, van Persie said: "If you play nine years at a club like Arsenal, you can say some nice words. If you're coming up with excuses about Thierry's departure and about promises from the club, it's a bit weak. I was disappointed and I know a few others were as well. He had a fantastic period, he was once the best player in England, so come on and say some nice things for this club."

Over at The Guardian, Dean Ashton has been talking about his excitement ahead of the new campaign. "We want to put everything behind us, start a new season and get the fans excited with that," he said. "Everyone wants a fresh start and the players we've brought in have given us an extra buzz. There has been a lot of changes at the club and it feels like a decent place to be and that shows." This brings me nicely to the last item of this post. I'm reproducing the following Daily Mail article in full, as not only is it a decent read, it is also the first time in months that this particular paper has printed a remotely positive West Ham United related story.

Ashton Muscles In On Fresh Start With Hammer
By Matt Barlow

Dean Ashton is the embodiment of a new sunny mood at West Ham with his surfer's blond rinse, bright eyes of intent and a pre-season goal to remind 25,000 fans what they have been missing.

A storm cloud has been whisked from the skies above Upton Park with the exit of Carlos Tevez, allowing the club to finally enjoy football once again. And chairman Eggert Magnusson agreed it was nice to see his team beat Roma 2-1 without worrying about Tevez, who will join Manchester United this week after severing ties with the Hammers on Friday. "Everyone wants a fresh start," said Ashton. "It would be very sad if the fans just carried on singing about Tevez and weren't singing about the players in the team. We want to put that behind us."

Ashton has been out for a year after breaking an ankle in an England training session ahead of what should have been his international debut. He never played alongside Tevez and his return from injury reinforces the illusion that the relegation scare, the disciplinary charges by the Premier League, accusations of conspiracy from Sheffield United and a legal battle with Kia Joorabchian were merely scenes from a bad dream.

The striker came on at halftime with the Hammers one down. George McCartney equalised with a powerful header before Ashton collected a ball on the right, skipped past his marker, forged into the penalty area and fizzed a low shot into the net. He forced two more acrobatic saves from Roma keeper Gianluca Curci. "It's a massive step for me," he said after the game. "Back in the dark old days I was struggling through, not able to walk, and to go out and play in front of everybody and play well, even for 45 minutes, is really pleasing. I had faith in my ability but when I first came back and was training, I wasn't the best. It was a case of getting that confidence back. I've seen a different side to football and I'll never, ever take it for granted again. I appreciate what I've got. I'd play for nothing if it meant getting out there again. That doesn't matter to me — I just want to play football for years."

Ashton has honed a more muscular frame after months of gym work to maintain his fitness levels, but his smooth link-up play suggested he had lost none of the subtleties that impressed England coach Steve McClaren. He said: 'I've put on a bit of muscle during my recovery but I've lost a lot of fat. It's not about how heavy I am or how big I look, it's about how I transfer it on to the pitch in terms of speed and endurance. I feel like I'm a stronger runner. I'm strong upper bodywise. My legs feel great. I don't feel particularly sore, so that's a credit to the work I've done. It's coming up to a year since the injury but it doesn't scare me, it's gone. I've forgotten about it. I feel fine now. I don't cringe when I'm tackled. That doesn't bother me. It's just that fact that I've had to limp for a year. I just want to make sure I'm right. I really haven't thought about England to be honest. At the moment, I've got to get back in the West Ham team."

And the new blond hairdo?

"I'm obviously in the last chance saloon with my hair, so I thought I might as well do something for a change, for a new start," he said.

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