In our final instalment this week of ‘Your Team’, we chat to groundsman and long-term Robins fan Luke Sayle
A ground steeped in non-league history is the perfect place to finish our Non-League Day features…
How long have you supported Ashton?
I have followed Ashton United on and off for the last 20 years, but have been volunteering there as a groundsman for the last 2 seasons, and following them home and away.
What are your memories of your first match?
My early memories are vague.
My dad took me to games on a Saturday afternoon all over Tameside, we used to go wherever there was a match. The image that stands out to me the most was a Tuesday night at Hurst Cross where I watched my first ever game under floodlights (Just as many others had done at Hurst Cross 45 years earlier!)
The floodlights seemed to take away everything that wasn’t on the pitch and made the game seem like the most important thing in the world.
What is the greatest Ashton moment for you?
Last season’s final game of the season at Workington was a huge moment for so many involved in the club. It was my first full season working on the ground, and so many hours of hard work had put us within touching distance of a guaranteed home tie in the playoff semi-final.
With just seconds left, all the results were going The Robins way, yet Ashton were being held by Workington. Then up popped Liam “Teddy” Tomsett with a last-gasp winner to propel Ashton into the second spot in the league and secure what turned out to be two successful home ties in the playoffs and eventual promotion.
The fairytale ending puts this game above both playoff victories for me.
What’re your hopes for the season?
To be perfectly honest, given the budget we work within (hats off to the board and the management) compared to some of the other clubs in the division and our faithful but small following, I will be happy so long as there are 3 teams below us at the end of the season. I believe we have the ability and work ethic to build and move forward as a club once we have a foothold. Lots of teams have underestimated us so far this season and quite frankly, we’ve been disappointed with some of the draws we’ve played out, even on the road. Having said that, a top 12 finish is by no means out of the question.
If a first timer was to come to your ground, they would experience…
Hurst Cross is steeped in history. From the first FA approved floodlit competition, playing host to a teenager who went on to win the World Cup with England (spoilers) right up to celebrate our 140th birthday last season, making it one of the longest continually played on grounds in the world.
We have welcomed hundreds of visitors from all over Europe and the rest of the world who come to Hurst Cross to experience the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
You can have a beer and a burger on the terrace, you can choose from several vantage points in the nooks and crannies of the ground and you get to meet some great people from all over the country.
There are no pre-fab, soulless concrete blocks that seem to make up so many of the countries football stands these days, just a well worn, well looked after, piece of footballing history.