Effra isn’t going to get too excited about Dean Ashton just yet.
Writing about Dean Ashton makes me nervous. The last time I devoted a column to him, telling everybody that he and Rooney would be Englandâ€™s strike-force by the summer of 2007, he broke his ankle ten days later and in retrospect the misery that was West Ham last season had officially begun. Itâ€™s hard to over-estimate just how much might have been different for West Ham if Deano had not collided with Shaun Wright-Phillips on that fateful August morning. Would Pardew have been able to have resist Terry Brownâ€™s Greek gift of Tevez and Mascherano if his prize striker wasnâ€™t injured? If he hadnâ€™t, would Pardew still be in his job if Tevez had been able to play from the start with Ashton rather than one or the other of a set strikers that had forgotten where the net was and Sheringham excepted, were too-confidence dependent not to be threatened by Tevezâ€™ arrival? And if so, could the 2006 Cup Final performance perhaps have been the beginning of the road to the top 6 instead of the measure of the height from which we fell into the most desperate relegation battle imaginable,? Alan Pardew will probably be haunted by that question for the rest of his life.
Now Deano is back and lots of people, including Ashton himself, want to go back to where it all started and make him Englandâ€™s centre forward. Yet having been an enthusiastic backer of Ashton last time, I really hope that for the moment anyway McClaren doesnâ€™t come calling. Partly of course, the thought of Deano getting injured again really is just too much to bear. But the bottom line is that, as anyone who has actually watched West Ham play this season rather than read about it in the media knows, he is some distance from full match fitness. He looks slow, and doesnâ€™t seem able to jump. He is getting by on hard work and his technique. I still think, no doubt as rashly as last time, that, assuming the whole qualification doesnâ€™t go pear-shape, that come next summer Ashton and Rooney should be Englandâ€™s future but please for now can we keep Deanoâ€™s ongoing recovery to ourselves.