Ashton is staying - Worthington

Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington reaffirmed his determination to keep Dean Ashton at Carrow Road after another day of frenzied speculation over the future of the young striker.

Norwich City manager Nigel Worthington reaffirmed his determination to keep Dean Ashton at Carrow Road after another day of frenzied speculation over the future of the young striker.

Rumours linking the England Under-21 star with a multi-million pound move to the Premiership reached fever pitch when he failed to make the Canaries' squad for the FA Cup third round tie against West Ham.

His absence was put down to a groin injury sustained in training - with Worthington pointing out to the sceptical press corps that he had scans to prove it.

But the club's unwillingness to give an explanation until after the game set in motion a frantic bout of claim and counter-claim which almost overshadowed events on the pitch.

Worthington firmly rejected suggestions that Ashton had been withdrawn from the game because a deal was imminent and the interested party didn't want him to be cup-tied.

“Dean Ashton has got a groin strain and for all you doubting Thomases who think I'm telling porky pies I have got a scan which proves it,” he said. “It's something he did in training on Thursday morning when he were preparing for this game and is just one of those things that happen in football.

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“We will just have to wait and see how long he is out - whether it's a week or 10 or 12 days. It's too early to say at the moment.”

Worthington went on to stress that Ashton would be going nowhere during the January transfer window unless someone made him a crazy offer - and that the striker's best interests would be served by staying put at Carrow Road.

“There have been no offers for Dean Ashton - and I don't expect him to be leaving,” he said. “The speculation doesn't surprise me, that's what the transfer window does. It's a crazy situation which unsettles players, supporters and football clubs. Dean is on a long-term contract and - I pick my words carefully - unless a crazy offer comes in then he will be staying at this football club.

“What's a crazy offer? That's Norwich City's business and not yours. It wouldn't make any sense for me to give out a figure.

“I thought Peter Thorne and Paul McVeigh did a good job for the side but you are always going to miss players of Ashton's quality, there is no doubt about that. And that's why it's important he stays - from my point of view, the board's point of view and also the supporters' point of view. We need him here to push forward for the play-offs.

“I am not bothered what Dean's view on the situation is. He is under contract at Norwich City and we pay his wages.

“I think it would be good for him to be at this football club for a longer period as part of his education. He has improved since he has been here - and there is more improvement to come. There will be a right time for him to move on - and the time is not right at the moment, either for himself or Norwich City.”

Worthington is more interested in adding players to his squad, which is beginning to look more than a little threadbare after an unlucky run with injuries. It remains to be seen if Sunderland striker Andy Gary - a rumoured target - ends up at Carrow Road, but the manager is clearly hopeful of strengthening his hand in readiness for a play-off push.

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