the real fa cup

Ryan Ashe – Wealdstone FC

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Wealdstone take a 17 match unbeaten run into their biggest game of the season so far.  Ryan Ashe audibly fills with pride when he mentions this and the fact that it’s the biggest FA Cup game he’s ever played in. As with our previous interviewees, Ryan puts his professional peers to shame with his accessibility, honesty and easy going attitude. It’s not hard to be entirely taken in when someone you’ve never spoken to before is so chatty and within minutes seems like one of your mates.

Height: 5’6”
Weight: 11 ½ st
Previous Clubs: Chertsey Town, Northwood, Maidenhead, Hampton & Richmond Borough, Leyton and Hayes.
Job: Foreign & Commonwealth Office

No idea whether he’s usually this positive but the high of a long unbeaten run, to the FA Cup 1st Round, being current top scorer and playing under a long-serving manager who he clearly respects is certainly helping. Bearing in mind the current tendency to sack a manager if you lose a few games, I asked Ryan if the longevity of the manager was an important factor in Wealdstone’s early season success. He agreed and also pointed out that the same 11 that finished last season started the first game of this season. The only additions to the squad were youth team players stepping up. Given the propensity of non-league footballers to move around (Dulwich Hamlet’s 2009/10 squad features NO players from last season) we found this astonishing.

I asked Ryan if his biography on the club website accurately portrayed his attributes of twinkling toes and vision. He chuckled with amusement and said “spot on” before then more seriously noting that he “used to be more box-to-box but Chris O’Leary mops everything up now”. His acknowledgement of his team mate was adding to a picture of Ryan that was quite endearing, even more so when he added that Chris was good because he himself couldn’t do box-to-box so often now he was getting on a bit. 29? Are you sure, Ryan? Peak! Surely?

Car: Honda Civic Type R
Nickname: Ashy
Favourite Player: Paul Gascoigne
Most Difficult Opponent: Jeff Minton

With a certain clarity Ryan admitted his answers “might be different if we were struggling at the bottom of the league” but, regardless of that, was a big fan of the FA Cup. That said, like a child presented with access to a chocolate factory, he did ponder the question “FA Trophy Final or FA Cup 3rd Round?” long and hard before giving the rather ambiguous answer of “The FA Cup, although maybe the Trophy if it’s the final, unless I can pick which side in the 3rd round, can I have a big club?”.

Wealdstone aren’t actually struggling in either the league or the cups this season but one of Ryan’s three biggest regrets is “never getting this far in the FA Cup in 13 years of playing football”. His second regret is getting knocked out of the FA Trophy by former club Hampton & Richmond Borough, which he found “really tough when they scored an 85th minute winner”. His final regret is interesting. Having spent a couple of seasons watching lower league teams now, therealfacup have come to the conclusion that there can be as much quality at this level as there is much higher up. The difference is that higher up the players have an ability to replicate that quality with consistency. I put it to Ryan that a visionary midfielder at Premiership level sees the Hollywood pass and can deliver it 8/10, a Championship footballer maybe 6/10 … a lower league player maybe 3/10. He agreed and acknowledged a large part of that was repetition, the simple fact that “pro footballers get to practice every day”. “I would like to have seen how good I could have been if I’d trained every day” he said ruefully but without too big a hint of regret.

Favourite Team: None
Dressing Room Joker: Lee Chappell
Pre-Match Meal: Pasta
Favourite TV Show: Lost

I asked Ryan what pro club that might have been, who did he support? “If I had to answer I would probably have to say QPR or Chelsea”. Prior to that slightly wishy-washy answer he had protested that “If you support a team you get pigeon-holed as a supporter of that team”. He said he was primarily just a football fan, “I don’t tie myself to a team, I like to watch good football … I like watching Arsenal”, which made three London clubs he’d mentioned. No ‘pigeon-holed’ fan would like three separate London rivals so you have to take him at his admirable word. He is in effect a man after our own heart, after all therealfacup is rather fickle when it comes to its impartiality. Having broadly supported Crawley in the first game of the last round thanks to Danny Forrest and Thomas Pinault’s quality, we then found ourselves switching to AFC Wimbledon in the replay when Kedwell and Wellard looked the best footballers.

Our favourite players discussed, Ashy tells us that the player he’s most admired during his career, aside from Gazza, was former Brighton midfielder Jeff Minton. “The best touch I’ve ever seen, takes corners from both sides with different feet, set pieces, he could do everything”. Ryan said he came up against him about four years ago and was very impressed. I’ve definitely seen Jeff Minton play and I don’t remember this quality but we’ll take Ryan’s word for it.

Favourite Pop Star: The Saturdays
Favourite Food: Seafood
Best Place Visited: Bahamas on Honeymoon
Miscellaneous Likes: Nights out with the footy boys
Miscellaneous Dislikes: Jack Daniels

With the majority of pro footballers, praising their manager would, perhaps wrongly, be viewed with a suspicion about agendas, motives and, frankly, arse licking. One might say the same about interviewers and their interviewees I suppose, heh … However, Ryan’s pride in the fact the same 11 progressed from last season to this, his acknowledgement that the youngsters have been well integrated into the team, his assertion that “everyone plays for the manager” and that “he knows how to deal with players” has no trace of hollow self interest. He appears a genuine fan of his boss and appreciates what he’s done for Wealdstone. While Ryan may be one of the more influential and wiser old heads on the pitch, it’s clear who that person is off it. Gordon Bartlett’s been there about 15 years so he must be doing something right. But Ryan did also spare some praise for coaches Leo and Mark, the latter being guilty of repeating Ashy’s favourite football cliche of “a game of two halves” a bit too often.

So, what about outside football? Ryan told us his son was going to be mascot on Sunday, we would say hello but I forgot to note down his son’s name!! Doh! If you read this, Ryan, just let me know and I’ll stick it in. Anyway. The Saturdays, eh? Big fan of the Saturdays? I asked Ryan whether this was physically or for vocal talent. “Vocal talent”. Hmmm … the uncertainty in my voice seemed to trigger doubt in Ryan’s mind. I wondered if he could sense the level of pisstaking his team mates might get out of him liking the Saturdays? He changed his mind to several other acts but I conveniently forgot to note them down. We had a bit of chat about his Honda Type R “’09 plate” as I’d recently seen an old Top Gear episode comparing the old R with the new one. He preferred the old one, like everyone else seems to, but that the new one had a louder noise.

Well, I hopefully managed to keep that write up below the sycophancy radar but, in reality, Ryan seemed to embody why therealfacup exists so I may have failed. He likes football in general, enjoys playing it and, regardless of all that, was extraordinarily easy to talk to and also a good bloke. So, thanks to him for talking to us and to his Chairman Howard for sorting it out. Good luck to Wealdstone on Sunday and, if they win, please keep your eyes shut, Ashy has vowed to emulate Lee Chappell’s Superman Strip somewhere, some time, soon.

ps: Sorry Rotherham, therealfacup has nothing against you but cup upsets are always what people look out for.

3 Comments
  1. Superb. Come on Wealdstone!

  2. SMASH ‘EM STONES!!!!!!!!!

  3. SMASH ‘EM STONES!!!!!!!!!

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