Friday, 5 October 2007

Deano Yes, Greeno No

Dean Ashton has been included in the England squad for the next round of Euro 2008 qualifiers against Estonia and Russia. As expected, the striker has been given the nod from Steve McClaren after his consistent form for the Hammers scoring three times in the last four matches. The Hammers hitman receives his first call-up in over a year after recently returning from the ankle injury which threatened to end his career. McClaren picked Ashton for his first ever squad in charge of the England team and was devastated when the striker broke his ankle in training, 15 months later he said he was delighted to be able to call him up. "I am absolutely delighted to be able to include Dean Ashton in the squad. It was sickening for me when he got that inury, but he has worked so hard this past year and he has got his rewards. He has improved game by game and we will watch him tomorrow when he will no doubt impress again and he most certainly deserves this call-up."

Ashton, speaking on the official site, described how he heard the news: "When I came into training this morning I spoke to the Manager and he let me know so that is how I found out. Then I spoke to Steve McClaren on the phone and he relayed the same message to me that I had made the squad and talked me through when to meet up. He said well done for getting back from the injury, it obviously happened when I was away with England with him so we talked about that as well and he just said he was really pleased to see me back and scoring."

Speculation about Ashton's inclusion in the squad has been rife this week but the twenty-three year old waited patiently to hear the news for certain and was ecstatic to get confirmation of the call-up this morning. "I tried to ignore all the press talk and was just waiting to hear for definite today. I was just absolutely delighted really, to have had the year that I've had it is just amazing to finally get here. It is obviously well documented that I picked up the injury before I had a chance to make my debut for England so to get back in that squad after being out since then is a really great feeling and to know all the hard work I have put in has paid off is just fantastic." It was a long, hard and often frustrating year for Ashton to get back to full training and playing again for West Ham and this England call-up hopefully means he can put that period behind him and just look forward. "Hopefully this is the final thing that can help me put last year behind me. Obviously my first priority was to get back playing well for West Ham and only then could I even think about getting into an England squad, now that has happened I just want to go away with the team and enjoy the experience, especially because my first experience of it was so short lived."

With Wayne Rooney back in the squad and Michael Owen making a speedy recovery from his operation to also be included, Ashton knows he may have a wait on his hands to break into that elusive starting eleven but he is happy to be patient. "There is a real competition for places there which is why it is that much more flattering to get included with such other high caliber strikers. I know I will have to be patient in terms of getting my actual debut as these are very crucial games for England so the manager obviously has to pick what he feels is his strongest eleven and I obviously support that." The striker believes the experience he will gain from being away with the national set-up will be invaluable to his West Ham career and the call-up itself sets him up nicely for tomorrow's away trip to Aston Villa. "I want to reach the highest level possible and I think the experience of training and maybe even hopefully playing with England can only enhance my game immensely which can only be good for West Ham. It is definitely an extra boost going into tomorrow's match. I am really looking forward to it as the last time I played at Villa Park was in the semi-final of the FA Cup so I have great memories there and all that along with the England call-up should help me to a good performance along with the rest of the team."

However there was no such luck for goalkeeper Robert Green, who continues to be overlooked by McClaren despite proving to be the most consistent English goalkeeper in the Premier League thus far this season. Green is another who got injured whilst on England duty but unlike Ashton has so far been unable to find his way back to the international arena. Just this week he was voted best goalkeeper in the Premier League for his display against Arsenal.

Provisional squad in full: Carson, James, Robinson; Brown, Campbell, A Cole, Ferdinand, Lescott, P Neville, Richards, Shorey, Terry; Barry, Bentley, J Cole, Downing, Gerrard, Lampard, Wright-Phillips, Young; Ashton, Crouch, Defoe, Johnson, Owen, Rooney, Smith

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