Hero status premature for Ashton

The King is dead, long live the King. It was the battle cry when Iwan Roberts finally waved goodbye to Norwich City. But will those same fans who mourned the departure of a Carrow Road legend feel the same way about Dean Ashton?

By CHRIS LAKEY

The King is dead, long live the King.

It was the battle cry when Iwan Roberts finally waved goodbye to Norwich City. But will those same fans who mourned the departure of a Carrow Road legend feel the same way about Dean Ashton?

Has the King finally left the building or was he just keeping the throne warm?

It's easy to have a pop now that Ashton's on his way out of the Kingdom of Norfolk, but Norwich fans might just feel a little hard done by when they look back at Ashton's 12-month reign.

He arrived in a blaze of glory from Crewe, City shelling out a king's ransom of £3m to bring him to Carrow Road, hailed not as the man who would save Norwich from the Premiership but as part of the future.

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Every City fan wanted him to be another Iwan, a player who would stay for years, score heaps of goals, be booed by away fans because he was just so damned good, and play his guts out through thick and thin. We wanted a legend.

Twelve months and 12 days later he's gone, having contributed 18 goals in 46 games. Sure, that's not a bad total at all for a player who was just 21 when he signed and still learning his trade.

But a little over a year is hardly what we all expected from someone who was supposedly part of the future. Presumably it depends on how far you look ahead, but hands up those who pictured Ashton trotting out for Norwich at Old Trafford in a year or two's time.

That Ashton should want to move to the Premiership is perfectly understandable: he's a good footballer who doesn't deserve to be playing the part of large fish in small pond.

The question that will be asked is how Norwich managed to let that big fish slip out of their hands just when they needed him most. Now, more than ever, City need a player who can score the goals to get them into the play-offs, and Ashton appears to be the best candidate around. Of course, there's not much you can do to stop him if he's made his mind up, so one wonders whether he ever bought into all that “part of the future” thing in the first place. Was Carrow Road simply a stepping stone, to be used to bridge the not-inconsiderable gap between Crewe and the Premiership? Was Ashton ever committed to long-term cause at Norwich City?

Needless to say we will never know the answers, so you can only ponder what might have been.

Had he played more than 300 games and scored almost a century of goals, perhaps he could be called a legend. As it is, he's gone after a year - which is surely a reflection on the ambitions of Dean Ashton or Norwich City. But not both.

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