Harrison Ashby 'feeling fit and feeling good' for West Ham United U23s
West Ham United U23s defender Harrison Ashby is feeling fresh and fitter than ever ahead of the new 2021/22 season.
If the Scotland U21 international’s pre-season displays have been anything to go by, Ashby is wasting no time in banishing his curtailed previous campaign.
That determination transpired in an impressively energetic display in the U23s’ 2-1 friendly defeat to League Two outfit Crawley Town on Monday evening, during which Ashby was a ubiquitous threat charging forward from right-back, particularly in a dominant second half for the young Hammers.
The full-back constantly seemed to be making inroads down the right-hand side time and again, and was involved in Thierry Nevers’ equalising goal early in the second half, book-ended by scruffy goals at either end of the game for Crawley Town.
For us, we’re feeling fit and feeling good, so it was a tough test for us, but we’re really at it at the minute
Nevertheless, a tired, but pleased, Ashby told whufc.com at full-time how his sprint distance statistics would have ranked highly in top-level competition last year.
“Obviously it was a tough game against a really good side at a nice stadium,” Ashby reflected. “For us, we’re feeling fit and feeling good, so it was a tough test for us, but we’re really at it at the minute.
“To be fair, all the coaching staff have pushed us in pre-season, and I think we’re in a really good place with our running. I was told I’d have been high up in the Premier League last year in terms of my sprint distances tonight!
“As soon as you get the momentum in games like this, it’s one of those where if you keep it, you’re going to get a goal in the end. As soon as Thierry [Nevers] came on in the second half, fair play to him, he scored a goal, which is what we need in our team at the minute.
“With the amount of chances we had, if we can just fix up that final third bit, I think we could've scored four or five if we played like that again.
“We’ve got another game on Friday against Aldershot, so we’ll just keep going. We’re in a really good place at the moment. It’s showing how hard we’ve worked, and I think we’ll be ready for the start of the season.”
Ashby, who made his West Ham United first-team debut almost a year ago against Charlton Athletic in last season’s Carabao Cup second round and started the third-round win over Hull City, is certainly not taking regular match action for granted.
After enjoying the footballing month of his life, Ashby’s 2020/21 season was cut short just shy of his 19th birthday by a serious knee injury, forcing him into a long period of rehabilitation.
Yet a still-developing footballer, Ashby maturely reflected on not only the challenges, but more importantly the lessons, of the previous campaign.
“It’s hard getting an injury when you’re flying,” he admitted. “Obviously I’d made my first-team debut in November and had trained with them, and then the stuff with my knee happened. It teaches you a lot about how you can take things for granted.
“Everyone gets an opportunity at some point, it’s just whether you take it or not. At the minute, I’m trying to take anything I get. Hopefully I can get back to first-team involvement and perform for them at some point.
“I think I’ve come back exactly how I was before I got injured. It’s been a good learning curve, and now I feel back to where I was fitness-wise before then.”
It was also announced on Monday that West Ham's U23s will kick-off the new Premier League 2 campaign against Arsenal at London Stadium on the evening of Monday 16 August.
On that occasion, Ashby is looking forward to the prospect of playing in front of the Claret and Blue Army - who have been in fine voice supporting on the U23s on their pre-season travels - once more.
"It’s always good to have the fans back, like the other day at Southend [United, a 5-1 win], when they were singing every time we scored," he smiled. "You just heard them roar.
"It’s just a nice feeling having them back after the lockdowns, and it’ll be nice to have them back at London Stadium again."