West Ham United are happy to confirm that Dean Ashton has signed a new contract with the club that will keep him at the Boleyn Ground until June 2013.
The England striker put pen to paper on the new deal on Wednesday evening, bringing to an end the negotiations that had begun as soon as the curtain fell on the 2007/08 season. Speaking exclusively to whufc.com, Ashton said: "I am delighted. I said all along that I wanted to sign. I feel I have still got a lot to show the football club and the fans. I am really happy that I have signed and now I can look forward to next season."
Having just made his international breakthrough last Sunday away to Trinidad and Tobago and scored five goals in his last eight appearances for the club, Ashton was particularly pleased the deal was struck so swiftly in the close-season. "It is a fantastic way to end the season for me. It is not going to be on my mind and now with a five-year contract, the future is here. I said I wanted to stay at the end of the season and I am really glad it has been done so professionally and sorted now."
West Ham United Chief Executive Scott Duxbury said: "I am delighted that we have agreed this new contract with Dean. It underlines the ambition of the club to progress and challenge at the top end of the Premier League. Dean is an important part of our plans for the new season and beyond. We are looking forward to seeing him scoring plenty of goals for West Ham United in the future."
Ashton has been at the Boleyn Ground since signing from Norwich City in January 2006 and played a key role in the run to that season's FA Cup final, when he scored at the Millennium Stadium. However, an ankle injury the following August cost him the entire 2006/07 campaign. Upon regaining form and fitness, Ashton established himself back in the side - ultimately scoring ten Premier League goals in 20 starts and eleven substitute appearances. The 24-year-old is determined to do even better next time around.
"I didn't play as many games as I wish I could and obviously I missed the season before," said the forward, who had two years left to run on his previous deal at the Boleyn Ground. "I am really excited about next season. I feel I can only get better so I am really glad that I have signed and can look forward to the future. I think after the injury I had as well, it is nice the club have managed to agree with me on a new deal. We are really looking to the future.
"At the start of the season the fans didn't see the best of me. Towards the end, they hopefully saw that I was back to what they expect. I know I had a few fans who were perhaps weren't sure that I would get back to my best but I feel like I am only going to get better. Hopefully I can again play even better next season, score more goals and play more games."
He added that he also could not wait to see the return to fitness of key men such as Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy, and the increased attacking options that will bring, although he recognises competition for places will be fierce. "I am really excited about that. I am sure there are quite a few of the players at the club that have missed more games than they would have liked - especially the new signings. Again, it is going to be an exciting pre-season and we will look to challenge."
WATCH OUT FOR MORE FROM DEANO ON THURSDAY