Ron Ashman

Wing-half bulwark of Norwich City

For the better part of two decades immediately following the Second World War, the name of Ron Ashman was synonymous with that of Norwich City. First as the Canaries' long-serving wing-half and captain, then as their manager, the imposing, rather stately East Anglian was one of the most influential figures in Carrow Road history.



Ronald George Ashman, footballer and football manager: born Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire 19 May 1926; played for Norwich City 1944-63; managed Norwich City 1962-66, Scunthorpe United 1967-73, Grimsby Town 1973-75, Scunthorpe United 1976-81; married (one son, one daughter, one stepson, one stepdaughter); died Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire 21 June 2004.



For the better part of two decades immediately following the Second World War, the name of Ron Ashman was synonymous with that of Norwich City. First as the Canaries' long-serving wing-half and captain, then as their manager, the imposing, rather stately East Anglian was one of the most influential figures in Carrow Road history.

Ashman was the Norwich skipper when the Third Division side beat mighty Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur on the way to an FA Cup semi-final in 1959, he led them to promotion to the Second Division a year later, and he held aloft the League Cup in 1962 when City defeated Rochdale in the final of that fledgling competition.

Though his management honours were limited to guiding Scunthorpe United out of the Football League basement in 1972, he was renowned throughout the game for his loyalty and integrity, and he is remembered as the man who awarded a senior début to Kevin Keegan when the future England captain and team boss was a diminutive teenager at Scunthorpe's Old Show Ground.

Ashman was a bakery worker playing his football for the Eastern Counties Air Training Corps when he was recruited by Norwich, but then he became a Bevin Boy, being called up to serve in a Nottinghamshire coal-mine to help the war effort. City permitted him to combine his pit duties with turning out for Peterborough United, a non-League club at the time, then he spent 18 months in the RAF before accepting professional terms at Carrow Road as a promising centre-forward in January 1946.

He was still a spearhead when he made his League entrance at home to Aldershot in October 1947, but soon he was converted into a defensive wing-half by City's imaginative manager, Norman Low, and he became a key presence, both competitive and constructive, in the side which narrowly missed promotion from the old Third Division South in several successive seasons during the early 1950s.

Though the Canaries grew inconsistent as the decade wore on, Ashman remained a dependable bulwark, and his leadership was a crucial factor in the cup and league glory that was in store as he approached the veteran stage. On the FA Cup trail in 1959, Ashman shone alongside the likes of the stopper Barry Butler and the striker Terry Allcock as Matt Busby's United were humbled 3-0, then Cardiff City, Spurs and Sheffield United were overcome before the Canaries bowed out to Luton Town, after a replay, in the last four.

The promotion which followed for Norwich, as runners-up to Southampton in the Third Division title race of 1959/60, offered ample compensation, and Ashman remained active as City consolidated in the second flight with fourth place in 1960/61, then finally garnered silverware in the shape of the League Cup in 1962.

In December that year, he became acting manager of the club, and took the job on a full-time basis a year later. By then he had finished playing, after 662 senior appearances for Norwich, a club record at the time and since exceeded only by the goalkeeper Kevin Keelan, whom Ashman had signed. In addition, courtesy largely of penalty kicks, he had contributed more than half a century of goals.

Though he was both liked and respected, Ashman - a cultured fellow with strong religious convictions - did not find occupation of the boss's chair easy at first, perhaps being a trifle too "nice" in his dealings with some of his former team-mates. Still, he pulled off a magnificent coup in signing Ron Davies from Luton Town - the Welshman served the Carrow Road cause nobly before going on to become one of the top marksmen in Britain with Southampton - and Norwich rallied to finish sixth in the Second Division in 1964/65.

However, they could finish no higher than mid-table in the subsequent campaign, and Ashman paid a harsh price, losing his job in May 1966, just a month after being devastated by the death of his close friend and ally Butler in a car crash.

He returned to football as manager of Scunthorpe in October 1967, only for United to be relegated as bottom club in Division Three at the end of his first season. Ashman took his new charges to the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1970, then they rose to the Third Division two years later, but finished last in 1972/73. There followed a brief stint in charge of Grimsby Town before he returned to the Old Show Ground for another five years, spent mostly in the wrong half of the Fourth Division.

In 1981 he left football to run the transport side of a travel agency in Scunthorpe.

Ivan Ponting

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