Football / Non-League Notebook: Ashurst brings breath of life

LEN ASHURST is a veteran at the manager's game. In a long career at all levels of the Football League, he guided Newport County to the quarter-finals of the European Cup-Winners' Cup and also had spells at Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland and Cardiff, writes Rupert Metcalf.

Now, however, Ashurst has taken on a tough challenge with a once-proud non-League club. Weymouth were founder members of the Alliance Premier League in 1979, and were often regarded as a good bet for advancement to the League - especially when they moved to their smart new Wessex Stadium in 1987. Two years later, though, they were relegated to the Beazer Homes League, and then they slipped even further, from the Premier to the Southern Division, in 1991.

The Dorset club were promoted back to the Beazer Premier at the first attempt last season, but they have struggled this term and currently lie four points adrift at the bottom of the table. All is not well off the pitch, either, as Dorset police are investigating alleged financial irregularities.

Weymouth's tradition and reputation remains strong, however. When they advertised for a new manager last month, Tony Barton, who won the European Cup with Aston Villa, and David Armstrong, the former Southampton and England midfielder, were among a distinguished list of applicants.

They offered the job to Leighton James, the former Burnley and Wales winger, who at first accepted it, then turned it down for personal reasons. A permanent appointment is being lined up for the new year, but for now Ashurst is in charge as a temporary 'consultant' manager.

'My job is to bring in new players and improve the playing standards of the club, as we are well adrift of a safe place in the league at the moment,' Ashurst said this week. 'There is a good set-up here with the new ground and training pitch, but the team is not up to scratch.'

Last week, Ashurst led Weymouth to their first league success of the season, a 1-0 home win over Hastings. 'He has brought a breath of fresh air in to the club,' Lionel Griffin, their secretary, said. 'He is a very professional manager.'

Ashurst's last club was Pahang, a state side in Malaysia, but illness forced to him to curtail his stay there after four months. 'Pahang went on to win their league after I left,' Ashurst, who hopes to return to League management in this country, said. 'I hope I can leave Weymouth in a similarly healthy state.'