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When Dean Ashton was forced to retire at the tender age of just 26 West Ham United fans took it as proof the club was somehow cursed.

This was one of the finest emerging strikers in the country and West Ham had him – for a bargain £6.5 million – for what promised to be the best years of his career.

Dubbed the ‘new Alan Shearer’ and the ‘new Teddy Sheringham’ Ashton really had all the makings of a top international striker.

Strong, powerful, good in the air, technically superb and with one of the most unerring finishing abilities since Robbie Fowler, the former Norwich City and Crewe man was a sight to behold when fully fit and firing.

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So when it all ended far too early back on that fateful day December 11 2009 it was a bitter pill for not only Ashton but West Ham and England fans to swallow too.

A long-term ankle injury sustained in a challenge from Shaun Wright-Phillips during international duty with England was the beginning of the end.

Or so it seemed.

There was to be some form of poetic justice at least and the 35,000 in attendance at Mark Noble’s testimonial were there to witness it.

 

Indeed coming near the end of the club’s emotional farewell season at West Ham’s beloved Upton Park just made it all the more special.

As the ball looped up and Ashton – carrying slightly more bulk than his playing days as you might expect – arched back into the air time seemed to stand still for a moment.

Photo by Arfa Griffiths/West Ham United via Getty Images

As he connected with THAT overhead kick and sent it flying into the goal it was greeted with a roar usually reserved for goals in matches that carried a lot more significance than Noble’s enjoyable pat-on-the-back jolly up.

And now for the first time in an interview with The Telegraph, Ashton has revealed just how much that moment meant to him.

“When we were on the way to the testimonial, in the car I’d said to my wife that it would be good if I could just do something interesting for the kids, whether it’s a shot from long-range, a tap-in goal or something,” Ashton told The Telegraph.

“To then come on at half-time and score that goal, my eldest son was crying in the stands.

“It was overwhelming for him to see the stadium erupt and sing my name. To him that was incredible. It was a really nice moment in terms of showing them this is what I used to do, and I was good at it.”

You certainly were Deano and you’ll never be forgotten.

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