Ashton: Manchester City goals proved I could be a West Ham player

Dean Ashton celebrates scoring against Manchester City in the 2006 FA Cup quarter-finals


Twelve years ago, Dean Ashton was one of the hottest young properties in English football.

The 24-year-old had scored regularly in the Championship for Crewe Alexandra and Norwich City but, with just 16 Premier League appearances under his belt, Ashton was an unproven quantity at highest level when West Ham United spent a club record £7.25m to secure his services in January 2006.

The centre forward himself admitted to feeling the pressure to prove himself in a Claret and Blue shirt, but goals on each of his first three Premier League starts against Sunderland, Birmingham City and Everton quickly justified the Hammers’ decision to pay such a large fee.

And when Ashton netted twice more in an unforgettable 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final victory at Manchester City on 20 March 2006, any doubts the player himself might have been feeling also evaporated.

West Ham, of course, went on to reach the final, where Ashton hit the net again, only for opponents Liverpool to prevail in a heart-breaking penalty shootout.

It was pleasing to be able to prove in that first six or seven games that I was worthy of the fee and being at a club like West Ham

Dean Ashton

“I was lucky that I didn’t play for Norwich when West Ham played against them in the FA Cup third round and knocked them out,” the striker reflected. “So, I was able to be part of that special FA Cup run.

“At that stage of my West Ham career, it was all about repaying that record fee that the Club had paid for me and proving to my teammates and the staff that I was up to it.

“The two goals I got at Manchester City in the FA Cup sixth round in March 2006 went a long way towards me proving myself worthy of that price tag.”


Dean Ashton is mobbed after scoring West Ham United's second goal at Manchester City


Ashton’s goals at the City of Manchester Stadium were both proof of his outstanding quality.

The first saw him exchange passes with Matty Etherington, collect a flick from captain Nigel Reo-Coker, beat Sylvain Distin with a superb turn and rifle a low left-foot finish past David James.

The second showed the forward’s knack for being in the right place at the right time as he converted Yossi Benayoun’s cross from close-range.

More than a decade on, Ashton remains rightly proud of his memorable performance against a City side managed by current West Ham assistant Stuart Pearce.

“The first goal, a low left-foot finish from Nigel’s pass, showed what I was all about as a player, then the second one was put on a plate for me by Yossi.

“I wasn’t proven. Yes, I’d had half a season in the Premier League with Norwich, but it was pleasing to be able to prove in that first six or seven games that I was worthy of the fee and being at a club like West Ham.”