After making impressive performances in the EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League, Harrison Ashby has completed a personal hat-trick by making his Premier League debut for West Ham United.
The 20-year-old was introduced as a late substitute in Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal, marking the Academy of Football graduate’s first appearance in a division commonly considered to be the strongest in the world.
And the Scotland U21 international did not look out of place at Emirates Stadium, despite the difficult circumstances he and his team found themselves in, trailing by a goal and down to ten men following the sending-off of Ashby’s fellow right-back Vladimir Coufal.
With Coufal now suspended and Ben Johnson and Ryan Fredericks both out injured, the No50 now has the possibility of making his first Premier League start in Saturday’s home game with Norwich City, and such was the poise he showed in north London, Ashby would surely not let David Moyes or anyone else down were he selected to face the Canaries.
And the defender’s assured, measured approach on the pitch was matched by his assured, measured interview with West Ham TV following Wednesday’s game.
Harrison, you’re now a Premier League footballer, so how does that sound and how does it feel?
“It’s one of them when you’re growing up, you’re obviously watching the TV and you think ‘I want to be on that pitch one day’ and today that dream finally came true. It’s a mad thing, especially now fans are back, which is something I wanted to do. Even though it’s away, we still had all the away fans there after the game giving us attention, so it’s mental!”
If you’re not going to make your Premier League debut at home, you want to do it at one of the biggest stadiums in the country and you did, and in a proper game as well?
“I came on when it was one-nil, so obviously for me to come on and try to make an impact was a big thing, and it’s away, so I think I held my own. I don’t think it was a two-nil game, to be honest, and I don’t think the scoreline doesn’t really show how well the boys did. As I said, again, it was just a mental feeling to be on the pitch.”
To be on the pitch is one thing, but to look so assured is another…
“When you get on the pitch, obviously you’re a bit nervous, but I think after the Europa League the other day and you’ve got 50,000 inside London Stadium and the majority are home fans, you just get that buzz and I think I took that into today. The Europa League game helped me out a lot with my confidence and I think I took that into today. The boys in the changing room gave me all the support that I need, especially Nobes, he’s proper good with the young boys.”
And Nobes won’t let you get ahead of yourselves! After making your appearances in the EFL Cup last season, you had a tough time with an injury, but you clearly didn’t lose belief that you could get back to first team level?
“Obviously injury is never a thing you want, especially when it’s your knee and you’re out for seven or eight months, so I think it was definitely a reality check when the incident happened. But I think I kind of got back straight on my feet and kept pushing to get where I am now.”
You never want your teammates to be injured, but Ben and Ryan are out and Vlad will now be suspended for Saturday’s game with Norwich, so you’ll want to impress and give yourself an opportunity for more minutes in the Premier League?
“It’s just when of them that you hope your opportunity comes along. Hopefully I’ve done enough in the games and in training that the boss has his trust in me and if the trust is there and I get in the squad then I hope I can perform, do my best and help get a win for the team.”
And although we lost tonight, you’re having a good season. The U23s are top of Premier League 2 Division 1 and you’re in the first-team squad regularly, so how are you feeling about things overall?
“The first team are obviously doing very, very well and the 23s are doing well. The quality in the 23s team at the minute, in my opinion, is the best it has been in a long, long time, so going from the 23s to the first team, there is still a gap but the quality is still there. The 23s are top of the league and we’re fifth, so the whole Club is doing really well at the minute.”